For Parents

This section of our "Resources" material is addressed to adults who suspect or have determined that a boy for whom they have a parental role has been sexually abused. I used the terms "parent" and "son" with the understanding that what follows below also applies to such long-term caregivers as grandparents or other relatives, and foster and adoptive parents. The aim here is to set down some ideas and guidelines providing a basic framework that you can use right now and refer back to later.

Indicators of Sexual Abuse

The fact that a boy has been sexually abused will very often come as a complete surprise to the adults in his life who genuine care about him. But there are a number of warning signs that develop over time and may give cause for concern. These include:

  • Sexual changes: increased interest in masturbation, age-inappropriate or atypical interest in sexual play, exhibitionism or voyeurism, suddenly expanding familiarity with sexual acts and vocabulary (as opposed to simple knowledge of obscenities and coarse jokes), sexual “acting out” with peers, using toys to depict sexual situations, sexually oriented drawing or writing, sexual interest in or attention to younger children.
  • STDs or other oral, genital, or anal infections.
  • Discomfort in walking or sitting.
  • Regression to behaviors or problems usually associated with earlier childhood, such as clinginess, thumb sucking, bedwetting, fear of the dark, or reversion to earlier more childlike ways of talking.
  • Sudden changes in socialization: efforts to be especially good, obsession with perfect completion of assigned tasks, passive, submissive, or people-pleasing behaviors, distrust (in general, and of persons with whom he previously felt comfortable), isolation from family members and peers, anger, aggression and defiance, fearfulness of the presence or intentions of others, running away.
  • Unexpected absences or difficulty in explaining where he has been and what he has been doing.
  • Major breaks in sleep patterns: difficulty in getting to sleep, night terrors, restlessness, or lethargy during normal waking hours.
  • Marked declines in self-image: lack of confidence or self-esteem, hesitation to take credit for achievements, tendency for shame and humiliation, expression of negative feelings about himself or his body.
  • Declining engagement with formerly favored interests, such as sports, activities shared with friends, music, or hobbies; comments suggesting that nothing is important to him anymore.
  • Reluctance to engage in normal grooming, toilet, or bathing routines, especially where nakedness is concerned.
  • Neglect of personal hygiene or reduced interest in his appearance; efforts to make drastic out-of-character changes in his personal appearance.
  • Obsession with “getting clean,” e.g. taking very long showers.
  • Reluctance for his genitals to be exposed or examined, even by a doctor, or overly compliant submission to such procedures.
  • Comments about not wanting to see or be around a certain person, fearing or distrusting that person, or expressions that someone doesn’t like him or is judgmental of him.
  • Incoherence and nervousness while trying to tell you something clearly important to him; need to discuss with you what some other boy has said or done (“Billy asked me…,” “Some guy I know says a man on his street….”).
  • Hesitation or unwillingness to be in or go to a certain place that one would normally expect him to regard as very attractive, or at least harmless (e.g. a park, swimming pool, or game arcade).
  • Hypervigilance – the boy startles easily or shows sharp negative reactions at the sudden appearance of the unexpected.
  • Unexplained anxiety or depression, “moping around,” or prolonged sad demeanor.
  • Dissociation – the boy seems to be “zoning out” a lot or easily becomes confused or lost in thought.
  • Atypical and chronic difficulties in school: daydreaming, dissociation, cutting classes, failure to complete assignments, efforts to avoid school or remain there without good reason.
  • Nightmares, unusual degrees of fear, anxiety attacks, emotional outbursts lacking evident cause.
  • Daredevil, destructive, unlawful, or violent behaviors, especially in areas like animal cruelty or fire starting.
  • Eating disorders; use of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Indications of sexting or online searches for pornography.
  • Secretive behavior online: sudden changes of a computer or cellphone screen when you appear, use of unusual abbreviations and acronyms when you are present (see the appendix to this section), interest in special online friends about whom he finds it difficult to provide information.
  • Atypical telephone activity: unusually high bills, repeated calls to numbers you don’t know; a surge in long-distance calls; incoming calls for your son from an adult unknown to you; calls from an adult you know, but at odd hours or for unclear purposes.
  • Compulsive spending, especially if the source of the money is unclear; appearance of unexplained gift items or packages.
  • Physical ailments such as gastro-intestinal complaints, nausea, stomachaches or abdominal cramps, recurring headaches.
  • Stained, soiled, hidden, or “lost” underwear.
  • Self-harm, such as cutting, burning, or persistent tearing of nails.
  • Suicidal ideation.

