The Life After Abuse Foundation (LAAF), a Non-governmental Organisation, has called for gender equality in access to support services for male survivors of sexual abuse.

Ms Halima Layeni, the Founder and Executive Director of the Foundation, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in commemoration of the International Day of the Boy-Child on Thursday in Lagos.

NAN reports that the International Day of the Boy-Child is celebrated annually on May 16 to raise awareness on the importance of health and wellbeing of young boys.

Layeni decried that sexual abuse against boys was more prevalent than before.

She said global statistics revealed that approximately one in six boys worldwide experienced some form of sexual abuse before adulthood.

According to her, 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 f
ace 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,’ she said.

She emphasised that abuse perpetrated against boys below the age of consent constitutes rape, regardless of whether they actively participated in the act.

Layeni, who explained that the age of consent varied globally but typically ranges from 16 to 18 years old, stressed that any sexual activity with a child below the age of consent was a violation of their rights and was a criminal offence.

According to her, the long-term effect of sexual abuse on boys are profound, extending beyond immediate trauma.

She said that male survivors of sexual abuse often suffer psychological and emotional challenges, including depression, anxiety, and difficulties i
n forming healthy relationships.

The LAAF Founder added that the impacts of abuse could 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 prioritise the well-being of boys and establish social support centres that offer specialised services exclusive to male survivors of sexual abuse.

‘These centres would provide a nurturing environment for boys to access the care and support needed for recovery.

‘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,’ Layeni said.

According to her, it is critical to also acknowledge that women can abuse and rape boys.

She said, ‘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 victimised by societal biases and that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions, irrespective of their gender,’

Layeni said that policy alone was not enough, saying that fellow men and parents also play a crucial role in confronting the crisis of sexual abuse against boys.

According to her, parents should play a crucial role in protecting their sons from abuse by fostering open communication, teaching boundaries and empowering them to speak up.

On the role of the fellow men, Layeni said it’s their responsibility to stand in solidarity with survivors and create a culture of empathy and support.

She said, ‘It is time to pu
t an end to the mockery and derision faced by boys and men who speak up about their experiences as survivors of sexual abuse.’

Source: News Agency of Nigeria

News Reporter