How patriarchy forces boys who survive sexual abuse into years of trauma, silence

TNM spoke to survivors and experts to understand what happens when a boy is sexually abused and how it impacts his sexuality and mental well-being.
How patriarchy forces boys who survive sexual abuse into years of trauma, silence
How patriarchy forces boys who survive sexual abuse into years of trauma, silence

“Come, Riyaz! Let’s meet someone,” a boy in his neighbourhood told him one afternoon. Riyaz* was 11 years old then, while the boy was four to five years older than him. The boy took Riyaz to a lonely area behind the building. What happened next took a while for Riyaz to comprehend. The boy rubbed himself against Riyaz for five to 10 minutes. “I tried to resist him, but I was no match for his strength. After that, I ran home,” recounts Riyaz, who is 29 years old now.

A few years later, Riyaz would have a second encounter with sexual abuse, when he was in class 9. One day, his bench-mate touched him and then tried to unzip his trousers. They were on the last bench in the classroom, so no one could see; but Riyaz was frozen. “He tried to unzip me… he put his hand inside. And then he, he took…” Riyaz struggles to finish the sentence. “He put his hands inside my underpants. He tried to take my hand and make me touch him too, which I resisted very strongly,” he continues with difficulty.

This continued for three to four days. “I was scared when he was touching me, as this was happening during the class. I feared what my classmates would say, how they would treat me if they found out. Finally, I requested my teacher to change my seat, which she did. It stopped then,” Riyaz says.

These incidents affected Riyaz in many ways – he became timid, developed a stammer and was very anxious around boys. “I did not open up about these incidents to anyone until last year, because male child sexual abuse is less heard about and also difficult to talk about. I was scared people would make fun of me, or not believe me. The guilt of not being able to protect myself, being a boy, kept gnawing at me. I feared questions like ‘how could you be scared when you are a boy’. Nobody would have trusted me, because boys are perceived to be mentally and physically stronger,” Riyaz says.

Riyaz’s childhood is just one in hundreds of other cases where boys are scarred by sexual abuse. They are forced to become slaves of patriarchal definitions of what it means to be a man, ultimately compelling them to deal with sexual abuse as a child on their own.

Incidentally, the limited study in this field bears testimony to the lack of acknowledgement and awareness on the oft-suppressed reality that boys too fall prey to sexual abuse. Even the handful of studies on male survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA) point out the dangerous effects patriarchy can have on their mental well-being. It is also important to understand how psychological and emotional trauma experienced by a boy are different from that of a girl, and how the burden of hegemonic masculinity or manhood overwhelms a male victim of sexual abuse into years of silent suffering in shame, guilt and confusion.

TNM spoke to a few survivors and experts to understand what happens to boys when they are sexually abused, how the spectre of abuse, when left unaddressed, impacts their adulthood, sexuality and mental well-being, and how they cope.

How patriarchy, social conditioning force male survivors into silence

Sexual violence remains an unacknowledged and an open secret in many Indian families. This is compounded by the way patriarchy sees boys and men as aggressive and protective, which leaves little room for vulnerability, especially for male child sexual abuse survivors.

Dr Preeti Jacob, Assistant Professor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, says that when it comes to boys, parents are reluctant to acknowledge sexual abuse. “They brush off an incident of CSA as a stronger form of bullying,” she tells TNM.

She also points out that sexual abuse generally comes with a high degree of secrecy because “men can’t be victims as they can’t and won’t be abused” by the society.

Ram*, a Hyderabad resident and CSA survivor, agrees. “Society shows more sympathy towards female survivors, because according to the mindset of people, especially in orthodox families, boys and men are strong and bold so they don’t get abused or assaulted,” he says.

The 24-year-old was first sexually abused by a cousin at the age of four, but did not realise what was happening. In a similar situation a few years later, he realised that it was wrong, but could not confide in his parents.

Ram’s ordeal did not end there. He shifted to a residential school when he was in class 6. “My mathematics teacher was my next abuser,” he tells TNM. “I am close to my mother and so I was homesick when I shifted to the residential school. I might have come across as a vulnerable person who would not speak to anyone about a traumatic experience. As he continued to abuse me, I started developing a phobia towards mathematics.”

