Below are some words of advice or support that men have suggested could be offered to a partner, friend or family members of a man who has experienced sexual violence. These words have been offered by men who have experienced sexual assault or abuse themselves. They are taken from some of the responses to the Men’s Experiences Survey.
Skilled tradesperson, Age 49, sexually abused from age 10-17
Be patient. Don’t push too hard. Allow your partner to talk when he needs to, but don’t try to MAKE him talk
Skilled Tradesperson, Age 50, sexually assaulted at age 9
Assure them that part of the healing is being able to discuss it in a safe and non judgmental environment. Reassuring them that it was not their fault. (There was a sense of guilt in getting myself into the situation in the first place).
Professional, Age 48, sexually abused from age 9-12
Don’t be afraid to ask. Give space – but not for too long. Hug but don’t hound. Don’t try and take over or fix it. Allow him to run away without leaving the room but bring him back to the here and now. Above all believe him, we don’t make this stuff up. Don’t tell him not to cry – learn to appreciate the privilage of holding him while he does cry. It’s not your job to protect him from the past.
Professional, Age 51, sexually abused from age 9-15
Do not rush them – be open, supportive, caring and patient. If they have kept the abuse a secret for many years, they will have built layers of protection (based on guilt and shame) around it that will have to be broken down slowly and carefully. Listen, but do not judge. Support them, but do not tell them what to do or how to feel. Expect tears, anger, shock, withdrawal, sleepless nights, depression, changes in personality and behaviour, more tears. Watch carefully for signs of self harm or suicide and act quickly if you suspect. Be there for them, and they will come out the other side.
Administrative Worker, Age 34, sexually assaulted at age 23
Hang in there, be honest with how your feeling and how the experience effects you. You cant put the jigsaw puzzle back together again, but as you recover and start to develop some self esteem and repect again, the missing pieces of the puzzle will be replaced with new and wonderful experiences. I used large amounts of sex, drugs, and putting up unbreakable walls and distrust, and no intimacy as survival coping mechanisms as this made me feel less like a victim for a short while. I used to re create the rape, as I thought this was all I was worth and deserved, with no thought for my own health and safety. You can replace these old surviver mechanisms with healthy and life changing ones. If I can do it, even thogh its a process, trust me you can too!!
Business Owner, Age 25, sexually abused from age 2-14
Healing takes time. Each man and boy are different and their needs are different. Respect their boundaries and try to understand that even if they push you away, it is not to hurt you but because they are hurting.
Tradesperson/Labourer, Age 35, sexually assaulted at age 12
Love them for who they are, don’t judge them by what has happened to them. Don’t try to ‘fix’ them.
Professional, Age 38, sexually abused from age 5-16
Be supportive. listen when he wants to talk about it. don;t try to say you know how he feels – you can’t possibly even if you’ve had similar experiences. DON’T pressure him to tell more than he’s able to. when he’s going through a tough patch & seems to be taking his anger out on you, remember its not him, but the abuse thats coming out. understand that he may have trust issues & not want to partake in physical relationships.
Skilled Tradesperson, Age 43, sexually abused from age 11-14
There will be good days and bad days, emotionally, PLEASE don’t push your partner / father, etc away. It hurts more to be pushed away.
Age 38, sexually assaulted at age 13
Acknowledge the feelings of the victim, recognise sysmptoms of anxiety and depresseion. Be the comforting ear listeing to what they have to say
Professional, Age 52, sexually assaulted at age 16
Believe him, encourage him to talk if he wants to. Ask him what he needs to feel safe enough to get through this. Encourage Therapy. Remind him again and again that he is not alone. Encourage participation in group if he is able and it is available.
Manager, Age 38, sexually assaulted from age 12-13
Understand we don’t mean not to tell you, we are ashamed of the events, it is very difficult to admit that it happened, to do this is to somehow almost not be a man.
Professional, Age 49, sexually abused from age 9-12
Listen. Believe him. Don’t interrupt. Don’t try and fix him. Don’t make excuses for him. Don’t leave him alone for too long when he needs to isolate for a while. When he’s in a dark place ask if its ok to touch before doing so – its a respect issue that he didn’t have as a kid and right now its the kid in him thats reacting.
Age 43, sexually assaulted at age 12
Read as much as you can to help you to understand the effects of what was done to him. Many of his “behaviours” are because of the childhood sexual abuse and NOT personal! It is extremely important to try to understand this, and I believe the only way is by educating yourself.
If you have words of advice or support of your own you would like to offer to partners and friends, you are invited to participate in the Men’s Experiences Survey.