Some of these warning signs are clearly indicative of sexual abuse: a ten-year-old with an STD, for example, or semen stains on the backside of a boy’s underwear. But many other signs can prove to be nothing more than normal occurrences in childhood and adolescence, or can arise from other problems. For example, your son may suddenly begin to display anxiety about taking a shower because one day he thought he saw “a bug” in the drain; if you ask why he’s so hesitant, a not-unusual reply would be “I dunno,” meaning he doesn’t want to appear childish by disclosing how anxious he feels about this. A boy persistently reluctant to go to school may have problems with a bully or may be apprehensive because of an embarrassing setback, such as a failed tryout for a sports team. Or perhaps he just can’t see the front of the classroom and doesn’t know he needs glasses.

So how can one determine the truth? The answer is that it’s difficult, and that’s one reason why sexual abuse so often defies detection: most of the warning signs can arise from causes that are no cause for alarm, or if the issue is serious, it can spring from problems other than sexual abuse. But concern is especially warranted when a behavior or problem marks a sudden drastic change from your son’s usual routine or interests, and when it persists. It is entirely normal if your son is casual or modest when it comes to nakedness, for example. But if his behavior or attitude about this suddenly changes, and seems to be especially important to him, that’s at least worth noting.

It’s also worth watching for connections. Suppose, for example, your son begins to come home late with no satisfactory explanation, and when he returns he dashes upstairs, avoiding any greetings along the way, takes an prolonged shower, and then shuts himself up in his room. Then you note that this only happens on the third Thursday of the month…when his Boy Scout troop meets. This shows, at the very least, that something is wrong at Scouts, and that conclusion, in light of the combination of circumstances, and regardless of what the problem proves to be, is sufficient cause for concern.

Toward the Truth

There are some guidelines to bear in mind as you look into the matter and move toward the truth about what the problem is:

