Support available for male sexual abuse victims completely lacking in some areas, study

A nationwide review of support services for male sexual abuse victims should be carried out, a study has concluded.

The report from Lancaster University found a complete lack of support in some areas in England and Wales, along with extensive waiting lists.

The study reviewed the National Male Survivors Helpline and Online Service (NMSHOS) run by sexual abuse and rape charity Safeline, and funded by the Ministry of Justice.

Launched in October 2015, the service offers telephone, email and text support, and is the only dedicated national helpline to support male survivors of sexual abuse and rape.

Helpline staff told researchers the “general lack of support for male survivors, and long waiting lists, were a regular source of distress and frustration for helpline clients”.

The report said: “Staff explained that the lack of male support service provision can enhance male survivors’ feelings of ‘abnormality’, self-blame, and guilt, as well as making them feel that they do not ‘deserve’ to speak about their trauma.

“Whilst it is clear that the NMSHOS has a very important role to play in supporting male survivors, it is also clear that other forms of support must be available.

“A national review of male survivor support provision should be undertaken to identify areas where there is no support and where waiting lists are extensive.

“If, in conducting this suggested review, areas of additional investment need are identified, this investment should be made.”

It also called for additional funding for the NMSHOS, as its telephone service has increased in popularity year on year, with a 199% increase in calls handled between 2016 and 2018.

The report went on: “Without an increase in funding, it is likely that clients, and in particular male survivors as the largest user group, will increasingly find themselves unable to access the service and that the quality of the service delivered is necessarily limited or diminished in some way.”

Lead researcher Dr Siobhan Weare said: “There are a number of reasons why demand for the helpline services continues to increase.

“The profile of the NMSHOS has increased since it was launched, with it being featured in relation to high-profile male survivor storylines on TV shows such as Coronation Street and Hollyoaks, as well as in national news coverage.

“Male survivors may also prefer accessing support via the telephone or online, or there may be a lack of face-to-face counselling service provision for men in their local area.”

The Home Office-funded research was commissioned by the Male Survivors Partnership.

Duncan Craig, trustee and joint national strategic lead for the Male Survivors Partnership, and chief executive of Survivors Manchester, said: “As the first national service for male survivors, the NMSHOS has enabled thousands of men and boys to speak about their abuse to trained specialists, who will help them consider their options for support.

“The helpline services play a critical role in supporting male survivors, their families, and their friends.

“Male survivors should be offered choice in the type of service they wish to access, such as face-to-face counselling, group support, or telephone/online support.

“This can only happen if all services are properly funded across the country.”

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