A subject ignored by too many in the “Me Too” movement has been the sexual abuse perpetrated against boys and the after-effects such treatment has on them when they become men.
In this article, we will examine the impact of childhood trauma on men.
The Problem with Statistics
Although the statistics tell us that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience child molestation, those stats are probably low. The reason for the discrepancy is that men aren’t expected to tell on their abusers. In doing so they open themselves up for ridicule and self-loathing.
Many of our men suffer instead in silence.
Information published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
A publication written by SAMHSA titled “Helping Yourself Heal: A Recovering Man’s Guide to Coping with the Effects of Childhood Abuse.”1 written in 2004 and available for free talks about the horrific effects childhood trauma have on men.
Men who are in treatment for substance abuse experience many different feelings. Because of the raising most men received, it may be difficult for them to experience, express, understand, and cope with their feelings.
It is also difficult for them to even admit to having feelings.
Before treatment male victims of childhood abuse might experience feelings of being:
- Hatred of oneself
- Unable to connect emotionally with family or friends
- Numb or nothing at all
Believe it or not, some of these feelings are common for any man who starts treatment for a substance use disorder, however for a man who received maltreatment in their childhood these feelings can be even more powerful and destructive. The emotions they experience are so painful or overwhelming that he may do many things to avoid them, including using drugs or alcohol or both.
Men in treatment for substance abuse don’t always present with memories of abuse or consider the way they were treated as children was abusive. However, they still exhibit have many of the feelings mentioned here.
The Haunting Memories of the Past
Some men push their memories of abuse so far away that they can’t explain why they have intense anger or fear, feel embarrassed around a person, have nightmares, or always feel as if something bad is about to happen.
Sometimes, after people stop drinking or using drugs to self-medicate, or have begun treatment, memories surface powerfully. This is because the act of self-medication aided in blocking memories that had been too painful to remember. Now that the drugs or alcohol is gone, the raw memories force themselves into their consciousness causing new problems to conquer.
However, working through the memories and experiences from childhood helps to bring to light the things from the past that caused them to self-medicate in the first place. Once aired, these memories are put into the past where they belong, the need for self-medicating diminishes.
Our Men are Suffering
In 2017 in the United States alone, 47,173 people died by suicide with 77.97% of them being men above the age of eighteen. I got my calculator out. Those stats mean that 36,781 men in the United States of America died by suicide in just one year.
What is even sadder is it is predicted that the stats to be higher for 2018.
Our culture is ignorant of male childhood trauma, and we hide well from even the mention of them experiencing sexual abuse. However, it is all too horribly real. Facts are facts, and they say that must be invulnerable and not feel any emotional pain. Men are to be macho, in control, and never weep.
However, if we ignore the hidden emotions of men we are responsible as a nation for the untimely and unnecessary deaths of thousands.
Men are every bit as vulnerable to the strong emotional scars they carry into adulthood as women but not being able to express their pain leaves them feeling alone and hopeless.
May God have mercy on us.
The Physical Toll Childhood Trauma Takes in Men
The trauma of male children takes an enormous emotional and physical toll on our men. One can multiply this by a factor of ten if you add in the repetition of the trauma these men faced as little boys.
Just look at the following findings of a study2 focusing on men who were traumatized as children.
- 8 times as likely to smoke
- 9 times as likely to be obese
- 4 times as likely to experience ongoing anxiety
- 5 times as likely to have panic reactions
- 6 times as likely to be depressed
- 6 times as likely to be promiscuous
- 6 times as likely to engage in early-life sexual intercourse
- 2 times as likely to become alcoholic
- 1 times as likely to become intravenous drug users
There is an undeniable link between men experiencing childhood trauma and many chronic symptoms and disorders that make them vulnerable to mental health issues and early death.
The Treatment for Male Survivors of Childhood Trauma
Male childhood trauma is, much to the shame of us all, only now receiving the recognition it deserves. Trauma-informed therapists are receiving the training they need to respond appropriately to this previously unheard tragedy in our society.
For this reason, men who have experienced childhood trauma have are more likely to find a therapist who can help them to conquer over their pasts.
To find a therapist who has experience treating male childhood trauma, one should consult online find-a-therapist pages available online. You will find below links to these important resources.
The bottom line, and what I hope anyone reading this piece will discover, is that I and many others recognize your pain and will support you on your journey.
“In every real man, a child is hidden that wants to play.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists
Good Therapy: https://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html
Find a Therapist: https://www.findatherapist.com/
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, (2004). “Helping Yourself Heal: A Recovering Man’s Guide to Coping with the Effects of Childhood Abuse.” Retrieved from: https://store.samhsa.gov/product/Helping-Yourself-Heal-A-Recovering-Man-s-Guide-to-Coping-with-the-Effects-of-Childhood-Abuse/SMA14-4134
- Anda, R. F., Felitti, V. J., Bremner, J. D., Walker, J. D., Whitfield, C. H., Perry, B. D., … & Giles, W. H. (2006). The enduring effects of abuse and related adverse experiences in childhood. European archives of psychiatry and clinical neuroscience, 256(3), 174-186. Retrieved from: