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The Effects of Child Sexual Abuse on Males

Are males less harmed by sexual abuse as some people suggest? The following information helps shed light on how abuse effects boys.

Research Examining the Effects of Child Sexual Abuse on Men

Chandy, J. M., Blum, R. W., & Resnick, M. D. (1996). Gender-specific outcomes for sexually abused adolescents. Child Abuse & Neglect , 20 , 1219-1231.

ABSTRACT:  This study examined the gender differences in outcomes related to school performance, suicidal involvement, disordered eating behaviors, sexual risk taking, substance use, and delinquent behaviors of male (n = 370) and female teenagers (n = 2,681) who self-reported a history of sexual abuse.

It was found that female adolescents, by and large, engaged in internalizing behaviors and males in externalizing behaviors. Male adolescents were found to be at higher risk than females in poor school performance, delinquent activities, and sexual risk taking. Female adolescents, on the other hand, showed higher risk for suicidal ideation and behavior as well as disordered eating. Females showed more frequent use of alcohol. However, male adolescents exhibited more extreme use of alcohol and more frequent and extreme use of marijuana. Among index female adolescents, protective factors against adverse correlates included a higher emotional attachment to family, being religious or spiritual, presence of both parents at home, and a perception of overall health. Factors that augmented adverse correlates for them included a stressful school environment due to perceived high levels of substance use in and around school, worry of sexual abuse, maternal alcohol consumption, and physical abuse. For male adolescents, maternal education and parental concern appeared to be protective factors.

Dykman, R. A., McPherson, B., Ackerman, P. T., Newton , J. E., Mooney, D. M., Wherry, J., & Chaffin, M. (1997). Internalizing and externalizing characteristics of sexually and/or physically abused children. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science, 32 , 62-74.

ABSTRACT: This study evaluates the behavioral consequences of childhood abuse (sexual,  physical, or both), with particular focus on prevalence of post-traumatic stress  disorder (PTSD). Three abuse type groups and nonabused controls were contrasted  on behavioral rating scales and on structured psychiatric interview data. The  participants (109 abused children and 16 normal control children) were recruited from Arkansas Children's Hospital and local agencies for abused children. As  expected, proportionately more females than males were sexually abused.

Overall,  males were rated as more disturbed than females. Type of abuse did not  consistently influence behavioral ratings. Externalizing scores were significantly higher than internalizing scores in all abused groups. PTSD was diagnosed in 50% of the abused children, with a higher rate for boys who had  been sexually abused as opposed to physically abused only (58% versus 13%). The most frequent comorbid condition with PTSD was Separation Anxiety. Sexually abused boys were hospitalized for psychiatric treatment at a higher rate than were other abused children.

Garnefski, N., & Arends, E. (1998). Sexual abuse and adolescent maladjustment: Differences between male and female victims. Journal of Adolescenc e, 21, 99-107. Full text (PDF)

ABSTRACT:  In this study data from a large representative community sample of adolescents were analysed to investigate the relationship between a history of sexual abuse and adolescent functioning. Emotional problems, behavioural problems, suicidal thoughts and behaviour of boys and girls with a history of sexual abuse were compared to those in a matched control group of boys and girls without such a history.

Both sexually abused boys and girls reported significantly more emotional problems, behavioural problems, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts than their non-abused counterparts. The results also indicated that the experience of sexual abuse carried far more consequences for boys than for girls regarding the use of alcohol, aggressive/criminal behaviour, use of drugs, and the amount of truancy, as well as regarding suicidal thoughts and behaviour. For example, whereas 2.6% of the non-abused boys reported a former suicide attempt, this percentage was 13 times higher for the sexually abused boys (26.5%).

The results of this paper lend support to the call for further research investigating gender differences in response to sexual abuse.   

Garnefski, N., & Diekstra, R. F. (1997). Child sexual abuse and emotional and behavioral problems in adolescence: Gender differences. Journal of American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 36 , 323-9.

