Male victims of female sexual assault need the support of other men, says victims’ advocate and National Coalition For Men Advisor, Julie Brand.
NCFM NOTE: This is the first profile of one of our Advisers, Julie Brand. Our plan is to profile another NCFM Adviser every 10 to 12 months or as time permits. We are indebted to NCFM Member Michael Sirak for working with Julie and writing her profile.
Julie is a survivor of mother-daughter sexual abuse about which she writes and speaks passionately. She has consulted and testified as a subject expert and witness. She says that when she first started speaking at conferences her small groups of attendees often had the deer-in-the-headlights look. Now, she is often a featured speaker to standing room only crowds with several hundred responsive attendees from education, human services, law enforcement and the judiciary, among others. She is largely responsible for raising awareness nationally about the horrific damage done by sexually abusive adults in positions of trust to children. To our knowledge, she is the first to present a program about male victims (survivors) of female sexual abuse as an underserved group. Please share this article widely. Julie IS activism with heart, as an NCFM Adviser, she is helping NCFM help you make the world a better place for all of us. She saves lives. Thank you Julie, thank you very much.
Harry Crouch, President
Five in Six for the One in Six Male Survivors of Sexual Assault
by Michael Sirak
Many male victims of sexual assault remain hesitant to seek help and oftentimes still face obstacles when they do come forward, according to a leading educator on these issues.
Those hurdles include lingering ignorance, skepticism, and indifference toward male victims. This is especially true when the perpetrator is female.
This is why it is so important for society, and men, in particular, to step up on behalf of male victims as they take the courageous first steps to heal, said Julie Brand, an NCFM advisor and the founder of CAPER Consulting (Child Abuse Prevention, Education, and Recovery) in Henderson, Nev., in a recent interview.
“I think, if anything, the consequences of childhood sex abuse are worse for guys because they don’t tell, so then they don’t get help as early. They oftentimes don’t get help for decades,” said Brand, herself a survivor, in her case of maternal incest.
Getting help early on not only may help a male victim heal more easily at an emotional level but may also spare him from serious health issues and other troubles down the road. Indeed, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study “found correlations between early childhood trauma and long-term emotional and physical problems and overall quality of life,” noted Brand. The study, which had more than 17,000 survey respondents, is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to gauge the relationship between maltreatment in one’s early years and one’s health and wellbeing in adulthood. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9635069
The ACE study validated the one-in-six figure for male victims, a number to which earlier research also had pointed, said Brand. Notably, 40 percent of the male respondents who reported boyhood sexual abuse indicated that at least one of their perpetrators was a female. (The study showed that one in four female respondents reported being a victim of sexual abuse by age 18.
Further, six percent of them said at least one of their perpetrators was female. Brand thinks the number of abused women with a female offender is greater than that, based on her own interactions with female victims.)
If at least one in six men have been victims, Brand called on other males—”the five in six,” so to speak—to support them.
This includes being a sympathetic, receptive listener when they take the first step of healing by breaking their silence and asking for help, she said. It also involves lending a hand in identifying resources for them in their community. Further, it means advocating locally for men to have the proper support network and services in place like society has established for women, and it entails working to squash lingering myths that demonize men and prevent mainstream society from recognizing females as sexual perpetrators, she said.
“You can walk the walk with a friend over to a therapist. You can help them get into a group,” said Brand. “Call the rape crisis center and ask what services they offer for men. Make those inquiries, and then put that information out. You can be a real friend by helping to facilitate that.”
Also, the “five in six” can help their brothers by letting them know that asking for help is an act of bravery, said Brand.
It’s Out There
Male victims carry much shame, perhaps more so than their female counterparts, said Brand. “It takes such a toll on men and boys,” she said, emphasizing the need for male victims to get help. “You have to be able to tell someone what happened and not carry it around as a burden for decades,” she added.
The sexual abuse of males is real, though many men and women find it difficult to accept, said Brand. “I will have men say, ‘I really find it hard to believe that [one-in-six] stat because nothing ever happened to me and nothing ever happened to my friends or my brothers or my uncles or my dad.’ What I say is, ‘They just haven’t told you.’”
Brand has been speaking around the country on topics dealing with sexual abuse, recovery and resiliency for nearly 15 years. At first, she dealt only with mother-daughter incest, but over time, expanded the scope of her work to include talks on female sex offenders (in positions of trust) and male victims. She speaks before law enforcement officials, nurses who examine sexual assault victims, social workers, therapists, victims’ advocates, and other professionals.