He shifted to a day school for secondary education. When he was in class 8, Ram developed an interest in biology. His biology tutor, however, decided to exploit him instead. “He would show me informative posters by the Education Ministry on male and female body parts and point towards the private parts in a sexually suggestive manner,” he recounts.

Ram wrote a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind in July asking for mercy killing. In his letter, he pointed out that the cases of boys being sexually abused tend to fall through the cracks due to society’s delusion that a male child can “never be vulnerable in a patriarchal society”.

There is also a general silence when it comes to anything related to sex, which further discourages survivors from speaking up, says Dr Shekhar Seshadri, a psychiatrist and senior professor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NIMHANS.

“Whether it’s a boy or girl, their socialisation and relationships with adults are constructed on a culture of instruction, expectation and obedience; not on the basis of conversations. Look at the silence around sexuality as a whole, even in a civil society and between two intelligent and liberal adults. So how can we expect a child to be able to talk about such topics?”

This proves to be a challenge even for those working to raise awareness, observes Sandhiyan Thilagavathy, founder of the NGO AWARE (Awareness for Wo+men to Advocate their Rights and Equality), whose team visits residential buildings and gated communities to talk of child sexual abuse with children as well as parents in Tamil Nadu.

Sandhiyan says that when they started the awareness campaigns two years ago, many parents claimed they did not need such sessions when they have a son. While this mindset has changed to an extent, Sandhiyan notes that when parents are asked to have open conversations with their child about their body and appropriate behaviours, they find themselves in a spot when their children ask them questions like ‘how are babies made?’.

For instance, Delhi-based Rahul*, who was sexually abused as a child multiple times, says that he has had a conversation with his parents about sex. “But it only touched upon lines that since I am of a certain age, I have to be safe,” he says.

Sandhiyan adds, “And most of the parents have a common belief – ‘I don’t want to instil unwanted exploratory ideas in their young minds by talking about it’.”

Due to this culture, children often lack the vocabulary or reference to express sexual misbehaviour or abuse, even if they feel it was wrong. “Children don’t disclose [abuse] because at that point, they are too young; they don’t know whom to disclose to or fear that they will not be believed. Or perhaps they have tentatively tried to do so, but have been shushed,” Dr Shekhar says.

Grooming: How it reinforces confusion, silence

Realisation of being sexually abused in the first place, Dr Preeti says, depends on the grooming during the course of the abuse. Grooming is a preparatory process where the abuser gains a child’s trust, with the intent to abuse him or her, while also manipulating the child to ensure he or she does not disclose the abuse.

Dr Shekhar explains how grooming works. “An adult perpetrator knowingly establishes a relationship with a child and imbues it with certain ‘specialness’. This includes sweet talks like, ‘I like you so much, we are so good together’, inducements and gifts. The child is isolated from adults and family in such a situation. And then, the abuser sexualises the relationship,” he says.

“The child is then compelled into silence – either with the threat of injury or repercussion to the child or their family, or using emotional blackmail by saying things like, ‘I will be in trouble, don’t you care for me’,” he adds.

In such a situation, the child will not be able to recognise an abuse and will also be manipulated by the abuser because of the nature of their relationship. Just how deeply grooming can affect a child’s perception is reflected in Rahul’s story.

The 29-year-old had suppressed memories of the sexual abuse he was subjected to by multiple people in his childhood. They didn’t surface till he was 25 and working in Bengaluru. After experiencing nightmares, during which he would break into a sweat, he sought psychological help. It was then that he recollected that his personality quirks were not social anxiety and the scars on his body were not from rough play.

“I was first abused at the age of four or six, by a close female relative at my home. She would force oral sex on me. Around the time, we had a live-in domestic help, a man. He would sexually assault me almost every day. I sensed what he was doing was wrong. But when I resisted, he would hit me and gag my mouth, saying this is love. So I grew up with a skewed definition of love – that love was all about sex. Eventually, the man was sent away because he did not do his work properly,” Rahul says, adding, “Luckily, I would forget it the next day or my memory suppressed it.”

While Rahul was manipulated into believing a dangerous definition of affection, Pune-based Avinash* silently endured a decade of sexual abuse at the hands of his uncle, Sumit*, due to the threat of physical violence.

