If you know a man who has experienced sexual abuse or assault, you may be wondering how you can best support him. Maybe 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. 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.
Why focus on yourself, not just on him and his needs? 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, to manage feelings like anger and sadness, and to reach out for help when you need it. You’ll also be a model of self-care for him, and more likely to stick with him (in a way that’s healthy for you), even in the hardest times.
Pacing yourself is important too. You can learn a lot pretty quickly, from this website and others, and some excellent books we recommend. But you don’t have to figure out everything right away. If that’s a pressure you feel, we totally understand. We also know that, if you don’t pace yourself, going full steam ahead can create new problems.
Why not push him? When we feel great pressure to push others to get help, we’re usually responding more to our own (difficult to tolerate) feelings than to the other person’s needs. And the other person will sense this, resist and push back. Then it becomes a struggle that helps neither person, especially the one who really could benefit from getting some help.
Before trying to share what you learn with the man you’re concerned about, take some time to “digest” it for yourself. Take some time to sort through your own feelings, beliefs, and needs. And take some time to think about 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.
Here are our recommendations, depending on your situation, for where to start on this site:
- If you’re wondering whether one or more unwanted sexual experiences are related to some of his current problems or struggles, or may have been “sexual abuse” or “sexual assault,” then you may want to start with Defining Unwanted Sexual Experiences for Men.
- If you’re feeling a lot of pressure to find help for a man you care about, or feel like you could use some advice and help yourself, we recommend using our 24/7 free and confidential online helpline. Helpline volunteers can answer questions, offer support, and may be able to refer you to resources in your area.
- If you’re worried that you may be misunderstanding him and his experience because of myths we’ve all absorbed about the sexual abuse and assault of boys and men, we recommend Facts & Myths.
- If you want to learn about other men who have had similar experiences and reclaimed their lives, check out our Bristlecone Project awareness campaign.
- If you have lots of questions about the effects of an unwanted sexual experience, then you may want to go straight to Get Information, especially Common Questions and Topics.
Please keep in mind that, as someone who cares about a man who’s 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.