Part two: Responses and decisions regarding disclosure

2.1. Responding to men's disclosures in different practice contexts

In this section, practice responses are explored in regard to both the decision to disclose and ways to respond to men who have recently disclosed sexual abuse. This includes particular focus on the triggers for men to seek help, responses made by practitioners to disclosures, decisions about whether and how to screen for sexual abuse, and supporting men in deciding whether or how to tell partners, family, and friends. It also briefly refers to decisions regarding reporting the assault to police and relevant authorities. However, an in-depth discussion of justice reporting is contained in a separate module (coming soon).

You may be very aware that in some situations where men disclose sexual abuse, your role does not allow you to engage him in a long term therapeutic process. Therefore, you may be seeking to develop your confidence and competence in making a range of responses that are appropriate to disclosures by men, depending on:

  1. His needs, readiness for help, and resources.
  2. Your role, training and experience, and your organisational resources.
  3. Limitations on your role to work with men or make referrals.

These will be explored in more detail in later sections of this module.

For now though, it is important to note that men's disclosure of sexual abuse may occur in a range of intended and unintended ways. For some men, it occurs in a planned manner, where he intends to seek your assistance in relation to the abuse. It may be part of your assessment process to ask questions which prompt disclosure of any sexual abuse. He may be very aware that what he has experienced is sexual abuse or assault. He may want to, and be ready to, disclose and talk about it.

When the man you are working with is aware that what he has experienced is sexual abuse or assault, he may have specific needs and wishes regarding the amount of detail or information he discloses about it. His needs and wishes may fall anywhere on the following continuum from not needing to disclose, through to needing to disclose all the details about the abuse, and these wishes should be clarified and respected. Once again, men's needs in this regard are not homogeneous.

Means of disclosure

It should not be assumed that the man wants to discuss or disclose sexual abuse. It is very important that professionals support the man in his choice, in terms of his readiness to disclose or discuss past experiences of sexual abuse. Men have consistently reported that they have found it unhelpful when they have been pressured to talk about the abuse.

It is important to be mindful that men may not have the language to describe what happened to them as abusive. On occasions, men might use language that implies that the sexual abuse of them as a child was relational. Identification of the acts as abusive is important, not in a way that attempts to convince them they were abused, but rather to situate, for example, that sex between an adult and child is never relational or consenting, even if the child is led by the perpetrator to believe they were an active participant. Part of the silencing men may experience is the fact they do not have access to information that clearly names what happened as abuse. Part of this silencing is often accompanied by a range of effects, such as depression, or attempts to cope, such as substance abuse. If you intend on asking questions to elicit information about whether a man has been sexually abused, it is suggested that you consider the context and the man's safety and support mechanisms (see section "Asking about sexual abuse").

At times, there may be disclosures that are not purposeful, or that are made by a third party. A disclosure may also occur in circumstances where the man has not intended to seek assistance regarding the abuse. It may be that the disclosure is made in response to other questions. Sometimes referring professionals have referred to a history of sexual abuse, but not identified abuse as a major issue, or have not explored the impact of sexual abuse on the man's life. It may also be that his partner or family member has made the disclosure on his behalf, or even without his knowledge. He may not wish to discuss the abuse any further, and again, this should be respected.

Sexual abuse may also be disclosed by a man as a way of providing an explanation for other behaviours or issues. In the context of connecting the effects of sexual abuse to experiences, such as depression or substance use, this can be a transformative step in promoting well-being. However, where the man is attributing his unhelpful behaviour, such as his own use of violence or abuse, to being a victim of sexual abuse, careful attention is required. First, this needs to be distinguished from men's fear of offending as a result of being sexually abused, as opposed to justifying offending behaviour by attributing it to being abused. There are complex considerations when working with men who have been sexually abused and have committed sexual offences. Attention needs to be paid in assessing the man's safety around others, as well as his ability to take responsibility for his own actions. There are useful ideas assisting men who commit sexual offences to understand the impact of abuse on themselves in order to comprehend and be accountable for their own acts of abuse.

Relevance to practice

Because there is evidence to suggest that most men do not disclose sexual abuse, that it is under-reported (Holmes & Slap, 1998; O'Leary & Barber, 2008; Lab, Feigenbaum & De Silva, 2000), and also that men may present to a range of health and therapeutic services without disclosing these aspects of their experience, practitioners may wonder whether they should ask screening questions regarding sexual abuse and assault. If sexual abuse is screened for, how should questions be asked, what immediate responses should be made to the answer, and how should this information inform ongoing practice responses?

