Is It Really “Less Bad” For Boys?

One out of every six boys is the victim of sex abuse as a child – compared to one out of every four girls.

Despite being at almost equal risk, boys are far less likely to report their abuse within the critical first 48-hour window. They’re actually less likely to report it at all.

And because boys are less likely to report sexual abuse, it’s led to an unspoken misconception that boys are less likely to be abused or suffer less trauma if they are.

If ever asked, both you or I would probably come to the conclusion that sexual abuse is really horrible for every child. All evidence suggests that boys and girls who are sexually abused respond in the same way: with fear, confusion and anger.

Both genders are at a higher risk for psychiatric conditions, including anxiety and depression later in life. Yet, the myth that it’s “less bad for boys” still exists.

A large study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that the sexual abuse of boys was more likely to involve penetration of some kind, which is associated with greater psychological harm.

The question remains, WHY? Why do we assume that boys are less affected by abuse?

Just maybe the answer lies in something that goes beyond abuse.

Studies of adult male survivors of sexual abuse have shown shame, stigma and stereotypes about masculinity often force men to wrestle with unique issues.

The idea that boys can “tough it out” on their own makes healing difficult for both children who have experienced abuse, and men who want help addressing childhood trauma later on. This is compounded by the idea that boys “aren’t supposed to be” sexual victims – older boys victimized by women might even be told that they’re “lucky”.

Boys are made aware of social stigma at an early age. They are taught to avoid appearing weak to others. To fight back and never show vulnerability.

But one thing is clear – both boys and girls that feel comfortable confiding in their parents and receive unconditional love and support, show significantly lower long term problems associated with their trauma than those who do not.

The issue of social stigma faced by many boys and young men isn’t limited to sexual abuse, and it deserves our attention. The team behind MissRepresentation created this short video to show the personal impact felt by the pressure to “be a man” that’s worth checking out.