The 29-year-old grew up in a remote village in West Bengal. “Sumit and my family lived in the same house as a joint family. We were poor and he was the only person in the family who had passed class 10 then. So, he used to tutor us,” Avinash narrates.

After the tutoring session, Sumit would sexually abuse Avinash, his younger brother and other children as well. “Over the years, I think he has sexually abused 17-18 children,” Avinash alleges. “Several children in the neighbourhood used to come to my house to study as well. Sometimes, he would lure some of them by promising them a few rupees or some chocolates.”

Avinash says that his uncle has sexually assaulted him multiple times from when he was in class 2 until class 12. “It was painful,” he recalls. “But if I resisted, he would threaten to beat me, physically torture me, or create other problems for me. So it became a routine. When the tuition ended, one of us would become his prey,” he says.

The children were so terrified of him and the consequences of resisting him that they did not speak to each other about it. “I was so scared that when my brother would get abused, my sense of protectiveness towards him was overpowered by a sense of relief for myself, that ‘thank god, it’s not me today’,” Avinash recounts.

Homophobia and toxic masculinity

Vidya Reddy of Tulir, a Chennai-based non-profit organisation for the prevention and healing of child sexual abuse, points out that in a society that is homophobic, one of the biggest fears for a boy who has been abused is being labelled gay. Parents bring up their boys to think that if they are weak, they won’t be considered a “man”.

In fact, Vidya notes, cultural references play an important role here. “Certain phrases in a region – like ombodhu maadhri irukathey (don’t be like a transgender person) in Tamil – is an indication of how a culture perceives whom they think is not a ‘manly boy’,” she says.

This distorts survivors’ idea of what it is to be a man, she adds. “The boy may perceive himself as weak and different because of the abuse, or because he allowed the abuse to happen or even because he was chosen to be abused. One of the common problems men who have been abused as children share with us is the feeling of powerlessness,” says Vidya.

Boys who may develop anxiety, a timid nature or show other manifestations of trauma after being sexually abused may appear vulnerable or effeminate and, hence, are prone to further abuse. Like Ram, whose mathematics teacher started abusing him because he came across as vulnerable, Riyaz also became a victim of bullying from other boys as he came across as being timid and hence “unmanly”.

“The second incident, where my classmate touched me inappropriately, happened because he knew I was scared around boys and would not tell anyone,” Riyaz says.

For men, what can also reinforce silence around child sexual abuse is if their perpetrators are women. Grooming plays a particularly important role here, because in the rare case that women are abusers, they almost always have a pre-existing relationship with the victim, Dr Preeti says.

“It’s likely that a woman abuser is known, has an established relationship with the child, who may not even realise when the relationship is sexualised. Such cases get entangled in a sense of betrayal, the abuse and assault, as well as the confusion if this should be considered abuse at all, given the nature of the relationship,” she explains.

This is further compounded because patriarchy mandates that boys and men will always enjoy heterosexual sex. “While a girl’s sexual abuse is scorned and looked at as a serious crime, most men are pressured by society to pass off their sexual abuse as a rite of passage,” Insia Dariwala, filmmaker and president of The Hands of Hope Foundation, which does outreach programs to create awareness about child sexual abuse in schools, communities and neighbourhoods, points out.

This is what happened with Rahul as well. He initially spoke about the abuse to a few friends, whom he no longer classifies as friends. “Some said that since I am a boy, I must have enjoyed it,” he says, referring to the abuse by his female relative. “Others said that since I am gay, I must have enjoyed other men touching me,” adds Rahul, who was also subjected to sexual abuse by a male relative and later by two gym instructors at the hotel where his parents worked.

“However, what they did not realise is that such exposure at that age is not what any child, irrespective of sexual orientation, would enjoy. Male survivors receive that kind of apathy a lot. Girls, on the other hand, have been more empathetic. I got the validation that a male survivor of CSA would look for,” he adds.

 How abuse impacts psychological, emotional well-being

For Rahul, remnants of sexual abuse continue to agonise him, such as the gash that the men who gangraped him once inflicted on his pubic area. “As a child, I managed to conceal the bruise with cotton and tissue, and it healed eventually. I am 29 years old now and it still burns when I urinate. Sometimes, the pain would be so bad that I would cry,” he shares.