The focus of her work is to bring increased awareness to these issues. “If people are aware, that means that more boys and girls can tell and be believed … and then, can get help earlier on,” she said. “So many survivors of all types of childhood abuse, especially sexual, need to know that they, too, deserve to have a happy life,” she said.
Brand highlighted two organizations that help male victims: 1in6 of Santa Clarita, Calif., and MaleSurvivor of Long Valley, N.J. They provide online information, discussion forums, confidential live chats, and additional resources to help them find therapists and support groups.
Research has shown that a certain set of dynamics is typical in cases with female sexual abusers: extreme narcissism, access, power, and control, said Brand. “These female perpetrators are the very definition of narcissists,” she said. “It really is ‘all about them.’” They also act differently than male offenders: females rarely abuse a child whom they do not know, said Brand. “You don’t see cases of a woman going to the mall, grabbing a little four-year-old girl or boy, taking them in the bathroom, molesting them, and then running off.”
Instead, “women molest children in the context of a trusted relationship,” she continued. That can mean a family member (e.g., mother, stepmother, grandmother, cousin, older sister) or someone in a position of trust (e.g., teacher, coach, next-door neighbor, a friend’s mom), said Brand. “What that means is that they have access to the victim over time. They can take their time grooming them, getting them used to certain behaviors,” she said.
Raise Your Hands, If …
Brand has heard heart-breaking stories from men sexually assaulted as boys at the hands of males and females. While these men appeared outwardly successful, they carried shame and guilt—as if it was their fault. They remained silent, their pain sometimes manifested in failed marriages and alcohol and drug abuse, she said. “Men who have shared with me—and this is happening increasingly—have really struggled with depression, with relationships, with trusting women, with isolation,” she said.
Even adult men in healthy relationships may carry the heavy weight of shame and may not speak out about what they endured as a boy until much later in life, decades into their marriage, said Brand, recounting conversations she has had with wives of such men.
Society is making worthy strides in supporting male victims and recognizing females as sexual abusers, said Brand. She has noticed increased awareness of, and sensitivity to, these issues among the professionals she deals with at her presentations and workshops. For example, at her first-ever presentation on sexual abuse back in 2005—she spoke on mother-daughter incest. None of the members of the small audience raised his/her hand when she asked if anyone had ever worked a case with a female perpetrator. Today when Brand poses that same question, about one quarter of the people in her (now much larger) audiences raise their hands, she said, adding that her estimate, if anything, is on the conservative side. She then asks those with their hands up to keep them up if the female perpetrator was a family member of the victim. “I would say about half of those hands stay up,” she said.
Two developments, in particular, have moved society in recent years toward recognizing females as sex offenders and bringing them to justice, said Brand. The first is the proliferation of technology. Take, for example, a case of a woman making child pornography. “You go into a courtroom and you have got a jury or a judge thinking, ‘Oh, this pretty little mom could never do anything like that,’” she explained. “But here you’ve got a selfie that she made of her performing oral sex on her five-year-old son. That kind of gets through the denial quickly.”
The second development is the increasing national spotlight placed on female teachers who get caught having sex with their underaged students, said Brand. “It’s everywhere,” she said. “Do I think it’s a new behavior? Heck no. I think what’s new is we are seeing it as a crime and someone is outing them.”
Nevertheless, myths and stereotypes endure and continue to stand in the way of male victims’ recovery. In some ways, male victims face unique challenges, she said. Among them is mainstream society’s misguided belief that boys and young men cannot really be victims when the perpetrator is female. “It’s not supposed to happen to guys, right?” she said. “They are supposed to be in control of any situation.” Not true.
Intertwined with that is the erroneous assumption that sexual abuse is less harmful and less traumatic for boys than for girls, said Brand. “The impact is very similar, and it is not less damaging to male victims at all,” she emphasized.
Another false narrative is that a boy was an eager participant (i.e., he “wanted it”) if he experienced sexual arousal or an orgasm during the woman’s abuse, said Brand. In fact, that response is just the male body’s natural physiological response.
There is also the ongoing “lucky boy” myth, said Brand. “We never call a female victim ‘lucky,’” she said. “With the 14-year-old girl who’s raped by her 35-year-old male teacher, we don’t say, ‘She was so lucky to be initiated sexually by this older man.’”
Yet, many times, that is exactly the message that society conveys to boys in similar situations, said Brand. “’You lucky boy, she’s a hot teacher,’” she said, conveying the rampant ignorance. Media coverage reflects this, too, she noted. “When it is a male victim and an older female teacher, you will see words like, ‘They had an affair.’ ‘They had a relationship,’” she said. In reality, “relationships” and “affairs” are between equals and people who are old enough to give consent, said Brand. “The laws of consent were not written just for females,” she said. “They are for all children.” Therefore, it is just as much sexual abuse and a crime when it happens to a boy as to a girl, she said.
