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Why child sexual abuse must be considered a gender-less issue

In our last post, we wrote about a recently published Unicef report attempting to quantify worldwide rates of sexual abuse against young, female victims. According to the report, approximately 10 percent of girls and young women globally (about 120 million) have been forced into sex or sexual acts before reaching age 20.

To say that this is abhorrent is an understatement. Child sexual abuse (and sex abuse in general) is unacceptably common. That being said, reports like this one tend to ignore a large and equally important victim demographic: boys and young men. The underreporting of sexual abuse and assault against male victims may be a symptom of destructive societal attitudes about masculinity.

The Polaris Project is an advocacy group focused on ending human trafficking. According to data released by the group, fully half of all child sex trafficking victims are boys. They are forced into prostitution between the ages of 11 and 13, on average.

On this blog, we often focus on acts of child sexual abuse committed by patient, manipulative offenders who know how to groom their victims in order to keep them quiet. While this differs (in approach) from child sex trafficking, targeted victims are equally likely to be male or female. It’s important to remember that pedophilia is a disorder characterized by attraction to pre-pubescent children. While certain offenders may have gender preferences, the attraction is more about the age of victims than their gender.

Part of the reason that abuse rates against male victims are underreported is that male victims may be much more hesitant to come forward. This has a lot to do with gender stereotypes that “males cannot be victims” or the belief that guys should just be “tough” and “deal with it.”

If we truly want to eliminate child sex abuse and hold perpetrators accountable, we need to foster the idea that sex abuse is not about gender – particularly among child victims. By overcoming these destructive stereotypes, we can encourage all victims – male as well as female – to speak up and to get the help they need.

Source: The Good Men Project, “What About the Boys?” Nelli Agbulos, Sept. 4, 2014

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