Conference to dispel myth of male sex violence

THE growing belief that the majority of sexual violence against males happened in institutions is a myth, a conference will hear later this month.

Entitled “Sexual Violence Against Males: Impacts, Identity and Survival Strategies,” it will be the first national conference to discuss abuse of boys and men, and will take place in Galway on September 25-26.

The organisers say they hope to tackle some of the myths about male abuse - chief among them the belief that abuse was mostly confined to institutions.

“If you think about female sexual abuse, the old myth was of the stranger jumping out of the hedges, but we’ve got to the point now where most people are aware that that’s actually the minority type of rape,” said a spokesperson for the Galway-based Male Abuse Survivors’ Centre (MASC), which is hosting the event.

“With male survivors, the notion now is that it’s all institutional abuse. It’s kind of a parallel with the stranger jumping out of the bush myth.

“Unfortunately, just like female rapes and sexual violence, most male sexual abuse is within families or its people the victim knows. It’s not necessarily just abuse in institutions.”

Other topics which will be discussed include the impact of abuse on victims’ sexuality; the incidence of addictions, self-harm and suicidal behaviour among victims; survival strategies; and how victims can break the silence surrounding their ordeals.

National and overseas academics, activists, therapists and survivors will gather for the two-day conference.

In addition, MASC hopes that members of the police and legal professions, health board personnel, politicians and “anyone who would strive to change the general current lack of appreciation of the extent and impact of the effects of sexual violence against males” will attend.

The Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) Report, published in 2002, showed that more than a quarter of men (28%) had experienced some form of sexual abuse or assault in their lifetime.

One-in-six men (16%) reported experiencing contact sexual abuse in childhood, with a further one in 14 (7.4%) reporting non-contact sexual abuse.

One-in-10 men (9.7%) reported experiencing contact sexual assault as adults, with a further 3% reporting unwanted non-contact sexual experiences.

Among the speakers at the conference will be Colm O’Gorman, founder of the One in Four organisation, which works to support men and women who have experienced sexual violence; Mike Lew, author of “Victims No Longer”; and Ian Warwick, senior lecturer at the School of Human and Health Sciences, Huddersfield University.

Conference tickets are available from MASC. Contact 091-534594.

MASC also runs a helpline for male survivors of abuse, on 091-530094, on Tuesdays between 4pm and 7pm and on Thursdays between 10am and 1pm.

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