Don't Tell

Don't Tell: The Sexual Abuse of Boys

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Don't Tell
    Book Description:

    Don't Tell examines the effects of sexual abuse on the emotional and sexual life of men, including their sense of self and their personal relationships. Using first-hand accounts, Dorais shows that certain reactions are specific to male victims as they attempt to preserve their physical integrity and conceptions of masculinity. He provides innovative strategies for both prevention and treatment that will be of use to those who have suffered abuse as well as to their families and all those who are trying to help them - spouses, friends, social workers, and therapists.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6963-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Author’s Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Translator’s Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Don’t Tell Anyone
    (pp. 3-9)

    Such is the warning, or rather the threat, made by a man or an adolescent to the boy he has just sexually abused. Curiously, when the child unveils this secret for the first time, he often uses the same words: “Don’t tell anyone.” The child seems to believe it is in his best interest to keep the information a close secret. He is all too aware of the taboos pertaining to the abuse of boys by older males: the taboo around the vulnerability of males, the taboo against homosexuality, and the taboo against the involvement of minors in sexual behaviour....

    (pp. 10-15)

    Pascal was sexually abused by a friend of the family when he was seven or eight years old.

    I’m seventeen. I look like an ordinary guy, quite proper, even if I’m not always. I’m like a chameleon. Sometimes I take on another personality because I’m afraid of what people will think of me if I’m really myself.

    I was pushed around from one place to another when I was little. My grandmother looked after me when I was born. After I was two, I lived with different relatives for about five years, but I never stayed in one place more...

  8. CHAPTER TWO It Never Happens to Boys?
    (pp. 16-33)

    For a long time, it was thought that sexual abuse of boys was still a marginal phenomenon. This is not so. Within the past few years North American researchers have found that one out of six boys is a victim of sexual abuse. In a Canadian national survey carried out for the Badgley Commission in the early 1980s,¹ it was found that, in a sample of 1,002 Canadian males, 30.6 percent reported having undergone unwanted sexual acts ranging from exhibitionism to sexual touching to threats of violence and rape. Looking more closely at these findings, about sixteen percent of male...

    (pp. 34-38)

    Jimmy, sixteen, was a victim of father-son incest from the age of seven to thirteen.

    I was always rejected by my father because I wasn’t how he wanted me to be. I had problems at school because of that. I was supersensitive and cried all the time if the other kids picked on me, or if things just didn’t go right. The other boys laughed at me because of this. They called me names. My father wasn’t proud of me; he didn’t talk to me. The only place I could be alone at home was in my own room. My...

    (pp. 39-41)

    Eric, twenty-three years old, was abused from the time he was six by the father of the foster family that took him in. He was subsequently abused by the friends of this man, as well as by a social service educator.

    When I was first placed in a foster home, I was very young. I don’t remember my mother. She was like a cat in heat, like a bitch. She gave birth to babies just to abandon them. It’s okay if I don’t know anything about her; I hate her anyway. She gave birth to me just to make me...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Vulnerable and Trapped: How Sexual Abuse Comes About
    (pp. 42-48)

    The circumstances surrounding the childhood abuse of the young men interviewed for this study show how trapped they were in one way or another. Most of the boys were profoundly vulnerable, both physically, as children, and psychologically, as lonely, rejected, or unloved youngsters with troubled families. That is why so many of them, at least at the beginning, saw their relationship with the aggressor as a last hope or refuge. The aggressor could be an uncle who takes the place of an absent, indifferent, or violent father; the brother who pays a certain amount of attention to a younger sibling...

    (pp. 49-53)

    Philip, twenty-eight, was abused by an uncle from the time he was nine until he turned sixteen.

    The first big shock of my life was my mother’s death when I was nine. I knew she was sick, but no one ever told me she might die. Until then nothing too bad had happened to me. The death of my mother shocked and depressed me. If she had still been alive, nothing would have happened as it did. After her death, my father became helpless and it was the children who had to parent him. He left for work very early...

    (pp. 54-58)

    Matthew, eighteen, was abused by the father of his best friend when he was fourteen.

    I’m a pretty ordinary guy. Except that, when I feel threatened, I become violent. I can’t control myself. It’s as if a light goes on in my head and the words “self-defence” appear. When this happens I just go blindly ahead and I don’t think of the consequences.

    When I was little I tried to please everyone. I was very dependent; I needed a lot of attention. I lost both my fathers, one after the other. It was hard for me. First of all, I...

  14. CHAPTER FOUR The Secret of the “Men’s House”: How Victims Perceive Sexual Abuse
    (pp. 59-71)

    When children are sexually abused at a young age, they have no reference point from which to evaluate the meaning of such a traumatising experience. A child or a young adolescent, faced with a situation he can hardly understand, will construct different hypotheses to try and make sense of what is going on, to explain to himself why this is happening to him. He might tell himself, for instance, that his abuser needs affection, or that he has no opportunity to find adult partners. He may see the abuser as wanting to teach him about sexuality; he may think the...

    (pp. 72-76)

    Oliver was abused from the age of five by his young uncle and again at twelve by his mother’s lover. Oliver is now thirty-nine years old.

    The main thing about my childhood, apart from the sexual abuse, was that I didn’t see much of my father. It affected me a lot. My father worked eighty hours a week. When he got home, he needed to relax. He found us kids hard to take so it was tough on us when he came home. Sometimes he was violent. By the time I was four, I had welts on my body where...

    (pp. 77-80)

    Andrew, twenty-three years old, was a victim of incest between the ages of thirteen and sixteen.