Rahul also started experiencing social anxiety as he grew up. “I turned into a person who does not go out, who just sits at home. I had to start taking medication for my anxiety attacks. Each day is unpredictable for me, marked by erratic behaviour and self-doubt. Anything can set off anxiety, even a disturbed sleep cycle.”

The trauma also started impacting his ability to process emotions. “There is so much suppressed rage inside me that I tend to fly into a fury, where my tongue becomes a sword and I start hurling things,” he adds.

For Riyaz, his second instance of abuse impacted his speech. “I started stammering and my anxiety increased. After undergoing speech therapy in the last few years, my speech has become better.”

Insia opines that the burden of patriarchy weighs down so heavily on boys that it directly affects their ability to emote and express. The consequence of which is either increased aggression or increased isolation from the outside world, both damaging.

Explaining such behavioural problems in male survivors, Dr Preeti says that boys are more likely to externalise their abuse. This means, the person perpetuates what they have experienced or witnessed or display aggression or rule-breaking behaviours. “However, this does not mean that all boys who experience sexual abuse will end up becoming aggressors themselves,” Dr Preeti stresses.

Meanwhile, if a person internalises abuse, he or she may develop mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem or submissiveness.

However, externalisation and internalisation of trauma are not mutually exclusive, adds Dr Preeti. “The same child who hits out at somebody or picks up fights or gets angry is also likely to cry more, blame himself, feel guilty or have low self-esteem. So, it is not true that boys will only externalise trauma. Regardless of gender, survivors exhibit externalising and internalising behaviours to cope with trauma,” she elucidates.

Vidya Reddy (of Tulir) notes that the mental health aspect of child sexual abuse is misunderstood in India, especially for boys. “Unless there is a physical manifestation of the impact of the abuse, parents and society don’t understand how it affects the child mentally. As long as the boy eats and sleeps “normally”, they feel their child is fine,” she explains.

The emphasis on physical markers of sexual violence also manifests when parents uphold unhealthy notions such as “at least he won’t get pregnant.”

“This attitude breeds many possibilities that normalise abuse when it comes to boys. There is a school of thought that a boy getting ‘roughed’ up sexually will make him stronger and teach him how to ‘handle’ women,” Insia says.

How CSA affects sexual behaviour, sexuality in boys

Sudheer*, an advocate based in Bengaluru, remembers how his cousin, who was 19-20 years old, did something inappropriate to him when he was six. “We used to live in a joint family. Once, my cousin took me to a room on the top floor of the house, started removing his clothes and made me remove mine too. He held me… and I don’t remember exactly how, but he masturbated on me,” he recounts.

“I think it happened a few times. I did not feel violated at the time; it was much later in life that I realised what he had done was wrong,” Sudheer adds.

While the abuse itself did not seem to traumatise Sudheer, it did pique his interest in his own sexuality. “It made me want to experiment, which I did with a few of my cousins who were of the same age as me. We sort of explored our bodies,” Sudheer tells TNM.

However, because Sudheer got the feeling that he ‘enjoyed’ the abuse, it made him feel dirty and self-loathe himself. “I felt sick and guilty when I felt I enjoyed it. Maybe my cousin groomed me. But I felt dirty wanting to do sexual things after that,” he says.

What happened with Sudheer is not uncommon. Experts refer to this as traumatic sexualisation, where a child, regardless of gender, is exposed to sexuality at a developmental stage when they cannot fully comprehend the phenomenon.

Dr Shekhar explains that this can happen in two ways. “On one side, it happens through dynamics of seduction, grooming, inducement, mystery and excitement. The other way is through force, hurt, coercion or injury. And a lot of the impact of sexual abuse depends on the nature of this traumatic sexualisation. If a child is sexualised using grooming, sexuality has primacy and the adult outcome may be inappropriate, excessive or unhealthy sexual behaviour. If it is through force, injury and coercion that the boy develops, then you have phobic avoidance.”

It is important to recognise, especially in cases like Sudheer, where outright feelings of pain and violation are absent, that it is still abuse. “Ultimately, for both boys and girls, genitalia will respond to stimulation because it is bunch of nerves put together. So the child feeling “good” because someone has sexually stimulated him doesn’t mean anything. It’s still a violation of their boundary,” Dr Preeti asserts.

This happened with Rahul as well. Apart from the tsunami of confusion and trauma in his mind, his body also started reacting to the abuse. “Because of the constant stimulation, my body started sexually maturing before the defined age of puberty. I started having hair growth at the age of 10. Besides, because I was getting an erection, I thought I was enjoying it. This was confusing to me,” he says.

Dr Preeti says that feeling “pleasure” during abuse is also a reason why children carry guilt. “Since they feel good to an extent, they think they have invited it in some way,” she adds.

Boys who have been sexually abused often get confused about their sexuality, especially if it happens in their pre-teen or adolescent years. There are two kinds of issues, explains Dr Preeti.

“There are children who have always experienced same-sex attraction; but, after being abused by a man, they don’t know what to make of that attraction. A question that keeps haunting them is whether they were abused because of same-sex attraction. We have also had boys who are heterosexual and have been abused by men. They fear other people would perceive them as a homosexual; or they fear they would become gay,” she says.

Further, for boys who are heterosexual, abuse by men can affect their sense of being male, masculinity and self-identity, Dr Shekhar observes.

In young children, abuse may affect their expression of sexuality, Dr Preeti says. “Post the abuse and the grooming, a certain awakening of sexuality does occur. This may be something that they haven’t thought about until that point. Sexual behaviour can also become a way of normalising the abuse, especially for younger children, to the point that they can do the same to someone else without understanding what it means.”

CSA survivors are also likely to develop trust, intimacy and relationship issues. However, Dr Sonia, a Pune-based psychiatrist who has treated adult survivors of child sexual abuse, says that this depends on several factors, including the cultural values the boy was brought up with.

For instance, Avinash, who buried the trauma for the most part, believes that the abuse did not give him intimacy issues. However, he finds it difficult to trust people and worries how his future wife will react to his past. “I am worried how she would take it; whether she will be able to accept it, although I know it is not my fault…,” he trails off.

For Rahul, as far as romantic relationships are concerned, he finds it difficult being with a person who is a survivor. “It becomes difficult and unhealthy because both of them can trigger each other. On the other hand, if the partner is not a survivor, there will be a danger of apathy from him or her. The male survivor has his own set of issues and anxiety; one touch that reminds them of the abuse can throw them off-balance. I get dependent on my partner because I still feel vulnerable and look for ways to keep myself safe. So, the burden of my responsibility falls on the partner,” he says.

Coming to terms with the abuse

There is no set template for coming to terms with sexual abuse, especially when it happens at a young age, experts say. For some, it may be about acknowledging the abuse and sharing their story, while for others it may mean confronting their abuser or seeking therapy. And for some, like Ram and Avinash, coming to terms may be all about channelling their trauma to make social impact.

Due to the traumatic memories and the subsequent panic attacks, Ram was not able to share his experiences with anybody or give vent to his emotions.

“In 2017, when reports about a seven-year-old boy at Ryan International School being allegedly sexually abused and murdered surfaced, I decided to speak about the matter. And at the age of 23, I spoke to my mother about how I was sexually abused as a child. She understood and gave me the courage to fight it out and help others,” he says.

Ram started exploring the subject and speaking to male survivors across India.

Avinash, meanwhile, is thinking of reporting his uncle, Sumit. He realised what happened with him was a criminal offense just two years ago, during a sexual harassment training at his workplace. He learnt about the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act and realised that he was a survivor of child sexual abuse. “I developed blood pressure problems and anxiety after learning about this,” he says.

He also associated with Insia’s Hands of Hope Foundation, where he interacted with other male survivors of CSA. It helped him feel that he is not alone.

He also confronted his abuser in 2016. “I told him what he did to me was wrong and that I would take action against him. He has not been able to look me in the eye since. He keeps avoiding me and has also moved out of the house,” Avinash shares, adding that he wants to report Sumit to prevent further abuse and raise awareness.

Is he concerned how his parents would react if he files a complaint against Sumit? “I realise that he is part of the family, but family ties and love don’t not justify abuse. Sumit has done something wrong, I accepted it because I did not know it was wrong. If [I file the complaint now] something happens in the village, let it happen.”

Therapy is helping both Riyaz and Rahul deal with their trauma. While some can never tell their families about the abuse they have faced, Rahul was able to do so. “It was tough for my parents to process it as they realised that everything happened right under their nose. But they listened to me and are helping me through my struggles,” he says.