  • Your best source of information is your son. Let him know that you are aware that something is wrong and are worried about him: he needs to hear that it’s okay to need help and that you want to offer that help. Assure him that whatever it is you’ll be there for him, but at the same time, make it clear that you do need to know and will persist until the problem is clarified. He may not respond right away, but persevere.
  • Be patient as he speaks. Abused boys often want help and realize this means confiding in a safe adult, but at the same time they feel ashamed, guilty, and fearful of judgment or unknown disastrous consequences. They may not yet have the understanding or vocabulary required to provide a cogent account, and even if they do, talking about it directly can, for various reasons, make the boy feel like he is reliving the abuse. So it is much more common for them to use behaviors and comments to hint at their distress and then hope for the best. Some of the warning signs listed above are very often the boy’s efforts to signal what is wrong, in a way that allows him to gauge the adult’s response to the clues he offers. What he says may seem rambling and disjointed, but resist the temptation to interrupt to ask for clarifications. Let him express whatever it is he needs to say, and take it from there.
  • You are not alone. There is a wide range of resources available to you as your son’s caregiver. Basic information can be sought from the child protection hotlines established in all states and many other countries. Numerous books are available to provide you with on-the-spot information (see the "Reading Suggestions" section); some of these are ebooks that can be accessed or downloaded immediately. There are numerous websites devoted to child abuse issues: those addressing sexual abuse and male survivors in particular include 1in6, MaleSurvivor, Pandora’s Aquarium, and RAINN. There are numerous local support groups, and MaleSurvivor has discussion forums where parents, loved ones, and friends of male survivors can meet to share issues and ideas in a confidential setting. If the problem seems to focus on an institution (school, your faith community, or a sports team or youth group), there should be someone available within the organization to address your questions and concerns.
  • Concerns for child safety always deserve respect. Any institution or organization with which your son is associated should have child-safety protocols in place and training programs to ensure that staff members know how to implement the guidelines effectively. Lack of such protocols, reluctance to provide written confirming information on request (“I don’t know, I’ll have to look into this.”), or indignation that you would even ask (“This is a house of God, sir.”), are red flags and call for immediate removal of your son until the matter is clarified.
  • Some warning signs require urgent attention. Eating disorders such as anorexia (self-imposed starvation) and bulimia (binge-eating followed by purging) can become life-threatening if not addressed, and any hint of suicidal thinking or planning calls for an immediate response. One dangerous myth about suicide has it that those who talk about it are asking for help and are therefore unlikely to follow through. The truth is that a child talks about suicide because he wants the pain to stop and doubts there is any other way to make that happen. All these cases call for immediate intervention and professional support, even if you don’t yet know what the root problem is.
  • Try to focus and remain calm. If your fears of sexual abuse are confirmed, it’s entirely normal if your first reaction is to panic and doubt whether you will be able to cope. But bear in mind that while the seriousness of sexual abuse is never to be underestimated, it affects children in different ways and to varying degrees. Counseling is essential, and there are numerous options, depending on what your son needs. The sooner the abuse is detected and stopped, the sooner healing can begin and the better the prospects for recovery are. Counseling takes time, but many abused boys deal with their issues and go on to live happy, productive, and fulfilling lives as adults.
  • Secrecy is not an option. There are many reasons why you may hope to handle the situation without involving the authorities, but however understandable these considerations may be, they are not in the interest of your son, your family, or your community. Sexual abuse takes place in secret, the willingness of others to keep the secret is what abusers need most in order to continue what they do, and enforcing the secret involves lies, threats, and manipulation that are profoundly harmful to the victim. In many countries, certainly in every state in the USA, all adults who work with kids professionally are mandatory reporters, which means that by law they must report any suspicion of child abuse to the authorities – the police or the local child protection agency – within a very short span of time (usually 24-48 hours). In some states all adults are deemed mandatory reporters. But at the same time, agencies with responsibilities for child welfare are governed by strict protocols, and these include keeping the child’s identity confidential.
  • Be prepared for changing priorities. Dealing with a case of sexual abuse requires a long-term commitment, not only because legal proceedings (if it comes to that) tend to be protracted, but also because your son may need counseling for an extended period. His welfare needs to be the primary concern, and that can involve difficult decisions. If coping with abuse has led to serious difficulties in school, for example, it may be best for your son to take a break and return to school later. At the same time, you and other adults in his life need to be exercising good self-care if you’re going to be effective in your support for him, not least of all in providing him with an encouraging self-care role model. Your routine will certainly be disrupted, and you will probably need to cut back on non-essential commitments. But make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating properly, and taking time for exercise and “down time.”
  • A host of emotions arises in reaction to sexual abuse. These typically include anger at the perpetrator, frustration with the authorities and official formalities, shame, guilt, and feelings of betrayal, helplessness, and powerlessness. It’s important to come to terms with these feelings, rather than suppress or deny them, even though you need your emotional resources to support your son. It is just good sense, and not a sign of failure, if you acknowledge that you too may benefit from some professional support.

Overall, bear in mind that what your son needs most are people who are safe and reliable. Focus on your role as a parent, offering love, support, safe opportunities to talk, and your skills in maintaining the affairs of the family and a healthy environment at home. If there are issues getting in the way of that, they need to be addressed as an urgent priority. (Child protection authorities will insist on this.)

The more informed you are the better, but at the same time, recognize the boundary between your role as a parent and the professional role of your son’s counselor or therapist. The professional has the training and experience to guide your son’s recovery in a way and at a pace that’s right for him, and it’s important to avoid “triangulation,” a situation in which your son receives information on the same subject independently from two different sources – you and his counselor. If that information conflicts – and sooner or later it will – the resulting confusion can provoke fear and distrust in your son and undermine his confidence in the ability of adults to help him.

Talking with your Son

It is normal for a parent to encounter major difficulties in envisaging how to support and communicate with an abused boy. As your son makes progress in his recovery, you will be making progress with him as your experience increases and you develop a sense for what his particular needs are. His counselor or therapist will be an invaluable resource along the way. Here we offer some basic guidelines that you can read now and refer back to as needed. The points suggested here are in line with those advocated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (2009), but it would be best to show these to your son’s counselor to make sure they agree with the path he or she considers to be best for your child.