The TV show Law & Order Special Victims Unit has covered the topic of female sexual abusers on several occasions over its 20 seasons. Brand highlighted one of these episodes (“Parole Violations,” season 16, episode 17; original air date: March 25, 2015) in which a female parole officer rapes one of her male parolees who is turning his life around and whose girlfriend is expecting a child. The man not only had to face initial disbelief from one of the police investigators, but also from the man’s girlfriend.
The district attorney hesitated to file charges, thinking no jury would believe that a woman could sexually assault a man, or that a man could be an unwilling participant. The female officer used her position to manipulate, blackmail and coerce him, threatening to revoke his parole if he refused her sexual advances. Brand credited the episode for its thoughtful and fair handling of the issue.
Respect for Male Survivors
In her talks on male victims, Brand said she calls for therapists and others working with male victims to make their offices and working environments safe and welcoming for them. For example, “Don’t have a sign outside that says, ‘rape crisis center,’” she said. “Young guys aren’t going to come in; they are going to feel demonized or everyone is going to know that they are a survivor.” She tells them to consider having a private entrance in addition to their main one. “That privacy may be more important to your male survivor than it is to a female,” she said.
Further, she advises them to have on display items in their offices like posters or brochures that convey both a respect for male victims and knowledge in helping men. She also recommends avoiding use of the word “victim” as much as possible. “If they have shown up in your office today, they are a ‘survivor,’” she said. ‘They might be struggling and they might be abusing alcohol and they might not have the best coping strategies, but they have survived.”
Brand also favors that places like hospitals and rape crisis centers offer options to male victims and some level of control, when possible. This could include the choice of letting a male nurse attend to them on first contact after an assault, as opposed to a female nurse, she said.
The professionals with whom she deals have been receptive to these ideas, she said.
Brand was a school counselor for 25 years. In 2005, upon her retirement, she began publicly speaking on mother-daughter incest. “I made a little promise to myself: someday, I will write and speak about this because people don’t know it happens, and other victims are not telling and reporting and getting help,” she explained.
Her first presentation occurred at the annual conference that the Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma (IVAT) hosts in San Diego. She spoke for 45 minutes—notably, the organizers gave most of the other speakers 90 minutes—to a spartan crowd of only about 20 people, many of whom gave her a “deer-in the headlights” look of shock as she spoke. She said she walked away thinking “‘What am I doing? This is crazy’.” Yet after her talk, while mingling in the exhibit hall, several women approached her, telling her, “’Your story is my story. Please keep talking’,” she recounted. She did continue to speak.
In 2006, Brand established CAPER Consulting, which is dedicated to educating professionals on mother-daughter incest and how to intervene effectively on the victims’ behalf. The next year, she published the book A Mother’s Touch: Surviving Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse; it is a quite worthwhile read.
It was at the aforementioned IVAT conference in 2005 that NCFM’s exhibit table, manned by NCFM President, Harry Crouch, caught Brand’s eye. Thus began a lifelong relationship with Harry and with the organization. “I was so ignorant, like many people, about male victimization in domestic violence, in custody cases, false accusations, and even as victims of mother-son incest,” she said. “It never crossed my mind.”
Working for the California-based Center for Innovation and Resources, Inc. (CIR), in 2017 Brand developed a new workshop entitled “What About our Boys? Understanding the Challenges Facing Male Victims of Sexual Abuse and Assault.” (CIR received funding through the Victims of Crime Act Training Program of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services for the “Underserved Populations Training Project.” Male victims were one of four identified underserved populations identified in the UP Training Project.
Brand will next present mid-January 2019, offering, “Female Sex Offenders: Understanding the Dynamics and Supporting Survivors,” a full day Juvenile Corrections Officer Training at the Orange County Probation Department in Santa Ana, Calif.
Brand also participated in a Canadian documentary on maternal incest, “It Was A Woman – Surviving Female Sex Abuse” (2013) and has testified as an expert witness in District Court (Colorado, 2017). Her upbeat presentations focus on the power of resiliency and healing in all of our lives.
Click here to see her calendar of events.
Michael Sirak is an NCFM member and a writer living in Washington, D.C.
Feb 16, 2016 – Examining Mother Daughter Sexual Abuse with Julie Brand
Sep 28, 2017 – Examining Mother Daughter Sexual Abuse with Julie Brand What do we know about female sex offenders?
Sep 7, 2018 – Female Sexual Predators of Males with Julie Brand