Books Raise Awareness About Sexual Abuse of Boys, Men; Point to Ways for Victims to Seek Help

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Some of the recently published books and picture books that deal with sexual abuse of boys and men

Several picture books that clearly explain the harm caused by the sexual abuse of boys and men have been published recently, a development likely to shine attention on how male victims of such abuse often struggle to speak out about their ordeal.

“Kitsune-kun no Himitsu” (The little boy fox’s secret), a Japanese translation of a German picture book, was published last year by Seishin Shobo, Ltd. This story of a little fox sexually abused by an older male wolf who lives nearby even describes how the fox tells an adult about what happened.

Seishin Shobo decided to publish this book because the issue of boys being sexually abused tends to be overlooked in society and is rarely depicted in picture books. As well as conveying the reality of sexual abuse, the book also is designed to support children who are distressed by what they have gone through and feel unable to speak up about it. Psychologists who provide support to children have reportedly used this book when counseling young victims.

“Otoko no Ko no Karada Ehon” (A picture book about boy’s bodies), the Japanese version of a French picture book, has been published by PIE International. The book details topics including sexual consent and how parts of the male body work, and also the importance of respecting oneself and other people. It is the sequel to a 2022 book about girls’ bodies.

“Many parents want their children to read these books, and sales have been strong,” said the book’s editor.

Other books to have hit the shelves include the picture book “Kimi no Karada wa Kimi no Mono” (Your body is yours), which was published by Poplar Publishing Co. and explains the importance of caring for one’s body; and the book “Dansei no seiboryoku higai” (Sexual violence against males) published by Shueisha Inc., which is aimed more at adults. These books explain the reality of sexual abuse and the impact such abuse has on the victim both physically and mentally.

The books all underline the fact that sexual violence committed against boys and men and the harm it causes is a topic rarely in the spotlight.

According to Michihito Fukushima of the Japan Men’s Counseling Forum, an entity through which male counselors have provided phone consultations exclusively for men seeking advice since 1995, it is rare for men to start off their consultation by saying they had been a sexual assault victim. In many cases, while discussing difficulties they face during their daily lives, there comes a moment when these men say, “Well, actually …,” and then they open up about what happened to them during their childhood or while they were students.

It is men themselves who are tormented by the stereotype that “being manly” means they “must be strong” and that “not being strong is bad,” said Fukushima, who is a clinical psychologist.

A Cabinet Office survey conducted in 2022 to gauge the true extent of sexual violence suffered by people ages 16 to 24 backed up this view. This survey revealed that more than 50% of male victims had not sought help or spoken up after being abused. The most common reasons for this reluctance to do so were, “I was too embarrassed to tell anybody,” and, “Discussing it wouldn’t have achieved anything.”

“We need more places where men can talk about these things when they feel like talking about them,” Fukushima said. “It’s vital we continue telling males, from the time they are children, that it’s OK to talk to someone about this.”

Kimio Ito, a professor emeritus at Kyoto University and a leading expert on men’s studies, believes that society’s prejudiced view that “there’s no way men could be victims of abuse” leads to men simply assuming that nobody will understand “even if they speak up about what happened.”

Sexual violence often lurks as a danger during familiar situations such as acts of bullying or school club activities, and it has been used as a means to maintain dominance over another person.

The Cabinet Office survey also found that a striking number of perpetrators of sexual violence against males were school officials, and much of the abuse was committed against members of the same sex.

“All forms of unwanted sexual behavior are sexual violence. It’s often passed off as a practical joke, but it’s a violation of human rights. It makes the victim feel humiliated and powerless,” Ito said. “Schools, families and other entities need to teach children in an age-appropriate way about the horror of sexual violence, and also ways to escape from such abuse and call for help.”