Richard Gartner | Understanding the Sexual Betrayal of Boys and Men: The Trauma of Sexual Abuse
Review by John Delatorre, PsyD
Understanding the Sexual Betrayal of Boys and Men: The Trauma of Sexual Abuse is the first volume in a two-volume set edited by Richard Gartner. The central tenet of this volume is, as described in the Introduction by Gartner, an induction to the sexual abuse of males for professionals and lay-people alike. Gartner recounts a time when in the early 1990s, while giving a public address on the topic, he was met with quizzical looks from the audience, as if the audience had not heard of such a behavior. It is unfortunate that Gartner had waited until 2018 to edit and have these two volumes published.
The book is broken into four sections, with the first being a grounding for the reader by hearing from professionals on how the topic of sexual abuse was addressed in treatment and how those that have been abused were able to create a voice in their communities to share their stories. The second section is meant as the “clinical” section, as any work addressing trauma usually has at least one chapter on the biological bases for trauma. The third section is the “cultural diversity” section, an opportunity for the chapter authors to describe how society has handled major scandals related to sexual abuse. Finally, the last section discusses possible consequences a person who has been sexually abused might experience. It is the second volume that is primarily focused on treatment.
The first section begins strong enough, with Gartner recounting the stories from clients and then information on the Bristlecone Project and other online communities for men who have been sexually abused. The second section combines multiple concepts on neurobiology. Hopper, has the unenviable task of making this section compelling and appealing as it a necessary section because it lays the foundation for the neurodevelopmental traumas discussed in the last section.
The final section discusses the potential consequences at length and are quite captivating. Ultimately, any book review should answer the question of who’s bookshelf would this volume be on. The information contained in the book seemed too introductory for those whose clinical practice is primarily focused on sexually deviant behavior including those that have been abused. So, it is unlikely to be found on those who specialize in sexual abuse. Is this then a book for those who have been abused? Not quite, while there are some excellent resources for those men, a discussion during session about these resources would be more appropriate and the inclusion of this book for bibliotherapy does not seem necessary. Is it then for those practitioners who are generalist in nature and may not know how to approach the topic of abuse to their clients? Perhaps, but this may not be the book as an introduction to the field.
There are brief references to the seminal works of Mendel (1995) and Lisak (1994), who also contributes a chapter on the Bristlecone Project, but more contemporary works by Alaggia and Millington (2008), who wrote an amazing phenomenological article on the betrayal of male sexual abuse or Monk-Turner and Light’s (2010) article on the males who seek counseling following a sexual assault are not included. It is possible there are more works being referenced in the second volume, Healing the Sexual Betrayal of Boys and Men: Treatment for Sexual Abuse, Assault, and Trauma, but a more well-rounded take on the current state of the research and understanding should have been done for this volume.
Followers of the authors in this book will certainly enjoy reading those contributions, though throughout the book most of the authors indicated more in-depth explanations to the concepts written about would be found in their other books. Gartner has been able to assemble an impressive list of authors and would have marked a watershed moment in the discussion of male sexual abuse had the book been released in the 1990s, but reading this book in 2020 males being sexually abused is no longer an “unrecognized problem” as Gartner’s central tenet goes. If Gartner’s reflected back on his introduction, one wonders if he would have given that same presentation now and would he have the same experience as he did then. While getting males who have been sexually abused into treatment is still a problem that should be addressed, the reader of this book would be advised that more comprehensive sources of information on the topic are found elsewhere. [Continue…]