When I first saw #MeToo on Facebook, it included men and other gendered victims. I have also come to a point in my life where I can admit to being sexually abused as an adolescent. For me it took 42 years to finally reveal this secret. I knew that I was not too singular in being abused having at the time not understood the reactions towards me by the children of the Mount Cashel Orphanage, they would not ask me to buy raffle tickets and their eyes had the same look as mine, the “scandal” and extent of the sexual abuse was the first major case involving the Catholic Church in North America. Looking back, a number of people that had aged out of the orphanage looked out for me as a young alcoholic drug addict.
Today, looking at the survey numbers I am not surprised at the numbers responding #metoo. If every person that could respond but didn’t we would be overwhelmed by the truth of the issue. 1 in 4 and 1 in 6 females and males are sexually abused before age 18, this can range from inappropriate genital touching, a hand in their pants to anal or vaginal intercourse. Of all these cases, less than 10% are reported to police, of those about 20% will go to trial resulting in about a 60% conviction rate. For girls the conviction rate is a bit higher while for boys it is lower as is the rate of reporting in the first place. Another 20 to 30% report abuse to a parent who either does not believe it, supports the abuser, or blames the victim for being abused. The remaining 60 to 70% never report their abuse as children.
As adults, females are exposed to a much greater degree of harassment, abuse and rape than men.
Men are taught from an early age to be strong, not to cry, to be manly, and so on. All of this teaching sets us up for being abused and not disclosing the abuse. As adolescents and young males, our genitals react to minimal stimulation thus confusing us about “was it really sexual abuse or were we semi-willing partners having a sexual encounter”, “did I encourage him/her”, “was I at fault?” and on and on trying to deny that we allowed this to happen. For myself, at age three I knew to keep my distance from strangers but also to help them if they were looking for directions as well as not to accept candy from them. The “kids play network” also spread information on the weirdos in the neighbourhood to be avoided.
It is so important to start the conversation by adults, by parents to their children, by schools to students, by groups to their workers. But also to victims to keep speaking up until someone believes and supports them.