The Law Offices of SJ Spero and Associates - Boston Professional Misconduct Lawyer

The Law Offices of
SJ Spero & Associates

Newton Office
PO Box 240
Newton, MA 02468
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Concord Office
30 Monument Square
Suite 145
Concord, MA 01742
Phone: 617-491-1200
Fax: 978-631-0795
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Boston Office
175 Federal Street
Suite 1425
Boston, MA 02110
Phone: 617-491-1200
Fax: 978-631-0795
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When Boundaries Are Crossed – Men Victimizd By Sexual Abuse

A recent Oprah Winfrey show drew attention to males who have been the victims of sexual abuse. As an attorney who has represented a number of men of all ages for injuries arising from physical or sexual professional and clergy abuse, the Oprah Winfrey telecast covered familiar terrain.

In a world overflowing with sexual violence and abuse, male victims are typically ignored or misunderstood. Unfortunately, most people think only of women in the context of this kind of victimization. While perpetrators in cases of incest, rape, sexual harassment, therapist and clergy abuse frequently target females, many such incidents involve men.

Men who are victims of childhood incest must cope with the residue of the sexual abuse into adulthood. Although each male victim suffers unique injuries, there are certain common symptoms shared by abused males, including many of the following:

Feelings of shame, guilt, humiliation, inadequacy, worthlessness, anger and rage;
Loss of self-esteem;
Eating disorders;
Sleep disorders and nightmares;
Fears of intimacy;
Flashbacks of events comprising the abuse;
Compulsive and abusive behavior;
Hyper vigilance;
Difficulties in concentration and focus;
Suicidal ideation;
Difficulties with or mistrust of persons in authority;
Gender identity confusion;
Social withdrawal and isolation;
Paranoid feelings or behavior;
Difficulties setting and maintaining boundaries;
Substance abuse, self medication, including use of drugs and alcohol;
Self mutilation;
Sexual dysfunction;

This list, of course, is not all encompassing.

When a female is the perpetrator, the male victim's account may be disbelieved. He is faced with a society which, generally speaking, trivializes such reports to the police, doctors, therapists, media or general public. He may experience abandonment by significant individuals in his life. Dismissive responses engender substantial confusion in the male victim. If he describes the event as upsetting, his sexual preferences may be questioned. Males who report abuse by women are met with skepticism about the victimization. Like the now antiquated and rejected notion that a woman was expected to "enjoy" her rape, male victims may experience similar reactions to their accounts. Males deciding whether to report face a double edged sword:
Either make a humiliating, guilt inducing, and embarrassing complaint and encounter perpetrator denial and negative reactions from authorities, or suffer in silence without benefit of ameliorative treatment.

Clergy abuse of young males is particularly traumatizing. In addition to the usual damages, preadolescent or teenage males tend to suffer a devastating loss of spiritual belief. The responses from clergy members and their institutions, while changing in recent years, have tended to add additional layers of abuse on top of the original incidents, thereby further victimizing the victim. Long lasting hopelessness and pessimism invariably follow.

What remedies does society provide to enable victims to heal and recover? Recovery from abusive episodes or relationships is not a simple process. There are several, sometimes overlapping, avenues for victims to pursue.

First, although it may be long, involved and imperfect, ameliorative therapy provides a safe setting for placing the abuse in context and understanding its consequences.

Second, male victims can seek civil damages for the wrongs done to them. While litigation is not therapy, some who have been abused find standing up to their perpetrators therapeutic. Attorneys can provide safe avenues for confronting a past abuser. The legal option requires an exploration of the facts of the case, an examination of the damages suffered by the victim, and an assignment of legal culpability by the perpetrator. The resulting monetary settlement may operate to vindicate the victim and provide needed funds to pay for his recovery.

Trial is not the only option. Victims may be able to arbitrate, mediate and negotiate settlements of their claims outside of the court.

Third, the attorney can assist male victims in making and prosecuting appropriate complaints to licensing boards, professional societies and other institutions, and law enforcement personnel. Disciplinary proceedings and enforcement actions have the salutary effects of exposing the wrongdoers and preventing similar harms to potential victims.

Attorneys can help victims make reasoned decisions about available legal and nonlegal processes and what they entail. Whatever options are selected, the victim must heal, regain control over his existence, stand up, engage with society and move forward in life.

The Law Offices of SJ Spero & Associates represented victims of professional misconduct and clergy abuse across the country, including Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas and New York. Based in Boston, our local service areas include Newton, Concord, Acton, Lowell, Cambridge, Quincy, Worcester, Springfield, Pittsfield, Middlesex County, Essex County, Suffolk County, Norfolk County and Worcester County.