The Silent Destroyer
By Todd A. Smith
We hear about sexual abuse all the time. Often it is females who find themselves the victims of sexual predators and are sometimes permanently scarred as a result.
Many support groups are set up all over the country to help abused women, but often young males, specifically African American males, sit in silence because they are embarrassed and ashamed that they could be the victims of sexual abuse as well.
“There are elements of shame and powerlessness associated with male children who are the victims of sexual abuse,” said Chicago’s Jefferson Alternative School principal Judith Adams. “Because African American boys are in an environment that applauds ‘macho-ism,’ they feel powerless when they are violated and they feel as though they have failed themselves by allowing something like this to happen. So many young men who haven’t been exposed to anything other than abuse think it’s simply apart of life.”
As a result, Black Sexual Abuse Survivors (BSAS) received a grant from the prestigious Leeway Foundation and launched www.blacksurvivors.org, the first official online support group for Black male and female sexual abuse survivors.
According to BSAS, one in six men has endured sexual abuse and one in four women has been victimized by sexual predators. “Of that statistic, 3.3 million African American women have been sexual abused and 1.9 million African American men have been sexually abused. Family members and acquaintances account for 93% of predators,” according to BSAS.
Ebony reported that sexual abuse rates are higher in Black communities victimized by systemic poverty, broken homes, high unemployment rates and sociological problems.
“Sexual assault, violence, and abuse occur so often in group home settings and foster homes, and rehabilitative centers, simply because you don’t have the quality of care or necessary supervision,” said Adams.
Adams also believes that the trend of younger mothers in the Black community is contributing to the problem because they may have numerous partners coming in and out of the house.
“In many cases, the abuse isn’t thrust upon the boy all at once. It’s often a slow process, or a courtship, where the perpetrator befriends the boy, gains his trust and creates avenues of access to him,” said Dr. Nathan Hare of San Francisco.
While the majority of Black male victims are abused by men, many believe that sexual abuse by women can also have a devastating effect on these victims.
“Although a boy’s early experimentation with a woman has often been referred to as a ‘rite of passage,’ it can complicate his psychological perception of impotence if he is unable to perform. This belief in his failure may follow him into his adult relationships,” said Dr. Hare.
Many critics believe parents are also afraid of the stigma that comes with the sexual abuse of males, but according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 80 percent of sexually abused boys never become male perpetrators and the abuse does not affect the victim’s sexuality.
Nevertheless, “With this new online support group, Black men and women can make up their own online profiles so that they can participate in the online support group anonymously. The key feature is very important for sexual abuse survivors who are often still marred by feelings of shame and secrecy, but desire to get help with their recovery,” said a BSAS representative.
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.