Watch video: When a man discloses sexual abuse

2.2. Events that may trigger or promote disclosure

Just as men and boys can be discouraged from speaking of abuse or assault, certain events can lead adults to speak about their experiences. When working with men, we have found that disclosure of sexual abuse can be prompted by:

  • Seeing a film about sexual abuse, or hearing a media or public discussion about sexual abuse (e.g. Kids Helpline advertisement, films like 'Mysterious Skin').
  • Public disclosures of sexual abuse, for example the disclosure of sexual abuse by a high profile public figure, the announcement of public inquiry or court proceedings.
  • Disclosure of sexual abuse by someone close to the man, such as a friend or family member.
  • Seeing the person who perpetrated the sexual abuse or sexual assault.
  • Hearing about or visiting the place where the abuse occurred.
  • Becoming a parent, or having contact with a child who is the same age he was when he was assaulted.
  • When a relationship breaks down, or when a partner insists that for a relationship to survive he must see a counsellor.
  • If the police contact him seeking evidence against the offender.
  • Reliving the assault through flashbacks, nightmares, etc.
  • Health problems or a physical check up (e.g. invasive procedures such as prostate examination).
  • When a partner offers support and understanding.
  • When a man feels he must deal with it or die.
Question Mark

Self reflection activity

Take some time to reflect on your own practice and consider the following questions:
  • In your practice, thinking back on your work with men who have disclosed sexual abuse or assault, what types of triggers have prompted his disclosure? Are there any common themes you have noticed?
  • In your practice, are there other triggers for men's help seeking or disclosure in addition to those materials listed above?
  • Is it easier to respond to some of the triggers for disclosure than others? If so what makes it easier or more difficult?
  • Do you find any of the triggers mentioned in 2.1. particularly challenging to respond to? For example, if a man presented for help telling you he had fears of harming a child or an adult? Or when a man presents as on the brink of harming or killing himself?
  • What information might you need to feel more competent to assist a man who seeks help because he has fears of harming himself, a child, or another adult?
Record your thoughts now on this page. You will be provided a link back to this section.

 

2.3. The importance of the response received to disclosures

Disclosure of child sexual abuse during one's development years — that is, childhood and adolescence — and the responses to that disclosure, may be important in understanding mental health symptoms during adulthood. Many people hold the belief that simply "talking about it" will help. However, some recent research has challenged the assumption that disclosure will automatically lead to reduced symptoms.

In a study of 172 adults who were sexually abused in childhood, O'Leary, Coohey, and Easton (2010) found that most participants who disclosed at the time of the abuse received a negative response, and as a result they found that "telling someone about the sexual abuse was related to a greater number of mental health symptoms" (p.284). Other research, such as Fiering et al. (2002), has found that many children do not receive an adequate response, and that the adequacy of response is a key factor in adult functioning (Jonzon & Linblad, 2005). According to Easton, Coohey, O'Leary, Zhang, and Hua (2011, p.43):

“…children who tell someone about their abuse may be harmed by others’ reactions (e.g. not believed, blamed, labeled as bad), resulting in greater shame and feelings of guilt. … Furthermore, if the confidant tells someone else without the child’s permission, this response may further increase the child’s sense of shame, powerlessness and betrayal.”
Relevance for practice

Past experiences of disclosure may often be associated with negative responses, along with re-traumatisation and further silencing. Considerations for practice may include exploring the man's experience of barriers to disclosure, the impacts on him of any disclosures he has made about the abuse, as well as the meanings made in relation to responses he received after disclosures. Moreover, the response given by professionals to men's disclosures requires an affirmative and compassionate response that encourages the man to engage in addressing the effects of abuse.

2.4. Asking about sexual abuse

“To be fair, men don’t disclose as frequently or as easily as women do…so they [health professionals] aren’t going to ask the question. They are aren’t going to hurt the man’s feelings by saying well have you been abused…But I think they need to be better aware of the signs especially in men and to, if necessary, ask the questions.” (Teram et al., 2006, p. 499)

Creating a practice environment where men are aware that they could disclose sexual abuse is important, even if the practitioner does not suspect a man has been sexually abused. Having material on sexual abuse visible in the consulting rooms may send a supportive message that professionals are open to hearing men's stories. Sometimes talking about the work the practitioner does with other clients in general terms, such as by mentioning that for some men sexual abuse can be an issue, leaves open the possibility that they could disclose safely.

