4-country study sheds light on abuse of boys

/ 05:40 AM February 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A four-country study on sexual violence inflicted on boys indicates that sociocultural pressures play a role in how people differentiate sexual abuse between girls and boys and prevent male victims from seeking help as well.

Around 400 male respondents from the Philippines, India, Cambodia and Nepal participated in key informant interviews and focus group discussions for the country reports to discuss what it means to be boys in the context of violence and sexual abuse.


The reports show broad similarities in the underlying causes of the sexual abuse of boys and the broad consequences of the interventions to prevent it, said Lois Engelbrecht, an expert in preventing child sexual abuse and one of the study’s proponents.

“Patriarchy, in some forms, appears to be the overarching mechanism that guides gender roles in all country reports,” Engelbrecht said during the presentation of the reports at the Department of Social Welfare and Development on Tuesday.


Demand for strength

“All reports confirmed that male respondents embraced this definition and the expectations in its forms,” she said.

In all four countries, the major themes revolve around the demand for boys to maintain physical and emotional strength to the point that they are not allowed to show emotion, according to Engelbrecht.

The report on the Philippines shows that because the country has a strong patriarchy, boys can be physically punished more than their sisters, and this could have an impact on their notions of strength.

India’s report highlights the need for men to care for their families and thus maintain strength in all aspects.

In Cambodia, the report shows, men are treated as “golden,” and because boys are more capable than girls, they are more valued and are supposed to be powerful.

In Nepal, according to its report, men are meant to be the family protectors and income-earners — responsibilities that are also linked to community power.

All these dominant notions of masculinity and sexuality also prevent boys from seeking help for their own abuse, the reports show.


A deeper look into the report on the Philippines, for which there were 79 respondents, shows the prevalence of the belief that the sexual abuse of boys is not of much importance and is certainly not as big a problem as for girls.

According to the report, there appears to be recognition that when a boy is sexually abused, both the victim and his parents will find it hard to deal with the matter.

For service providers, not being able to report or believing that the sexual abuse of boys is no big deal — a concern in some communities — does present a problem for male victims.

Notions that people will ridicule a male victim of sexual abuse and will blame him for “failing to protect himself” are apparent in some communities, the report also shows.

Admission rare

“In the context of sexual abuse, it is really rare for men or boys to admit that they have been sexually abused because of what our culture says — that they should be strong, that they should keep it to themselves,”the report on the Philippines states.

The reports were published by Family for Every Child, an international alliance of civil society organizations working to mobilize knowledge, skills and resources involving the care of children.

The member-organizations who have worked on the reports since 2017 are the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (Philippines), Butterflies (India), First Step Cambodia (Cambodia) and Voice of Children (Nepal).

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