Men are victims of sexual abuse, too

AMY JACKMAN
Last updated 11:37 03/04/2014

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The Wellingtonian

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Sharing his story made such a difference to a Wellington man that he is now helping others deal with being a survivor of sexual abuse.

Richard Brewer is the Wellington regional manager of the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust and runs peer-to-peer support groups, including in Petone and a new one in Newtown.

The turnout to the meetings in Petone made it obvious to Brewer that the service was badly needed in Wellington.

"From time to time I find it overwhelming just how many men out there need support," he said.

Brewer is a survivor, having been sexually abused at 16 by someone in authority.

"I felt totally isolated, as though I was the only male who had been sexually abused," he said.

"There was nothing available for me. Once the man who had offended against me was arrested and tried and I left the police station for the last time, that was it."

The impact of being abused reverberated through his life, he said.

"I became very angry. I was into violence, alcohol and drugs.

"I was expelled from school for assaulting a teacher, lost my job because I assaulted the foreman, assaulted two policemen.

"It was all against authority figures without me even realising what was behind the anger.

"It also led to depression, anxiety, to four very clear suicide attempts and difficulty with personal boundaries and distrust of males.

"It affected me in a lack of feelings, compassion, empathy and understanding."

Brewer, now in his 60s, said the breakthrough came after he saw a newspaper advertisement.

"In 1991 I threatened to kill a guy over a game of pool and I realised then that I needed help," he said.

"I saw an advert for a peer support group in Christchurch.

"When I was there I looked around and realised I was looking at a room full of people, from all walks of life, who had experienced similar things to me. I realised that I was not alone.

"It was such a breakthrough."

The trust's national manager, Ken Clearwater, said the groups started because of a gap in support for males.

"There was nothing for men. All the support groups and agencies were for women," Clearwater said.

"People struggled to believe that males could be victims of sexual violence.

"That meant males had issues coming forward about being abused, because of feelings of shame, guilt and the fact we live in a patriarchal society, where males are supposed to be tough and staunch."

The first group began in Christchurch in 1991. The trust was founded in 1997. There are now groups all over New Zealand.

"We want to have it throughout New Zealand, so there is a place for all survivors to get support in a safe place without judgement," Clearwater said.

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Resources for men who had experienced sexual abuse were still severely limited throughout New Zealand, Brewer said.

The trust presented this week to the select committee inquiry into the funding of specialist sexual violence social services. It asked for more funding to be available for male sexual abuse survivors.

Male sex abuse in NZ

-  1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the time are 16

- Only 1 to 5% of male sex abuse crimes are reported

- On average, males take 10 to 13 years longer to report sexual abuse than females.

- Males who have been sexually abused are five times more likely to commit suicide.

- 69% of men in prison for non-sexual offences have been sexually abused.

- There are eight support groups for male survivors of sexual abuse in NZ. 

For information about the group, contact Brewer on 021 118 1043 or survivors.wellington@xtra.co.nz.

- The Wellingtonian

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