The practice context and the ability to support the man should be key factors in deciding whether or not to ask direct questions about whether a man has experienced childhood sexual abuse, or sexual assault as an adult. Attention to the purpose of asking about a history of sexual abuse needs to be given in the context of supporting the man's ongoing safety and well-being. Where possible, this decision requires reflection in the context of professional supervision. By not asking the question, it might be a missed opportunity, or even a perceived implication that they cannot talk about sexual abuse. When practitioners do ask if a man has experienced sexual abuse, the man can opt not to disclose. It is important that this be handled in a way that respects the man's response, but leaves it open should he wish to come back to the issue.

Points to consider:

  • Be aware of the difference between asking the question 'Have you been sexually abused/assaulted?' and 'When was your first sexual experience/contact?' The question 'Have you experienced sexual abuse as a child?' may elicit a different response to the question 'When do you recall your first sexual contact?'
  • When asking about the sexual assault of adult men, instead of asking 'Have you ever been sexually assaulted as an adult?' the question could be asked, 'Have you ever experienced sexual contact that was unwanted in any way as an adult?'
  • Some practitioners may ask direct questions that allow for possible confusion on what may or may not be sexual abuse. For example, 'Have you ever experienced unwanted sexual interest or contact as a child or an adult, from another child or adult?' Consider your wording carefully.
  • One method of approach is to create a space where the practitioner shows the client that it is possible and okay for issues of sexual abuse to be discussed. This can be done in direct and indirect ways.
  • It is important that men know they can always decline the question when being asked whether they have been sexually abused.
  • Be prepared that someone might just say 'yes' without thinking, having never told anyone before, and then feel completely overwhelmed or not know how to follow this up. You may need to take a more interventionist approach if the man you are working with becomes overwhelmed. You may need to take the time to discuss safety, and follow up soon with further support.
  • It is important to interpret what a disclosure might mean. This is an important skill for practitioners to have when asking men what their expectations might be following a disclosure. For example, men may make a disclosure without any expectations that the practitioner will either want to focus on this as an issue, or have a knowledge of the trauma related to this issue. Alternatively, a man may feel overwhelmed with what a professional might do with this information, and how it may change their working relationship.
  • Be quite careful not to presume that a history of sexual abuse is the cause of life problems, or is the most significant issue in someone’s life in the present or the past.

2.5. Initial responses to disclosure

As practitioners, there are ethical guidelines and procedures in place to assess any duty of care to report information provided to you by your clients. These will soon be available in a separate section of this training guide <coming soon>. Aside from adhering to these suggestions, the following provides a common sense guide to initial responses to disclosure. The importance of offering confidentiality with limits is emphasised below.

Listen

Listen carefully to what he is saying. This requires empathic listening. Encourage him speak at his own pace, and create some affirmation that he can control the details he tells you. Try not to interrupt him or ask lots of questions. Providing both non-verbal and suitable short verbal acknowledgements that you are listening is important. Being asked a lot of questions can feel like being interrogated. Don't worry if he stops talking for a while — silences are okay, and it's important that you feel okay to sit with silence also. You don't have to rush in to fill the gaps. You do not need to know all the details. Try not to ask for more information about the actual events than is volunteered.

Believe him

Many men fear they will not be believed. It is important that you let him know that you believe him. People rarely make up stories about sexual abuse. It's also important to think about what you say. You will have been influenced, as we all have, by the many unhelpful myths in our society about sexual abuse, therefore it might not be helpful to immediately say what instantly comes into your head. Pause and reflect before speaking. Try to avoid reinforcing any unhelpful myths, and when the man talks about these myths, try and unpack them.

Be emotionally present without reacting in way that unsettles the man

It is important to show to the man that you are emotionally present — that is, that you understand the significance of what he is saying, without letting your own feelings intrude. This requires a balance between being calm yet responsive to the man's needs. Try to contain your own feelings. Don't allow feelings of shock horror, anger, outrage, or disgust stop you from offering support. A man could misinterpret the expression of these feelings as a rejection of him, or support for a belief that sexual abuse is a shameful/awful/disgusting topic that he should not be mentioning.

Tell him that you understand that what he is talking about is painful, but reassure him there is time to talk it through at his pace. Be aware that if the person who committed the abuse is a family member or someone close, the man may have conflicting feelings towards them. As such, it may not be useful if you say damning things about them.

