A national campaigner on male sexual abuse believes as many as one in three men have been sexually abused in childhood.
Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust manager Ken Clearwater, of Christchurch, spoke at a workshop in Nelson yesterday.
He also hoped to help set up a support group in the Nelson-Blenheim area for men who suffered sexual abuse in childhood.
Clearwater said there were huge gaps in the knowledge and services available for men who have been sexually abused in childhood.
But it was a critical issue for the country to acknowledge and in which to develop expertise and programmes.
Research showed that up to 70 per cent of men in prison for non-sexual offences had experienced sexual abuse in childhood.
Men who had suffered abuse tended towards violence and anti-social behaviour, he said.
Research showed that 62 per cent of men in psychiatric care had been sexually abused in childhood.
"They are pretty huge figures.
"We need to say this is unacceptable. We need to do something about it. We need to protect our young men; otherwise they will hurt people."
Statistics in New Zealand showed one in eight boys had been abused in childhood, but he believed abuse was seriously under-reported.
The United States believed one in six boys had been sexually abused and Canada used figures of one in four boys having been abused in childhood.
He believed New Zealand's real rate of abuse might be as high as Canada or even higher at one in three boys.
When he first started doing this work in the mid-1990s, most men coming forward who had suffered abuse were in their 30s and early 40s.
Their lives had often hit rock bottom before they sought help.
He wanted to help change that so young boys were able to get the help they needed so they did not end up in prison or in the mental health system.
He said there was a "huge, huge gap" in knowledge and services available for men who had suffered sexual abuse as a child, compared with what was available for women.
It was only as late as the late 1980s and early 1990s the issue started to be acknowledged and taken seriously.
Men had traditionally struggled to come forward and talk about what had happened to them because they thought they would be OK.
There was also a tendency in New Zealand culture not to see men as victims.
"It's about saying this is a criminal act and the best way to deal with it is to talk about it."
No research had been done in New Zealand on male victims of sexual abuse in childhood, but Otago University was starting a study this year.
His motto was "challenge the silence".
There were few specialists dealing with the area of male sexual abuse and, potentially, counsellors might not have training in dealing specifically with male survivors. Women had numerous agencies where they could get help.
Philip Chapman, of the Male Room, said a support group for male survivors of sexual abuse would be set up in Nelson and meetings at the Male Room would be run in conjunction with the INP Medical Centre. It would be the first support group of its kind in Nelson.
How the meetings would be held was still being worked out.
Those interested should contact Chapman on 03 5480403.
- The Nelson Mail