As a family member or friend of a man who has experienced sexual abuse or assault, your needs matter, too.
If you know a man who has experienced sexual abuse or assault, you may be wondering how you can best support him. Perhaps you’re just beginning to learn about the negative effects of such an experience, or maybe you’ve been dealing with these issues for years.
Whatever your situation, we have resources for you (outlined below). But first, especially if you’re just beginning to deal with this, our most important advice: take care of yourself, and don’t push him.
The better you take care of yourself, the more effectively you can support him. You’ll be more able to take a break when you’re getting overwhelmed, manage feelings like anger and sadness, and reach out for help when you need it. You will also be a model of self-care for him, and more likely to stick with him (in ways that are healthy for you), even in the hardest times.
Pacing yourself is important, too. It’s possible to learn a lot about male sexual abuse and assault pretty quickly, but you don’t have to figure everything out right away. If you don’t pace yourself, going full steam ahead can create new problems.
When we push others to get help, we’re often responding more to our own (difficult to tolerate) feelings than to the other person’s needs. The other person might sense this, resist, and push back. At that point, it can become a struggle that helps neither person—especially the person who could really benefit from finding help.
Before trying to share what you learn with the man you’re concerned about, take some time to “digest” the information for yourself. Take time to sort through your own feelings, beliefs, and needs. And take time to consider what might be the most effective way to talk with him.
Important: Taking care of yourself and not pushing him does not mean neglecting either of your needs, or that meeting your needs must depend on his pace.
As you focus on taking care of yourself, you may need to let him know (without threats or ultimatums) that, while you respect his needs and pace, your needs are equally important and you have your own pace—including for coming to decisions about your relationship with him.
Recommendations for where to start:
Please keep in mind that, as someone who cares about a man who has had such experiences, you are not alone. Researchers estimate that at least 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse or assault, and this is likely a low estimate.