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How can I understand the effects of my sexual abuse or assault?

If you’re a man who has experienced sexual abuse or assault, educate yourself at your own pace—never forgetting there’s a lot more to who you are.

  1. Pace yourself. Don’t try to learn too much all at once. You could end up getting overwhelmed, freaked out, and feeling (more) hopeless about things getting better for you.
  2. Keep in mind that many of the negative effects of unwanted or abusive sexual experiences are more extreme versions of problems that everyone struggles with in their lives and relationships. Basically, it’s all very human stuff, and more a matter of degree and emphasis.
  3. Many of the same problems can be caused by physical and/or emotional cruelty or abuse, as well as emotional or physical neglect. So it’s probably not all about the sexual experiences.
  4. No matter what you’ve been through, there is always much more to who you are than painful or harmful experiences in your past. There is a danger of getting too attached to an identity like “abuse victim” or “assault survivor.” Understanding the effects such experiences have had on you, even when they are great, is not the same as believing that those experiences define who you are or who you can become.
  5. Learning more can help you heal, as can therapy and many other activities and relationships. But if improving your current life and creating a better future take a back seat to exploring the past (or “digging up memories”), healing will be slowed down, and may even be prevented.
  6. Most of this is spelled out further in the General Issues & Cautions section of Topics, which could be a good place for you to start.