  • Assure your son that you believe him. One of the leading reasons why a boy doesn’t disclose sexual abuse is fear that he won’t be believed. Abusers know this, and in many cases they repeatedly warn or hint to their victims that if they tell, no one will believe them. Such a warning makes sense to the boy, since in most cases the abuser is someone who enjoys the respect and trust of the adults in the boy’s world. Your son may need repeated affirmations that you do believe him, and fear and damaged confidence in adults will put him on alert for signs that you don’t. As you process the emerging details of what has been done to him, try to avoid rhetorical statements like “I just can’t believe it” or “How could this happen?,” which your son may take literally. Even a statement like “How could (the abuser) do such a thing?” may, to a child, sound like “He/she didn't do it.”
  • Expect the unexpected. It is not your fault if you find yourself with no clue about what to expect as details of the abuse and your son’s feelings about it emerge. This problem arises in most cases, and the professionals available to help are prepared for your questions and concerns. It is important, however, to ask your questions and expand your base of reliable information as much as you can. In particular, don’t hesitate to raise a concern because you fear the answer. Many fears arise from tenacious myths that seem to persist no matter how often they are rejected and disproved.
  • Assure your son that the abuse is not his fault. Children can be quick to blame themselves when things go seriously wrong, even when the problem cannot possibly be their fault. Think, for example, of the many cases where a child blames himself for his parents’ divorce. In the case of sexual abuse, the victim has usually been “groomed,” meaning that the abuser has used gifts, favors, compliments, outings, gestures of affection and approval, lies about sex and sexuality, and signals that he understands kids and is “cool,” to gain a boy’s confidence and become increasingly important in his life. These tactics make it all the more difficult for the boy to resist as the expectations of him escalate and turn sexual. Confusion, curiosity, embarrassment, affection, and trust encourage him to believe the lies he’s being told. Later on, he may interpret his compliance with the abuser’s demands as consent and blame himself for “falling for it.” He may also regard the physical reactions of his body (arousal, erections, orgasms), as well as various things he may have said and done, as proof that he was “in on it.” The truth, however, is that abusers are always 100% to blame for what they do, and that while a child may comply, that is not consent. The victim is never at fault. Your son needs to hear this.
  • Take every opportunity to reassure and validate him. Sexual abuse undermines a boy’s confidence, self-esteem, and his sense of self and his place in the world. Unwarranted shame and guilt can lead him to fear he will lose the love of those closest to him, and threats by the abuser can cause him to believe that all sorts of bad things are going to happen now that the secret is out. The boy needs to be assured and validated, but in positive ways. “I am so proud of you for talking about this,” for example, rather than “Don’t be ashamed.” If, as is likely, the boy is already ashamed, that feeling can’t be turned off as an act of will. If he hears what sounds like a command or statement of what he would do if he were a better boy, his inability to comply can deepen his sense of shame and inadequacy. Other examples of positive framing would be “I will protect you” instead of “I won’t let him hurt you anymore,” and “I’m here when you need me” as opposed to “Don’t be scared.”
  • Watch out for judgmental comments and questions. It’s inevitable that the sexual abuse of your child should bring up powerful emotions, but as you’ve just seen, it’s important to consider how they will sound to him when you express them, even if you don’t mean to be judgmental. “Didn’t they have an abuse awareness program at school?,” “I wish you had told us,” “Why did you go with her?”: all these and others are normal expressions of frustration, but to the boy they can feel deeply blaming and can suggest to him that talking to you will only increase his sense of shame and guilt. For all of these questions, by the way, there are good answers that will emerge as you learn more about sexual abuse.
  • Try to avoid threats or hints of catastrophe. You are of course entitled to your outrage at the abuse and your fury at the abuser, but try to avoid statements suggesting extreme consequences, even if you feel they are deserved. In the moment it may feel good to say, concerning the abuser, “I’ll kill him” or “I hope she rots in hell/jail,” but bear in mind that such prospects can be very frightening to an abused boy. One of the reasons he hasn’t disclosed is probably his fear of what will happen to him or the family if the abuse becomes known. He may have strong positive feelings for the perpetrator, and in such a case threats of harm can make talking feel like betrayal. Watch out, too, for comments like, “Mother will have a stroke when she hears this.” The boy will be troubled at the thought that he may cause harm to his grandmother, and he will also immediately note the implication that you’re planning to tell your mother, who may, in fact, not need to know (see below, on respecting his privacy).
  • Don’t press your son with questions or requests for details. Your interest in the specifics of what was done to your son is entirely valid, but bear in mind that it has been confusion, shame, fear, and guilt that have silenced him in the past. Those feelings don’t end just because the abuse is no longer a secret. It is extremely difficult for him to talk about any of this, and in any case, he may not have the answers you need. If he feels pestered or cornered he may feel he is failing you or conclude that talking to you is likely to result in further emotional turmoil rather than the comfort and relief he needs. It’s essential to get to the heart of the matter, but it’s best to place this task in the hands of an experienced professional. A counselor or therapist will know how to keep on track while at the same time reassuring the boy and allowing him to proceed at an appropriate pace.
