Staff at Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County say they have seen an increase in the number of males utilizing their services since the sheriff’s office announced the arrest of a youth sports coach charged with sexually abusing one of his players.
Michael Vincent Bonczewski, 38, of Parkville, faces nine counts that include second-degree rape, sexual abuse of a minor and child porn solicitation after one of his victims reported the alleged abuse to police. Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees announced the arrest Aug. 5 and said Bonczewski worked with children in Carroll and Baltimore counties, as well as in Pennsylvania, and suspect he has more victims.
Stephanie Powers, a therapist at RCIS, said in the last two weeks, more males have called in, which tends to happen when abuse to male victims is reported. When she worked at a crisis center in Harford County, Powers said there was a spike in male callers after the abuse by the former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was reported.
She added the reporting gives survivors validation that “what happened to them is not OK.”
Powers said she does not know if the calls are directly related to Bonczewski because RCIS staff do not ask about details. Their role, she said, is to inform callers they are believed and supported.
RCIS has had an increase in males using their services overall this past year, Powers added.
“In the last fiscal year, 25% of our clients were male opposed to making up only 14% the previous year,” she said. “In the last three months, males have made up 19% of all helpline calls.”
She attributed the uptick to the pandemic causing more people to stay home.
“When we think about sexual assault, the fallacy is a woman walking in a dark alley at night and a stranger jumping out the bush after her,” Powers said.
However, most times, the assault is done by a person the victim knows, she said. And for victims who are children, the assault is premeditated and happens after “a lot of grooming.”
At least one in six males have been sexually abused or assaulted, according to the organization 1in6, which seeks to raise awareness about and help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report nearly one in four men in the U.S. experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
Powers said men report less than women in general, but especially men in conservative regions like Carroll County.
She said they have more “good ol’ boy” engrained beliefs about how men should be strong, masculine and able to “fight off” abusers. She also noted that conservative areas tend to be more rural, and therefore more isolated, and abuse sometimes happens within the family.
“It’s not until one family member reports that [relatives] say, ‘yes, this happened to me also,’” she said.
Rape Crisis Intervention Service is a nonprofit that provides free and confidential counseling to people who were hurt by sexual violence. Their services have been virtual since the pandemic but the public can call their hotline at 410-857-7322.
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Powers said male victims can also visit 1in6.org, which offers online support groups every week.