Reassurance, consistency, and reliability

Hearing disclosureAcknowledge that you are supportive of the man disclosing in a way that is not patronising. If he tells you of feeling responsible for part of what happened, take the time to listen, and try to understand how he came to think this. Explore his concerns, rather than disagreeing or dismissing them. Whilst the man may express guilt or self blame, it is important not to simply refute this in a way that denies his current experience, or does not convey you are listening. Normalising these reactions as part of the process of dealing with the effects of abuse can address these issues as the man grapples with these complexities. Of course we do not want anyone who has been sexually abused to blame themselves, but we need to be balanced in our approach to changing these thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in a way that does not make the approach adversarial, or by simply trying to convince the man he should not feel guilty. This process will take time and it is good to acknowledge this with the man.

Recognise that this is something he might talk through as part of ongoing counselling. Just being there, providing consistent support, is important. Reassure him that sometimes things appear to get worse before they get better. Being consistent and dependable can have a positive impact in and of itself. Often disclosure is a time of great vulnerability. After all, the man has taken a risk in speaking. It is important to offer a sense of hope for the man. This is can be done by sharing your experience of working with other men that have experienced sexual abuse that have gone on from simply surviving to thriving. It's important that the practitioner connects with the man's story of survival, and the types of coping that keeps him safe. This might be done in a way of exploring his plans between sessions. Who might he contact? What things are going to be important to think about to keep himself safe? What things could be 'risky' to do? If he is feeling unsafe or not coping, what will be his strategies?

Confidentiality with limits

As part of ethical practice, it is important that you inform all clients at their time of engagement with you or your service, ideally before they disclose personal information, about any duty of care or limits in confidentiality. In concluding a session or interaction with a man after he discloses sexual abuse or assault, it is important to reassure him that the information he disclosed to you is treated with respect and held in confidence with any limits that apply. Make sure that you consult with him about what his expectations are before sharing what he has told you with anyone else. If you are going to discuss his disclosure with his consent, be clear about what you will discuss. In the case of having a duty of care to disclose, be clear about the process for doing this and the guidelines that require this.

When working with a partner, friend, or family member of a man who has been sexually abused, it is important to directly explore issues of their confidentiality of the information the man has discussed. Partners, friends, and family may have a range of decisions to make about whether they can guarantee confidentiality. If they haven't already, they may need to revisit the issue, and explain any concerns they have and whether they need to offer 'confidentiality with limits'. They may need to offer confidentiality with limits, because they may need to consider if anyone is in any present danger. It could be important to discuss their need to talk in confidence with a counsellor or a trusted friend for their own well-being. If they have a concern that a child or adolescent is currently in an abusive or potentially abusive situation, then the young person's well-being must be a primary concern.

As practitioners, and indeed any person to whom a man discloses, it is important to not make promises that cannot be kept, to take great care with the information disclosed, and to clarify with the man any limits on confidentiality.

2.6. Choosing whether and how to tell partner, family, friends

Words of encouragement from a professional man, aged 51, who was sexually abused from ages 9-15:

“Do not feel you are alone - there are (unfortunately) thousands of us out there who share your pain, hurt and grief. Find someone you can trust — partner, friend, counsellor, doctor — and tell them what happened. This will not be easy the first time, but it is better talk than to keep it bottled up. The hardest part of the whole experience is keeping the secret. Once you begin to talk about it you can begin on the road to recovery. Know that there is hope, recovery, a better life.” (from livingwell.org.au).
Who can he tell?

While it can be helpful for men to find appropriate people to tell about their experiences, it is also important to take care about how they do this. As part of this, it is important to be realistic about how some people may initially respond. Less than perfect responses are likely, and it might require support people to be informed about the issue of child sexual abuse. Educating people about child sexual abuse might be one of the steps in the process of improving responses to disclosure.

One concern that can arise when a survivor is making disclosures is 'over disclosure'. Often this can occur in the early stages of seeking assistance and understanding the impact of sexual abuse. Knowing who and whom not to tell is as important as telling. This is a process of men understanding how they can protect themselves in the process of coming to terms with the issue. Not everyone he knows will be ready to hear about his experiences or what he is dealing with. Even friends or family with whom he gets along well are not always going to be able to support him in the way he would like.

When working with men who are deciding about whether and whom to disclose to, it can be useful to encourage him to ask himself:

  • What am I looking for from this person?
  • What kind of response would I like?
  • What tells me that this person will be able to hear what I am saying?
  • What are my worries and concerns?
  • How might I prepare them for what I am about to say?
  • How might I take care of myself and not place too high an expectation on this person?

