Whether you are a clinician in private practice or a worker in a Rape Crisis Center, a substance abuse treatment program, a homeless shelter or a county or state prison, a significant portion of the men you work with are likely to have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood. Having access to the right resources can help them change their outcomes.
The skills that will help you respond appropriately to male survivors are the same skills that help with any other client; patience; active listening; neutrality; respect for coping mechanisms; and a willingness to engage with his existing norms and values.
Some men may never have spoken about their experience before…or even acknowledged it. Men who are reaching out for help for the first time may be very nervous or even defensive about asking for help, unsure of what to expect, or ambivalent about moving forward.
Whether the man you’re working with wants to explore the issue on his own, at his own pace or wants outside help, you will find resources for him and for you in this section. If he’s looking for immediate, live assistance, from a person with special training to help men with histories of unwanted or abusive experiences in childhood (and people who care about them), links for several options are outlined below.
You’ll also find guidance about helping an individual sort through options. – when he’s ready to move ahead, to make informed choices about next steps.
To the left are links to more, in-depth information, which you can use to educate yourself or to offer as a resource t help someone assess various options and resources and decide what might be best for them.
Getting Help Now
There are several ways to get help now, by phone or online chat.
1in6 Helpline – 24 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week
1in6 has partnered with RAINN to offer a national helpline for men seeking information and resources related to unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood, and for people who care about them. 1in6 works with RAINN to ensure that all helpline staff members are trained to help visitors from 1in6.org. Every staff member knows (1) the effects of unwanted or abusive childhood sexual experiences, (2) issues and concerns specific to men who have had such experiences, and (3) local services that are available. All chats are confidential and users are encouraged to remain anonymous.
For information about other helplines/hotlines – phone and online – see Other Helplines & Peer Support.
If someone is in immediate danger, of seriously harming themselves or being harmed by someone else, we recommend calling 911 or going to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Sorting Through Priorities and Options
Fortunately, there are many options for finding help. At the same time, let’s admit reality: in many parts of the United States and the rest of the world, it’s still a challenge to find people in your community who really understand and know how to help.
As an individual sorts through the options for finding help, these 4 questions can help them explore their needs:
- What do I need help with first?
- What help is actually available to me?
- Am I, or could I be, comfortable doing that?
- What’s it going to cost me?
What do I need help with first?
Where to focus first may not be obvious to the man with whom you’re working. Some things may just feel “too private” or shameful to even think about right now, let alone seek help for from an outside person. Or some problems may be extremely disruptive to his life, and he may feel that it makes no sense to start with something else. Someone important to him may be saying, basically, “If you don’t deal with _____, then our relationship is over.” Or he may be concerned himself about being threatening or abusive to others, like a girlfriend, partner or his children.
Remember, Every experience is different and usually has complex dynamics. His healing process is about reclaiming control. He needs to control that process to the greatest extent possible.
Check your own feelings. Don’t assume he’s angry or devastated or that the experience destroyed his innocence or suggest that he should be having those feelings. Feelings about protectiveness, revenge, filing criminal charges or forgiveness toward the person who may have hurt him, are complicated and need to stay within his control (assuming there’s no threat to himself or another).
For starters, let’s think about two very different options: reading websites and being in therapy.
- There’s a lot of information available on the web right now, for free. (The For Men section of 1in6.org Website is an excellent place for a man to start. The Family or Friends page is designed to assist those who care about a man who has experienced abuse.) The advantage of this approach is that it can be done anonymously and at a self-determined pace.
It may be useful to explore with a man whether reading a lot sitting alone, – with no one to help to sort out the thoughts, memories and emotions kicked up by what he’s reading – could feel uncomfortable, or even unsafe? Help him guard against ‘information overload’ from immersing himself in the topic. . Sometimes, depending on the material, reading a lot at once can actually leave a man feeling more confused and less hopeful. Websites using words like ‘victim’, ‘abuse’ and ‘survivor’ may put him off, triggering an impulse to turn away and bottle everything up again.
Helping him develop an awareness of these possibilities can make the process safer, if he chooses this route.
- Or he may want to consider individual or group therapy. There are many different therapy or counseling options (short vs. long-term, focused on particular current problems vs. “processing” traumatic memories, etc.).
On the one hand, he may be drawn to the relief of finally talking to someone who understands what he’s dealing with, who won’t judge or shame you, and could help you achieve your goals in life. On the other hand, he may worry that it would be “too much” to speak about such experiences with someone he doesn’t know. (Would I feel too ashamed? Would I “lose it” emotionally? Would they be worthy of my trust? Would they be qualified to help me?) Might it feel like not enough to only to meet with a therapist every week or two for just 45 minutes to an hour?
And then there’s the question of how to pay for therapy, at least long enough for it to do any good?
And of course, some men will have more options than others – thanks to where he lives, the language he speaks, and how much money he has. Helping a man navigate these barriers may be among the most valuable services you provide.
Whatever his situation, we do suggest that, at some point, a man gets some input from another person who has enough knowledge and experience to help him sort through his priorities and options. Encourage him, explaining that:
- It might only be one call to a hotline or helpline, one online chat, one brief exchange on a web bulletin board, or one meeting with a therapist or counselor (with no obligation for a second).
- You don’t have to say anything you don’t feel comfortable saying, or reveal anything you don’t feel comfortable revealing.
- The idea is simple but powerful: Reach out to a real person, someone who may be able to help you sort through your own options and make some good decisions.
- And if you try and the first person isn’t helpful, don’t give up. Try again, when you’re ready, after doing a little more research.