  • Don’t be overly concerned at discrepancies in the story. There are many reasons why a boy may not be able to produce a consistent account of the abuse he has endured: the way in which the brain handles trauma memories, lack of the vocabulary and understanding required to produce such an account, confusion about what has been done to him, and a tendency to view “the truth” in terms of whatever he thinks will meet his needs as he perceives them at the time. It is quite normal for a boy to offer a version of events that he thinks will minimize his embarrassment and avoid loss of your love and approval, and then, if that goes well, risk offering something more detailed and revealing later. This is not lying, even if more recently disclosed information contradicts what you have heard previously. It’s a boy’s way of negotiating and saying, “This is the best I can do today.”
  • Listen. When your son talks about the abuse or his feelings, he’s watching very carefully for your reaction: not just your words, but also your facial expressions and body language. He’s wondering: Are you really listening? Do you care? Do you “get it?” “Am I going to be okay?” Can you help? Will you help? There is no way of predicting when he’ll be able to talk; he may not even know himself until the moment he begins to speak. But every opportunity is precious. Pull off the road if the moment comes in the car. Cancel your arrangements with friends if it comes five minutes before you need to leave the house. And listen. Whatever feelings he expresses, bear in mind that there’s no right or wrong about them; that’s where he is at the moment, and that’s what counts. Let him know that you’re glad he’s talking to you and that this is a good thing to do, whatever he says. If he drops what strikes you as a bombshell, bear in mind that there may well be more. Don’t panic. In the moment what he needs is to know he is being heard and to see proof that what he needs to say won’t prove disastrous for him. All occasions of disclosure and honest discussion will be difficult, for both sides, but the important thing is that there be communication. Your son doesn’t expect instant solutions. So long as he knows you’ll listen and take what you hear seriously, without judging him, that will help assuage his fears and encourage him to keep communicating.
  • Respect his privacy. Your son may ask you not to tell anyone else, but he needs to know that the situation will require the input of others. At the same time, assure him that no one will be told who doesn’t absolutely need to know, and then follow through on that. It’s important for you to have the support of trusted allies, but your son’s privacy is also important. Disclose to others only after you’ve taken time to consider why they must know, and whether they will respect your confidence. Impulsively unburdening yourself to a circle of friends is never a good idea, nor should someone be told just because you know how upset that person will be to discover later that information has been withheld. One option to consider is the discussion board facility offered by several survivor websites, as mentioned above.
  • Insist on appropriate boundaries. Sexual abuse tells a boy that even the most important of his boundaries, that of access to his body, is no longer sacred and can be violated in the worst possible ways, and with apparent impunity, by those more powerful than him. In recovery, it is entirely normal for him to react with anger and resentment as he looks back at how he was manipulated and betrayed. This can lead him to lash out, break rules, engage in risky behaviors, and show contempt for authority; such issues are usually about control. He will need to talk about this, but understanding the reasons behind his behavior doesn’t obviate his need for appropriate boundaries. Indeed, in many cases what the boy is doing is signaling how much he needs, and wants, proof that his welfare is important to you, guidance back to good boundaries, and assurance that holding to them will help put his life back on track. So yes, chores and assigned tasks still need to be done, and no, you haven’t forfeited your decision-making role in matters that affect him.
  • Be honest. Sexual abuse is all about lies: about love, sex, relationships, childhood, growing up, and the world in general. It can also make the world look completely crazy and unsafe (survivors often talk about this). In such a situation an abused boy’s ability to trust has likely been seriously compromised. It will now need to be restored step by step, and in that process your honesty is important. If you’re planning to tell someone about the abuse, for example, your son needs to know that. If your disclosure comes back to him from some other source he may feel betrayed all over again, and if you leave him to speculate about who knows and who doesn’t, that can feel profoundly threatening. If the boy asks a question for which you have no answer, it’s better to admit you don’t know than to “wing it” and end up providing information that later proves to be false. You can tell him you don’t know yet, but will find out and get back to him. On feelings, it’s okay to admit that yes, you feel angry, or apprehensive; such concessions can be qualified to assure him that you’re not angry at him, and that while you too feel anxious, you’re the adult and will take responsibility for addressing your feelings so you can help him with his. What the boy needs most is for you to be reliable, someone who can be counted on as a source of truth.