Unfortunately, sexual abuse is such a secretive issue that men might have to educate their supporters about how to help along the way. Some people might want to be there for him, but simply don't know what to do. Encourage men you are working with to let the person they disclose to know that just being there to listen, or to be with them, is helping. Encourage men to pass on to the people they disclose to a copy of the booklet Living Well: A Guide for Men, or some of the other resources listed in the back of the booklet, which may be helpful.

One of the contextual factors that may influence how a man approaches the decision to disclose relates to the degree of past and current denial by abusers and caregivers. There is a difference between denial and disbelief. For some people, it is hard to believe that a person to whom they have been close could be abusive. Denial of the facts of abusive incidents is different to the shock and disbelief that can occur for people when a man discloses abuse. Denial by people whom it is known were aware of the abuse is also different to shock and disbelief.

Although it may be painful for men to encounter any level of disbelief in the reactions of those to whom he discloses, it is important to expect and plan for it. It is also important to understand disbelief as a part of the common reactions people have when they hear that a person they have been close to, or trusted in any way, has perpetrated sexual abuse. Part of the shock and disbelief includes a sense that the person cannot trust their own judgement. This can take time to work through.

Deciding to tell?

Deciding to tell?

At one time, keeping the abuse secret might literally have been a matter of life and death for some men. The person that carried out the abuse might have made threats to hurt or kill them or people they cared about. The decision to not tell may have been the safest thing to do. If the responses received when a man has already tried to tell someone, either in the past or recently, were not helpful or supportive, it can be especially hard for him to work up the courage to tell someone else.

While some men may already have made these disclosures before you begin to work with them, (and it may be important to talk through how the disclosure process occurred), if they have not made these disclosures, it may be useful to explore the following general questions:

  • What have been costs or benefits of naming or not naming what happened to date?
  • What could be the possible costs or benefits of telling someone else about some of what happened?
  • Who would you disclose to?
  • What would need to be in place in order for you to let someone know some of what happened?

Other more specific questions can be followed up to gain an understanding of expectations and other factors important for the man:

  • How would you like partner, family or friends to respond?
  • From what you already know, how might friends or family respond?
  • How would you let them know what you want from them in listening to you?
  • Do you want someone with you when you talk to them?
  • Where and when is the best place to talk?
  • Do family friends need information and support in order to be able to respond appropriately and look after themselves?
Disclosure to people associated with the perpetrator, and naming the sexual abuse to the perpetrator

When the person who perpetrated the abuse is in a relationship with the person to whom the man is considering disclosing the abuse, it is important to manage expectations regarding what might occur. This would apply where a man wants to disclose to his mother, for example, that he was abused by his father, stepfather, or grandfather, and his mother is still in a close relationship with these people. It is important to provide professional support to the man when considering naming or disclosing the abuse to people associated with him or the perpetrator. Often, men may have made their first disclosure as an adult to their partner. The decision to tell a partner often occurs in crisis, and it can be helpful to have a more considered and planned discussion about the issue. Supporting the man to tell his partner about sexual abuse and the impact can be a useful discussion point for practitioners to revisit.

One of the issues to consider is how much influence the perpetrator has with the person(s) to whom they want to disclosure to. If the person confronts the perpetrator as result of the disclosure, there is a strong chance that the perpetrator will strenuously deny or minimise the abuse. This may have ramifications for wider of network of the man's family and social network. It also may lead to questioning of the man's disclosure, and dispute over his recall of events. An assessment of others' likely responses may be important when planning a disclosure, in order to manage any questions and reactions impacting on the man. This will allow for some preempting to a possible chain of events that may further traumatise or distress the man. In this way, the manner and words used in the disclosure can be prepared, as well as displaying a consciousness of the possible undesirable response that might ensue. This could be as providing a clear message along the lines of saying, 'I am telling you because I need your support but I am not ready for you to discuss this to other people, especially the perpetrator, without my consent', or 'I fear that people's first response will be disbelief, this can be normal, but from the work I have done with my counsellor, denial can be the most common response from perpetrators'. This type of information accompanying a planned disclosure can be a helpful.

