Even in an enlightened society, men tend to grow up believing they are to be strong, self-reliant and tough. They are not supposed to be vulnerable to something like sexual abuse, unless it happened as a child. Even then, men are not encouraged to come forward and hold the perpetrator accountable. Instead, they are supposed to “suck it up” or “get over it.” The problem is that may not be possible for many men, including survivors here in New Mexico.

Men feel the shame and guilt associated with sexual abuse victims just like women do, but they tend to express it differently. Men carry a great deal of anger, and it often comes out in their daily lives. They may also have more questions regarding their sexuality than women. Those who do seek psychological help with the issue and its aftermath do not often find the sympathetic and helpful ear they need, which makes it even more of a challenge to move forward with their lives.

In fact, it may be difficult for some people, including mental health professionals, to believe that an adult male could become the victim of sexual abuse. Again, this could come from the societal perceptions of men that continue to this day. For this reason, many men, including some here in New Mexico, keep the incident or incidents to themselves and try to move on without help.

What men, and their friends and family, need to understand is that they deserve the same consideration, treatment and help that women receive under similar circumstances. In fact, men should have the same opportunity to receive psychological help to aid in their mental recovery, which can be significant since victims of sexual abuse — man or woman — often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Another thing that men should feel free to do is hold the perpetrator responsible for what they did. Gender should not matter when it comes to surviving such an ordeal.