A Closing Thought

The points raised above are based on what professional research, clinical experience in numerous fields (psychology, child development, the social sciences, education, neuroscience, and statistics), and the testimony of male survivors have taught us about childhood sexual abuse. Much work remains to be done, but the advances in our knowledge have practically reinvented how we view and respond to sexual abuse at every level, as compared to, say, 30 years ago. Public awareness is far higher, and many more survivors are seeking the help they need and deserve.

In the face of this overwhelming evidence, however, misconceptions and myths still find support and traditional views continue to cloud judgment and lead to false conclusions. At times the misdirection is deliberate, as evidenced time and again by the leaders and other representatives of institutions who argue against what they know to be the truth in a sexual abuse case, in order to protect the reputation and assets of their institution. In other cases the problem is that a disclosure of abuse challenges the heart-felt beliefs of well-intending people. Or a boy’s home situation may be so dysfunctional that it’s difficult for healthy thinking and behavior to prevail at any level. And yet, the truth remains.

You may have believed all your life, for example, that boys aren’t abused, or that if sexual impropriety has occurred, the boy is to blame. The truth is that at least one in six boys is sexually abused by the time he reaches the age of eighteen, and that sexual abuse is the work of someone far more powerful and knowledgeable, and almost always significantly older, than the victim.

Or you may believe that sexual abuse isn’t possible in your family or community, or that the leaders of your faith community, or any other institution with which you have a deep emotional, social, or spiritual connection, could never be involved in the sexual abuse of children. The truth is that over 90% of abused children are molested not by strangers, but by people in their families and communities whom they know and trust, and that institutions of every kind, no matter how respectable their public face may be, have repeated been found to include many sex offenders, not to mention others who enable their crimes by covering them up, protecting abusers, and refusing to cooperate fully with investigations. The truth is that no institution is safe for children simply because it claims to be so; it becomes safe when the community demands safety, insists on concrete proof of transparency and compliance with effective protocols, and shows willingness to reject that institution if appropriate standards are not met.

If your home life is beset by such issues as violence, neglect, or substance abuse, you may plead that the chaos is not your fault…and you may well be correct. But such a place cannot provide an abused child with the environment he needs in order to recover from sexual abuse. In fact, a dysfunctional home often plays a major role in rendering a child vulnerable to abuse. As one teenager told me, “I didn’t know the abuser’s lies would feel better than nothing.” There is often outrage when child protection authorities remove a boy from his home, but in many cases the true outrage is that this step wasn’t taken sooner.

This is offered not in judgment, but as a challenge. We all need to play our role in making the world a safer place for our children, but in many cases the need for change is more personal and more urgent. Anyone who is the parent or caregiver for a child needs to prioritize the welfare of that child above all else, even if that requires a major re-evaluation of life-long assumptions and deeply held convictions.

So it’s worth repeating: the truth remains the truth, however difficult it may be to accept it and act on it.

Reading Suggestions

There are numerous worthwhile books available for the parents or guardians of young male survivors. Those below are some of the best, but do bear in mind that while books can provide ready reference and continuing guidance, they cannot replace professional counseling.