The role of therapy

After experiencing anxiety attacks, Riyaz finally confided in his female friends about his abuses last year. The two convinced him to consult a psychiatrist in January 2018. The therapy helped assuage his anxiety. “I was angry that I could not prevent my abusers from doing what they did to me. I was guilty that I could not protect myself. With therapy, I have become calmer and the guilt is lesser,” says Riyaz.

Rahul initially struggled to find a good therapist. When he finally consulted one in Pune, he was able to clarify that his social anxiety was actually a trust issue.

According to Dr Sonia, male survivors seek counselling and psychological help when they are in their mid-20s or early 30s. When she is presented with a child sexual abuse case involving a male, she counsels them in a phased manner. The first step, Dr Sonia says, is making the survivor accept that they have been abused. “Lack of acceptance is the first problem. The survivor’s trauma continues when he keeps telling himself that he could have fought it or he could have opened up to somebody,” she explains.

Once the survivor accepts the abuse, the second step is to empower him emotionally. “This is the phase where the survivor is counselled to put this past behind him. However, this is a tricky phase, where the survivor recognises his triggers,” says Dr Sonia, who practises child and adolescent psychiatry. “After I identify the survivor’s triggers, I help them disconnect emotions from them piecemeal.”

Once the emotional part is sorted, finding a psychological solace and resolution to what has happened is the next step. “This is when the survivor laments the incident and calls it a closed chapter. This will help him look at the situation objectively than emotionally,” she says.

Lack of government support system

Girija Kumarbabu, secretary of Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW), Tamil Nadu, stresses the importance of helping a child who has been abused, at its onset. And this, according to her, can be through a proper support system set up by the government.

“However, as of today, there is no professional centre under an NGO or government where the child can be referred to, especially boys. There is a lack of trained professionals as well. Some parents take their children to a psychiatrist or psychologist, while in many cases the child is left alone to cope with the crisis or come out of it,” she says.

“Every child can overcome such a crisis if supported from the time the abuse is disclosed or discovered. Hence, instead of thinking of punishing the offender, there should be an equal focus on protecting and helping the child. This can be addressed by, as POCSO describes, identifying support persons and training them to be a support system to the boy child,” she adds.

While echoing a similar concern, Dr Sonia notes that these gaps are often filled by the survivors themselves, which, she believes, could backfire.

“A lot of times, a survivor learns a few tricks of the trade and starts counselling. This is not a good idea because his emotions will always be coloured by his own experience. He will look at the case like how he fought it and how he dealt with it, and then let the patient try the same. Counselling and helping others have to be completely non-judgemental; a one-size-fits-all solution will not help. While their intentions are appreciated, which is adding to the strength of the whole movement, I am not sure how helpful it will be,” she reasons.

An urgent need for more studies

The last known government research on this issue was carried out in 2007. In the study, 53.2% of children reported to have experienced some form of sexual abuse; and of these, 52.9% were boys.

The most recent effort to understand the trauma of sexual abuse among males and how it impacted them was in November 2017 by Insia Dariwala. She conducted an online survey of 160 men in the country, which revealed that 71% of respondents were sexually abused as children.

According to the survey, most instances of CSA occurred when the boy was between 10-16 years of age or between 5 to 9 years of age. Only 14.5% of respondents said that they disclosed their abuse to someone as a child. Also, 56.1% of respondents said that shame stopped them from disclosing their abuse.

Finding the studies on this issue insufficient, two years ago, Insia had started a petition on addressed to the Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, demanding an in-depth study on male child sexual abuse in the country.

This petition made the Indian government sit up and consider expanding the scope of the POCSO Act to make it more inclusive of male survivor. While POCSO has always been gender-neutral, an amendment proposed later, to introduce death penalty for those who rape children below 12 years, took into account only girl survivors. The Indian government then commissioned Insia Dariwala, with support from Adrian Philips of Justice and Care, to conduct a larger study on male survivors of child sexual abuse.

In her response in April 2018, Maneka Gandhi said, “Child sexual abuse is gender neutral. Boys who are sexually abused as children spend a lifetime of silence because of the stigma and shame attached to male survivors speaking out. It is a serious problem and needs to be addressed.”

*Names changed

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