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LETTER: How victims of abuse are described

Letter to the editor

To the editor,

Canadian Centre for Child Protection is concerned that “adolescent boys are being targeted primarily on social media giants Instagram and Snapchat as part of an ongoing sextortion crisis…The offender will then threaten to report the victim to police, claiming they are in possession of child sexual abuse material.”

My understanding is that male victims of sex-related harassment and/or abuse are still more hesitant or unlikely than girl victims to report their offenders. Boys refusing to open up and/or ask for help due to their fear of being perceived by peers, or others, as weak or non-masculine.

Albeit perhaps a subconscious one, a mentality persists: Real men can take care of themselves, and boys are basically little men.

I’ve noticed over many years of news media consumption that, for example, when victims of sexual abuse are girls their gender is readily reported as such; but when they’re boys they’re usually referred to gender-neutrally as children. It’s as though, as a news product made to sell the best, the child victims being female is somehow more shocking than if male. Additionally, I’ve heard and read news media references to a 19-year-old female victim as a “girl,” while (in an unrelated case) a 17-year-old male perpetrator was described as a “man.”

[Interestingly though not convincingly, one online reader suggested to me that since most sexual offences against boys are committed by men and therefore are homosexual in nature, the mainstream news-media will typically deliberately omit this information out of some misplaced concern for a potential resultant increase in hate-motivated violence against the collective gay community.]

Could it be that this is indicative of an already present gender bias held by the general news consumership, since news media tend to sell us what we want or are willing to consume?

One might see some of that mentality reflected in, for example, a New York Times feature story, “She was a big hit on TikTok. Then a fan showed up with a gun,” published Feb. 19, 2022. Written by reporter Elizabeth Williamson, the piece at one point states that “Instagram, owned by Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has…been accused of causing mental and emotional health problems among teenage female users.” A couple paragraphs down, it is also stated that “Teen girls have been repeatedly targeted by child predators.”

The plain fact is teen boys are also targeted by child predators. Another plain fact is that mental and emotional — along with physical — health problems are being suffered by teenage boys directly due to social media use.

Revelatory of the latter is the extensive March 9, 2022, feature story headlined “Bigorexia: Obsession with muscle gain increasing among boys,” which originally appeared in the New York Times. Without doubt, writes the author of The Highly Sensitive Man by Tom Falkenstein, societal “real-man” conformity stubbornly persists.

There are “numerous psychological studies over the last 40 years that tell us that, despite huge social change, the stereotypical image of the ‘strong man’ is still firmly with us at all ages, in all ethnic groups and among all socio-economic backgrounds. In the face of problems, men tend not to seek out emotional or professional help from other people. They use, more often than women, alcohol or drugs to numb unpleasant feelings and, in crises, tend to try to deal with things on their own, instead of searching out closeness or help from others.”

Frank Sterle Jr.

White Rock, B.C.

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About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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