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Betrayed as boys : psychodynamic treatment of sexually abused men /

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"Betrayed as Boys" is about what happens to boys who grow up in dreadful circumstances, often in a family where incestuous boundary violations repeatedly recur. It is also about the psychotherapeutic treatment of these boys when they become men who at last must face their abusive histories. Finally, it is about the inner experience of therapists who try to draw on their skill and inner resources as they evolve in very complex treatment situations. To be identified as a sexual victim makes many boys and men question their masculinity and/or sexual orientation. The shame that accompanies such doubts silences many boys about their experiences. Yet if abuse remains unacknowledged and untreated, it may lead to such consequences as depression, anxiety, self-destructive behaviors, substance abuse, or other compulsive disorders. Therapeutic work with men sexually betrayed in boyhood has led me to realize how cultural ideas about masculinity interfere with men's ability to acknowledge and deal with sexual abuse. Myths that abuse turns boys gay, or that abused boys always become abusing men, or that boys and men welcome sex whenever it is offered and are in charge of sexual situations and therefore cannot be sexually victimized, all combine with beliefs that men should not talk about emotions or admit weaknesses. Such conventional "wisdom" makes it difficult for boys to talk about any discomfort they may feel about premature se! xuality. It makes it questionable whether their trauma will be recognized by themselves or others. Finally, it make them unlikely to seek psychological treatment for their abuse either as boys or later as adults. Yet men who have been sexually abused are much more likely than nonabused men to seek psychological treatment for issues that SEEM unrelated to their sexual victimization. Incest or other sexual abuse usually involves a rupture in a critically important relationship with a parent or other caretaker. This betrayal of a trusted relationship may be more traumatic than the sexual acts themselves. It can have disastrous aftereffects in later life when a man attempts to negotiate other relationships where trust is essential. In my book I have focused on these relational effects from sexual abuse as they play themselves out in a man's personal world and in any therapeutic relationship he may enter. Yet I also want to emphasize how working with sexually abused men has highlighted for me that humans are capable of overcoming trauma. My relationships with the thirty-eight men I have written about in "Betrayed as Boys" moved me and changed how I look at human interaction. These men have courageously faced terrifying pasts. Their stories have stirred me, their resolution in the face of their histories has astonished me. I have learned from them more than I can say. I wrote my book for mental health professionals working with men having sexual abuse histories. However, I wanted to write a book that would also be accessible to sexually abused men not in the mental health profession and to their loved ones. I therefore avoid professional jargon wherever possible.

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