International Day of the Boy-Child: Sexual abuse against boys is more prevalent than we know

 International Day of the Boy-Child: Sexual abuse against boys is more prevalent than we know

Halima Layeni

On this International Day of the Boy Child, it is important to draw attention to a pressing issue that warrants immediate action: sexual abuse against boys.

Global statistics reveals that approximately 1 in 6 boys worldwide experience some form of sexual abuse before adulthood. Regrettably, these figures likely underestimate the true scope of the problem due to stigma, shame, and societal disbelief.

One of the most troubling aspects of this crisis is the neglect of sexual abuse against boys. Survivors frequently face scepticism and blame, with their experiences dismissed due to harmful misconceptions.

The horrifying reality is that some believe if a boy experiences an erection during abuse, or actively participated in the act, somehow implies consent or enjoyment, perpetuating a culture of silence and shame, leaving survivors feeling isolated and invalidated.

It is important to emphasize that abuse perpetrated against boys below the age of consent constitutes rape, regardless of whether they actively participated in the act. The age of consent varies globally but typically ranges from 16 to 18 years old. Any sexual activity with a child below the age of consent is a violation of their rights and is a criminal offence.

The long-term effect of sexual abuse on boys are profound, extending beyond immediate trauma. Male survivors often suffer psychological and emotional challenges, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and difficulties in forming healthy relationships. The impact of abuse can persist into adulthood, impacting self-esteem, ability to trust others, and overall well-being.

It is clear that urgent action is needed to address this crisis and safeguard the rights of the boy child. We must advocate for policies that prioritize the well-being of boys and establish social support centres that offer specialized services exclusive to male survivors of sexual abuse. These centers would provide a nurturing environment for boys to access the care and support needed for recovery.


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It is critical to also acknowledge that women can abuse and rape boys. No survivor should be overlooked or dismissed based on the gender of their abuser and punishment for female perpetrators of abuse against boys must be enforced and taken seriously, just as it is for male perpetrators.

All survivors deserve justice and support, regardless of the gender of their abuser. This equitable approach ensures that survivors are not further victimized by societal biases and that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions, irrespective of their gender.

We must challenge the harmful stereotypes and attitudes that perpetuate the stigma surrounding boy-child sexual abuse.

Fellow men, in particular, have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with survivors and create a culture of empathy and support. It is time to put an end to the mockery and derision faced by boys and men who speak up about their experiences as survivors of sexual abuse.

Policy alone is not enough. Parents play a crucial role in protecting their sons from abuse by fostering open communication, teaching boundaries, and empowering them to speak up.

We must also educate boys about consent, healthy relationships, and their right to bodily autonomy, empowering them to recognize and resist abuse.

We must confront the crisis of sexual abuse against boys head-on, dismantling barriers that prevent male survivors from seeking help and speaking out. By advocating for gender-specific support services and fostering a culture of empathy and understanding, we can create a world where all boys and men receive the assistance they need to heal and thrive.

In conclusion, achieving gender equality in access to support services for male survivors of sexual abuse is a fundamental human right. As we commemorate the International Day of the Boy Child, let us reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that all individuals, regardless of gender, receive the support and assistance they need to heal and thrive.


Halima Layeni

Founder & Executive Director

Life After Abuse Foundation 

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