  • Caren Adams and Jennifer Fay. Helping Your Child Recover from Sexual Abuse. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998. This brilliant parents’ guide by two experts on sexual abuse aims to help you find the best ways (all cases are different) to talk to your son and participate in his recovery. The arrangement of the material allows you to skip around, depending on what you need on any given day. Each section consists of information for you, the adult, on the left-hand page, with ideas how to present this to your son on the facing page. The book concludes with a list of selected resources (to 1997) and summary information on sexual abuse and offenders. There is no index, but the table of contents will enable you to find what you need quickly.
    Link to book
  • Jade Christine Angelica. We Are Not Alone: a Guidebook for Helping Professionals and Parents Supporting Adolescent Victims of Sexual Abuse. New York: Haworth Maltreatment and Trauma Press, 2002. This book seeks to provide guidance addressing the fears and confusion an abused teen feels during the legal process, based on the example of the Massachusetts Superior Court system. It offers specifics on how cases are handled, as well as advice on effective outreach to the boy and the adults supporting him, using the composite hypothetical cases of two teens, a boy and a girl. These are written for teenagers at about a ninth-grade level, and both sections are available separately (see the listings in the “Resources” section for teens). The book closes with a workbook guide with key points and additional resources, important questions to raise with the teen, a glossary, a list of resource organizations and agencies, a bibliography (to 1998), and an index.
    Link to book
  • Kathryn Brohl, with Joyce Case Potter. When Your Child Has Been Molested: a Parents’ Guide to Healing and Recovery. Revised edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004. This handbook has been written by a family therapist in collaboration with a free-lance writer and covers the sexual abuse issues of particular concern to parents by following the composite story of nine-year-old Scott and his parents as they deal with the discovery that he has been sexually abused. The book is meant to be read from the beginning, but each chapter can be read separately if you need immediate information. Scattered through the text are dialogue boxes on key topics, case studies, bullet-point lists of points on important issues, and useful checklists under the rubric of “Reality Checks.” At the end of the book you will find a glossary, additional information and resources arranged by chapter, and an index.
    Link to book
  • Larry Conrad. Secret Doors: a Workbook for Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Carlisle, PA: Our Phoenix Foundation, 2018. This workbook, written by the founding director of the Foundation, offers a new approach to recovery from sexual abuse by presenting the problem from the survivor’s perspective and addressing a knot of issues central to healing. The book consists primarily of statements by male survivors on five major themes: the young me, abusers, abuse, after the abuse, and thriving, with framing materials by the author and suggestions for how a completed workbook can be used to pursue further recovery work. The interest of Secret Doors to parents of young male survivors lies in the major role that teen guys played as contributors of material. Fully a third of the survivor statements came from boys of many different national, ethnic, spiritual, and social backgrounds. Copies are available here on this website.
  • Beverly Engel. Families in Recovery: Working Together to Heal the Damage of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Los Angeles: Lowell House, 1994. Observing that the concerns of a survivor’s family of origin often differ considerably from those that engage partners, lovers, and friends, an incest survivor/therapist addresses this book specifically to survivors and their families. She discusses how to disclose, how parents, siblings and perpetrators cope with the news, how the survivor and family members can support each other, what to expect in the various stages of recovery, and how the whole family can heal. Male survivors may dispute the author’s references to female survivors and male abusers, but she does in fact cover issues and points relevant to boys and men in particular. The book closes with an appendix on basic terms and information, a bibliography to 1994, and a list of resource organizations.
    Link to book
  • Aaron Fisher and Michael Gillum, with Dawn Daniels. Silent No More: Victim 1’s Fight for Justice against Jerry Sandusky. New York: Ballantine Books, 2012. Aaron Fisher was only eleven when he enrolled in a summer camp at the Second Mile, a children’s charity run by Jerry Sandusky, the famous assistant to Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. In a classic example of grooming, Sandusky won the boy’s trust with gifts, time, and affection, and was soon molesting him. The abuse continued for several years, but at the age of fifteen Aaron disclosed what was being done to him, setting off the greatest scandal in sports history. In this account, written when Aaron was eighteen, he, his mother, and his lawyer join forces to tell the story each from their own perspective. The book is a helpful read for any parent of an abused boy.
    Link to book
  • Constance M. Ostis. What’s Happening in Our Family?: Understanding Sexual Abuse Through Metaphors. Brandon, VT: Safer Society Press, 2002. The problem addressed in this superb book is that abusers use secrecy, deceit, and manipulation to encourage errors in thinking, perpetuate old myths, avoid detection, and divert blame from themselves. The victim and safe adults in his life thus often find it difficult to understand what has really happened and what support should be available. So the author turns to non-sexual metaphors to facilitate this understanding, highlight key points, and encourage healing in conjunction with professional guidance. Examples in story form are used as illustrations, and frequent discussion questions serve to focus attention on the main arguments. Each chapter has its own references and the book closes with useful appendices.
    Link to book
  • Burt Wasserman. Feeling Good Again: a Workbook for Children Who Have Been Sexually Abused. Brandon, VT: Safer Society Press, 1998; with the author’s Feeling Good Again: a Guide for Parents and Therapists of Sexually Abused Children. Brandon, VT: Safer Society Press, 1998. This workbook shows the abused boy that the abuse was not his fault, that it does not define him, and that he can feel good again and shape a fulfilling happy future for himself. The main points are carefully presented, with many exercises and opportunities for the boy to take charge and express how he feels. The book was written for use with preteens, but is also useful with teenagers, and even with adults who, in supporting their child, have to confront their own victimized past. The author suggests that if therapy is unavailable parents or guardians can use the companion guide for direction as they go through the workbook with their child.
    Link to book

Cybering and Sexting

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