How to Date Man Who Has Been Sexually Abused

9 Comments
November 1, 2011 ‐ By Toya Sharee

Even the seemingly perfect relationships have their own distinct set of challenges. What can make any relationship even more difficult, is growing to care deeply for someone who is in a dangerous relationship with demons from their past.  Being in a relationship with a man who’s been sexually abused can make you feel helpless and confused, but what you may not realize is that your partner may be battling many of those same feelings.

Ever since the 1997 imprisonment of Mary Kay Letorneau, a school teacher in her mid-thirties who admitted to engaging in sexual intercourse with 13 year-old student Vili Fualaau,  sexual abuse involving male victims doesn’t seem to be taken nearly as seriously in society as cases in which the victim is female.  Unfortunately this often results in many men believing that if society doesn’t take their situation seriously, then they themselves shouldn’t either.  When a woman is involved sexually with a male who is significantly older than her she’s “violated,” but when a male has the opportunity to have sex with an older woman he’s often “congratulated.”

The truth is that when sex is used to manipulate and take advantage of anyone without the full capacity to consent and understand the situation, it’s a violation.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a blonde bombshell teaching in a classroom or your stereotypical “To Catch a Predator” assailant.

According to the online-support group BSAS (Black Sexual Abuse Survivors), 1 in 6 males have been sexually abused as children and 1.9 million African-American men have been sexually abused.  Many black males are struggling with their masculinity, sexuality and even their very identities because they are burdened with the shame, self-blame and an inability to trust in relationships.  This is especially true when the abuse occurs at the hands of another male.  Heterosexual men often question their sexuality when they are raped or molested by another man and homosexual men may even feel that this violation is a punishment or that the situation is to blame for their sexual preference.

The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) states that some of the common stereotypes that surround sexual abuse of males include:

  • “Men are immune to victimization”
  • “Men enjoy all sex, so they must’ve enjoyed the assault”
  • “Male survivors are more likely to be sexual predators”.

With little education or resources, when the man you’ve grown to look at as strong and powerful reveals to you that he was once in fact a victim, you may find yourself questioning many of those stereotypes.  While there are many men who actively seek support to help deal with post-traumatic stress and other feelings that have created barriers in their personal relationships, there are some men who experience anxiety even thinking about the situation, let alone revealing it and risking being harshly judged by others.  This can create problems in a romantic relationship, because although the partner is willing to be an active source of support, the victim to may not yet be ready to deal with his feelings.

After you’ve stripped yourself of assumptions and preconceived notions, one of the best things you can do when dating a man who is a victim of sexual assault is to educate yourself on the common effects that men can have as a result of being sexually abused.  According to an article titled “Sexual Abuse” on AskMen.com, one of the most common effects of sexual abuse is emotional unavailability.  Men who experience sexual abuse may experience feelings of mistrust towards anyone, especially those whom they are involved with romantically.  They may also experience performance anxiety in the bedroom due to their internal turmoil surrounding confusion about their sexuality.  Self-blame may also negatively affect self-esteem which can cause conflict within the relationship.  More severe effects may include insomnia, poor anger management and paranoia. An inability to confront the issue may manifest into substance abuse and self-harm.

While you can’t erase the past, you can be a strong source of support in the present and help your partner navigate a brighter future.  Don’t be intimidated by what you learn about the past.  The very fact that he chose to reveal this information to you shows that on some level he trusts you and the last thing you want to do is shut him down.  Sometimes just listening is a great way to show support. Just being there for moral support can make the experience of seeking professional help less scary.  It’s also important to understand that many of the issues that are causing conflict in the relationship could be due to not dealing with the past.  You might also be his best chance at understanding what a healthy sexual and romantic relationship truly is.

Take his hand and try making the first step to healing by visiting sites like MaleSurvivor.org or  Adult Survivors of Child Abuse or calling toll-free hot lines where trained professionals are available 24 hours a day for help like 1-800-799-SAFE.  With a bit of patience and empathy you can help your partner transition from being a victim to being a survivor.

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  • carolinagirl

    I am married to a man who was sexually abused as a young child by his brother.  We have been married 4 years and he hardly ever wants to have sex.  I am so frustrated and dont know what to do.  I try to be understanding.  He is very good at communicating his feelings with me, but when we are in the bed he just freezes.  Any advice?  I need help for both of us.

  • reese

    I think they need to talk more about men who are victims. I don't think they get the same consideration as women victims. And they should. It sometimes affects them worst.

  • L-Boogie

    I am glad that this topic was posted and discussed! Sexual abuse can be detrimental to a young person's construction of identity and place in society. I think if a person enters into a relationship with a person who was sexually abused this is an issue that must be addressed! This would have to be a non-judgement zone! Things discussed during this time cannot later be thrown into their face!

  • womenar4

    It's great that this silent epidemic in the African American community is being brought to a broader realm. I wrote a paper on this topic in college. The stats are depressing but with the right counseling, support and willingness to admit the victim did nothing wrong, a lot can be done. As always love http://www.womenaregamechangers.com.

  • Lyndon

    Good to see ya'll aren't afraid to take this head-on. This is a start. Can you also provide some info on how to date, live or sustain a relationship with a woman who's been sexually abused. I've never dated a woman who has not been abused and frankly it seems impossible to make the love last without stepping on emotional land mines. Let's get into. And Im serious.

    I know that typically these things (sexual abuse) require professional help, but most ppl avoid it. So how in the hell can a regular person with no background in mental health or psychiatry make someone happy who's got issues beyond the norm. I don't think it's smart to try to fix other people. In fact, it aint humanly possible. So what do you do?

  • rrt

    I'm dating someone now who i am pretty sure had some sort of sexual abuse happen to him. he prefers a lot of humiliation towards women during sex, into swingers parties, etc.. we always talk about things he's into, because i think communication should be open. but i am realizing more and more now that something may have happened to him, he is a but extreme with a lot of things sexually.

    • SLYou

      @rrt, I have dated that type of guy as well. Very deviant with his sexual behaviour, unbale to sustain a relationship for a long period of time without infidelity. I tried to address these things with him because I knew that something wasn't right. I also assumed that maybe he struggled with his sexuality or may have had encounters with other men. He denied all of it. As a woman who has been interfered with at a young age, I knew that I had to end contact if he was still in denial. in the black community, seeking professional help (outside of the church) is frowned upon and considered to be for white people. With all of the issues in our community, I maintain that professional help is indeed for black people.

  • Jessica

    a lot of patience and understanding.

  • Lovessoldier

    I love that we are discussing this, I dated a man sexually assaulted by his older sister who later on became self-destructive. He was understanding because once it all came out, she had been abused and thought it was a way of loving him. Thankfully, he sought counseling and broke the cycle before his children were born. It is sad, because most of the men that I know whom are gay can testify to being abused early on in childhood. If we stop trying to hide our wounds and treat them our race would be 20x's powerful than we are now. Victimization has to stop, education needs to begin. I am a survivor of sexual abuse not a victim, is my mantra. Peace, love & blessings.