Any consideration of naming the abuse or confronting the perpetrator requires careful consideration of the purpose, hopes/goals/expectations, and risks. In the context of risk, all aspects of the safety of the survivor must be assessed. Threats to the survivor's personal safety, attempts to slander the survivor, or sabotage his support network or reputation are possible. At the very least, it is likely that perpetrator will deny, minimise, or blame the survivor. A range of literature suggests that a degree of denial of some aspect, if not of the fact of the abuse, is almost universal (Herman, 1997; Glaser, 1991). When considering these factors, it important that a survivor who is considering name the abuse to the perpetrator be supported by a professional. Preparing the survivor for likely reactions of denial or minimisation is important. Denial is facilitated by the secrecy surrounding the abuse. In considering denial, Glaser (1991, p. 773) suggests that several questions may be explored:

  • Who is denying?
  • What is being denied?
  • How is the denial manifested?
  • What is the function/purpose of this denial?
  • What are the consequences of the denial?

It may be worthwhile exploring and providing information to the man you are working with, about the purpose of denial for the abuser. These include that denial 'wards off intolerable guilt, removes fear of imprisonment or censure, and fear of loss of vital relationships' (Glaser, 1991). Confronting the perpetrator maybe a recurring thought for survivors. They may have rehearsed what they would like to say, how they would like to 'transfer the shame' and hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions. These are reasonable reactions to seek justice, and worthwhile discussion points with the practitioner. When considering any type of confrontation, these reasonable expectations need to be balanced with the likely unreasonable and abusive response of perpetrators when they are asked to take responsibility. Exploring survivors' capacity and motivations for confronting the perpetrator are important, especially where there are issues related to aggression or thoughts of revenge. Ways of responding to these issues are mentioned elsewhere in this training manual, but may come into the considerations related to disclosure or contact with the perpetrator.

Denial and disbelief by carers is one way of avoiding feelings of guilt for not protecting the child. Whether a carer was able to protect a child or not from sexual abuse is separate issue, and often because of the secrecy and tactics of the perpetrator there was nothing a carer could have done. Denial might also occur because of a realisation of the significant impact that abuse has had on the survivor. Belief of the abuse usually entails some form of separation from the abuser, which may entail difficult support or socio-economic consequences. Regardless of whether or not denial and blame is motivated by a need to ward off guilt, it remains a powerful form of psychological abuse of the survivor by those in roles of supposed caregivers (Glaser, 1991). Therefore, the presence of denial by the offender and caregivers is a factor that needs to be carefully assessed, because unfortunately, denial by the abuser and caregivers may have an impact on whether partners, family, and friends respond in a supportive and affirming way or not. Often, the implications of disclosure includes that the person disclosed to is required to make a decision about who they believe, and if or how they ever relate to, or interact with the offender, again. It can divide families, for example, siblings can be split by who they believe.

Relevance for practice

One of the most significant decisions for men to make is whether, how, when, and with whom to tell their partner, friends, and family about the abuse. It is important that an assumption that they should tell these people is not conveyed. It is a decision that needs to be made by each man depending on his unique context, and there is no evidence or research that telling people will automatically lead to positive outcomes. It is more realistic to assume that there can be no guarantees of the reactions to, and implications of disclosure. Working through the decision to tell, who to tell, and how to prepare and educate people so they best know how to respond, is important. Assessment of the risks of telling people who may have a strong vested interest in denial is important as part of the process of the man learning to have control over his own protection.

Useful resources

There are resources available for partners, family, and friends, to support them in dealing with disclosures by their loved ones of abuse. Some of them can be found here:

Section summary

Remember it is his decision if, who, when, and how much of his story he wants to tell. Because abuse involves the taking away of choice, it is important that the man is conscious of his power now. It is good to have time to consider choices of who and when he discloses. He may choose to make a partial disclosure, and retain as much control as possible over the information he provides. If someone presses for details that he is not ready or willing to share, it's ok for him to let them know he is not ready or does not want to share this.

If he feels unsure about what someone is thinking, he could try asking them; sometimes their silence might be because they are uncertain what to do, not because they are making judgements. Whilst initial responses can be fraught because of people's lack of awareness of the issue of sexual abuse of males, and the influence of myths and denial or disbelief, it can be important that man explore his expectations of people following a disclosure. Part of these general expectations might be possible to explore with people he plans to disclose to. It can be useful for the man to think about his role in educating people when he makes a disclosure. Part of this might be talking about common responses as well as myths.

Telling people about his experiences of abuse is not necessarily a one-off event. It is often more of a process, involving a lot of thinking, hesitations, 'checking out' people's responses, and so on.

It is important to note that this section has not included disclosures made to the police or other authorities regarding the crime of sexual abuse. There are a range of reporting options for men to consider, including anonymous reports to the police in some jurisdictions, and these will be discussed in detail in the module Justice reporting (coming soon).


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Last modified: Monday, 16 October 2017, 4:34 PM