In previous posts, we have used data from the Domestic Violence and Victims’ Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service to make the point that men are often the perpetrators of sexual abuse in Ghana. This is a fact that cannot be disputed based on the evidence and the data that is available. However, men also suffer at the hands of other sexual abuse suspects. People barely take it seriously when a man is sexually abused. This is what inspired us to embark on this 2-week campaign on all our social media pages to draw attention to men/boys who have experienced any form of sexual abuse. We had a few male victims of sexual abuse share their stories with us. All throughout this article, we will make references to these stories. Do visit our twitter and facebook pages to read the full stories.

It is estimated that male survivors report sexual assault and abuse even less frequently than female survivors, and so it is difficult to make an accurate estimate of the number of men and boys who are being assaulted and abused (Dube, 2005).

The myth about male sexual abuse

Male sexual abuse cases are not given the necessary attention they deserve because most people in the society cannot fathom the fact that men too can be victims of any form of abuse because they are physically strong and because of some inappropriate widely held beliefs or myths about masculinity in our society. Some of these beliefs include the invulnerability of men – meaning men are seen as beings that cannot be vulnerable to sexual abuse.  This perception does not encourage male victims of sexual abuse to report their experiences to the appropriate authorities.

Most people assume men are either always for sex or they are dominating in a sexual relationship. This makes it difficult for a man to report, when he is sexually abused, especially if the perpetrator is a woman.

When a man is sexually abused, the people around him would often assert that he should have been “a man” enough to avoid it. It is expected of a man  to be able to protect himself. In a case where the perpetrator is a female, male victims are ashamed and feel overpowered by a woman. However, both men and women, can be vulnerable to sexual abuse. This points out to the fact that, sexual abuse is no sign of weakness in the victims, it is the perpetrator that is exhibiting signs of perversion, weakness and inability to control his/her sexual urges. Male victims of sexual abuse should not be ridiculed. For some of the male victims we spoke to, their experiences with sexual abuse years ago, still affects them negatively today.  The stigma, according to Widom (1995) may negatively impact a male survivor’s social experiences, and it may also lead male survivors to avoid disclosure.

The reality of male sexual abuse

Male victims of sexual abuse react similarly to their female counterparts. Sexually abused men are affected psychologically and emotionally by their experiences. Most incidences of male sexual abuse happen when males are young, vulnerable and susceptible to sexual advances from older men or women. Out of the 5 stories we were able to gather for this campaign, we realised that all these survivors were abused when they were young. Their ages ranged from 7 to 16 years.

From the male victims who shared their stories, we identified one important fact: their perpetrators  had close relations with them prior to the crime. The perpetrators were mostly cousins, friends and house helps.Though all the survivors are in their adulthood, they vividly remember every detail of their experience at the hands of the perpetrators. They all attested to the fact that they were affected psychologically.

Underreporting of male sexual abuse cases

From the stories we had it is surprising to know that none reported their ordeal to the police, a counselor, their parents, a human rights institution, etc. In one of the stories that was shared with us, the young boy was drugged and abused by his cousins’ house help while he was unconscious. His cousins reported to their parents and even they, didn’t report to the police, they just sent the house help away.

Male sexual abuse cases are under-reported. Two reasons why male sexual abuse cases are under-reported are:

  1. The victims’ fear of  being ridiculed
  2. The possibility of being doubted

According to, Superintendent Sophia Enim, the head of DOVVSU’s Madina-Kwabenya office, the unit hardly gets reports on male sexual abuse cases because the victims fail to report or speak up. From the DOVVSU reports on male sexual abuse cases in 2014, 2015 and 2016, it was recorded that a total of 95 cases were reported, while in 2018, two cases were reported to the Madina DOVVSU office. The victims were 7 and 13 years of age – which goes to corroborate the earlier assertion made that most victims of male sexual abuse are young boys. Both perpetrators of these two cases were jailed 10 years each.

The visualisation below is that of reported cases of male sexual abuse between 2014 and 2016.

The Effect of sexual abuse on men

One male victim who was sexually abused by a househelp at the age of 8 described the lasting effect the experience has had on him. Another was forced by his brother’s friends (who were males) to have anal sex with him when he was in Junior High School.

From the stories of the male victims of sexual abuse, it is sad to know the devastating effect their experiences have had on them.

Male A, recounted that his experience, to a large extent, caused him to dislike and disrespect for women.

Male B, unlike the others, his ordeal affected  his sexual orientation. After being sexually abused by guys, he started developing the desire to have intimate relations with people of the same sex; he is bisexual now.

In Male C’s experience, he began to dislike girls after he was sexually abused and did not want to have any conversation about sex.

Male D also started disliking girls especially his age mates after the experience.

Male E after his experience, became addicted to pornography, masturbation and sex.

Recommendation

Cases of both male and female sexual abuse must be treated with urgency. Sexual abuse among males should not be taken lightly. We have to be conscious of the fact that, men too can be sexually abused. Their masculinity does not exclude them from being a “prey” for perpetrators.

Male victims of sexual abuse should be encouraged to speak about their experiences. They should be open to trusted people to share their plight with. Keeping silent concerning their plight will affect them psychologically and tend to make them react in ways which will be detrimental to them.

In addition, victims of male sexual abuse must not be ridiculed when they open up about their predicament. Society must give them a safe space to share their experience and get help where needed.

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