    My name is Andrew. I’m thirty-three and I live outside Quebec. That is why, in response to Michel Dorais’ ad about his research on male victims of sexual abuse in childhood, I’m sending my testimony in writing and on cassette.

    Until I was seventeen, I lived in a small town. I was thirteen the first time my father abused me. He was then about forty or forty-two years old. My sexual relations with him went on for at least three years after that first...

  17. CHAPTER FIVE Coming to Terms with Abuse: Confused Emotions
    (pp. 81-96)

    The boy who has been abused carries a significant psychological wound that is not only difficult to heal but often worsens over time. The more the wound is denied, hidden, or neglected, the more it makes itself felt in different physical, psychological, and relational symptoms. As one respondent said, “It’s like a time bomb inside you,” an invisible weapon that cannot be prevented from exploding because no one understands its mechanism well enough.

    It is difficult to establish a posteriori the cause-and-effect linkages between the trauma of sexual abuse and the problems experienced later by young male victims, since many...

    (pp. 97-101)

    Dennis, thirty-one years old, was abused when he was eight.

    Before it happened, I was an athletic little kid, very lively. I was born into an ordinary family: good parents, three brothers and a sister. The sexual abuse was the first thing that changed my life.

    It happened with the man who looked after the outside skating rink in the park opposite our house. In the winter, I often went there to play hockey. I knew him well. He was in his forties. He began by inviting two of my friends and myself to his home. At the beginning, nothing...

    (pp. 102-108)

    Francis, seventeen, was a victim of father-son incest from twelve to sixteen years of age.

    I’m an only child. I never got along well with my father. I got along better with my mother. My father is an army man and that sort of mentality ruled the household: no going out after eight o’clock in the evening, no visiting friends. There was no possibility of discussing anything with him. We hardly spoke to one another.

    I was twelve when he began touching my bum as I got out of the shower. At first, it was when I had a towel...

  20. CHAPTER SIX “Why Me?”: Identity Confusion
    (pp. 109-124)

    Having reviewed the contradictory emotions and feelings of boys who have been victims of sexual abuse, it remains to be seen how such experiences weigh upon their identity. As we can see from the respondent interviews an impression of dispossession of the self is characteristic of men who have been sexually abused by other men. How does this impinge upon their self-image? How do they build a masculine identity? What existential questions confront them? In order to better understand the dynamics pertaining to male victims of sexual abuse in childhood, it is of prime importance to look into these elements....

    (pp. 125-129)

    Bruno, twenty-five years old, was sexually abused by his father from the time he was six years old until he was fourteen.

    My father was, in fact, my stepfather, and I never knew my real father. He left when I was a baby. My mother already had two other children, also boys.

    I was six years old when it first happened. I didn’t know anything about sex. I just used to do what he asked me. He was my father, so I did what he said. I knew it was a secret because he asked me not to talk about...

    (pp. 130-135)

    Paul, twenty-eight, was first sexually abused by his father, then by his brothers, and then by strangers.

    I was abused from the time I was five years old by members of my family. It wasn’t very long ago that it all stopped, when I was twenty-four years old. My first memories go back to when I was about three. I was put in different foster homes because my mother had psychological problems and she already had a large family to look after. I can still see it in my mind: I can see the lady who looked after me in...

  23. CHAPTER SEVEN From Nightmares to Fantasies: Coping Strategies and Life Scripts
    (pp. 136-152)

    At the cognitive and affective levels, a boy who has been sexually abused must in one way or another adapt to the traumas he has undergone. His own response will depend, among other things, on the reaction of his immediate family to his disclosure of the abuse, on the type of abuse involved, the circumstances that produced it, its frequency, its duration, and other significant events that took place before, during, and after the abuse. One thing seems certain: the traumas linked to sexual abuse create certain cognitive connections in the child’s or young adolescent’s mind. That is why boys...

    (pp. 153-158)

    Justin, thirty-four years old, was an incest victim from a very young age. It involved his father, his uncle, and his older brother.

    I only remembered recently, when I began to analyze my behaviours, my problem with commitment, my fear of men, even when I love them and when they are good to me. I was sexually abused by my father when I was four years old and then a bit later by my uncle. Afterwards, it was my brother. He was four years older than I was.

    My father was the first. He left home after that, went into...

  25. CHAPTER EIGHT To Turn the Page or to Rewrite It? Prevention and Intervention
    (pp. 159-177)

    While conducting my research, three questions were asked repeatedly both by respondents and by colleagues with whom I shared my observations: Is it possible to oneself extricate from the after-effects of sexual abuse? What is it that distinguishes ex-victims who seem to be “coming out of it” from the others? How can we better help boys who have undergone sexual abuse?

    The many types of abuse and their after-effects call for a large array of interventions, which I cannot completely cover here. I do not pretend to reinvent social intervention in the area of sexual abuse. I would rather flesh...

  26. Epilogue
    (pp. 178-180)

    I wrote this book in order to better understand a little-known phenomenon and to share my discoveries about it. Some partial answers emerge from this study, but many questions remain. For example: To what extent does recall exist in the body and memory? Exactly what roles are played by the cognitive impressions left behind by a sexual aggression? If the past cannnot be erased, how may its after-effects be dealt with? Are there therapies or processes that would enable the sexually abused boy to turn the page once and for all? We are only just now beginning to find fragments...

  27. APPENDIX ONE Profile of Respondents in Sample
    (pp. 183-184)
  28. APPENDIX TWO Research Method
    (pp. 185-186)
  29. Notes
    (pp. 187-194)
  30. Index
    (pp. 195-205)