ABSTRACT:  Objective. To compare sexually abused boys with sexually abused girls  and with their non-sexually abused counterparts with regard to (1) the type of mental health problems they experience; and (2) the number and patterns of such  problems.

Method. The sample comprised 745 secondary school students, aged 12 to  19 years, with a self-reported history of sexual abuse (151 boys and 594 girls)  and 745 matched students without such a history. Sexually abused and non-sexually abused boys and girls were compared with regard to four problem  categories: emotional problems, aggressive/criminal behaviors, addiction-risk behaviors, and suicidality.

Results. A larger proportion of sexually abused adolescents than  nonabused adolescents reported problems in the separate categories and in a combination of problem categories. Sexually abused boys had considerably more emotional and behavioral problems, including suicidality, than their female counterparts. There were differences between the specific combinations of  problem categories reported by sexually abused girls and boys. These differences  could not be attributed to the finding that sexually abused boys were more often  the victim of concurrent physical abuse than sexually abused girls.

Conclusions. The results suggest that although there was a strong  association between being sexually abused and the existence of a multiple problem pattern in both sexes, the aftermath for boys might be even worse or more complex than for girls. 

Holmes, W. C., & Slap, G. B. (1998). Sexual abuse of boys: Definition, prevalence, correlates, sequelae, and management. Journal of the American Medical Associatio n, 280 , 1855-1862. [Abstract] 

The authors reviewed 166 studies of sexual abuse among males. They concluded that "Sexual abuse of boys appears to be common, underreported, underrecognized, and undertreated."

Holmes, W. C., & Slap, G. B. (1999). Reply to editor. Journal of the American Medical Association, 281 , 2186.

Lisak, D. (1994). The psychological impact of sexual abuse: Content analysis of interviews with male survivors [warning, 2 megabyte PDF]. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 7, 525-548.

ABSTRACT: Autobiographical interviews with 26 adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim and content analyzed to identify common psychological themes. Approximately equal numbers of men were abused by male and female perpetrators, almost half came from disrupted or violent homes and a majority had a history of substance abuse. Fifteen psychological themes were identified: Anger, Betrayal, Fear, Homosexuality Issues, Helplessness, Isolation and Alienation, Legitimacy, Loss, Masculinity Issues, Negative Childhood Peer Relations, Negative Schemas about People, Negative Schemas about the Self, Problems with Sexuality, Self Blame/Guilt and Shame/Humiliation. The themes are discussed and illustrated with examples drawn from the transcripts

Lisak, D., & Luster, L. (1994). Educational, occupational, and relationship histories of men who were sexually and/or physically abused as children. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 7 , 507-23.

ABSTRACT:  Ninety men (mean age 26) at an urban Northeastern university were administered a self-report assessment of their early sexual and physical abuse experiences, and their educational, occupational, relationship, and substance abuse histories. Subjects were classified as sexually abused according to criteria used by Wyatt (1985) and Finkelhor (1979). Sixteen men (17.8%) experienced sexual abuse alone, 22 men (24.4%) physical abuse alone, 15 men (16.7%) both sexual and physical abuse, and 37 men (41.1%) were classified as nonabused. Of the 31 men who reported sexual abuse, 24 (77.4%) were contact, the rest noncontact. Sexually abused men reported significantly greater difficulties than nonabused men at all levels of education: grade school, high school and college. They also reported more negative job experiences and more negative experiences in relationships. Physically abused men showed a similar but less pervasive pattern of difficulties. Substance abuse was significantly more prevalent among both sexually and physically abused men than among nonabused subjects.

Watkins, B. & Bentovim, A. (1992).  The sexual abuse of male children and adolescents: A review of current research. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 33, 197-248.

ABSTRACT:  A current 'best guess' suggests contact abuse in the range of 2-5% in the male population. As each study controls for its own definition of abuse, the narrowing in the ratio of boys to girls abused can be accepted as quite reliable, and additional evidence of a delayed recognition effect. Retrospective community evidence shows 1 boy is abused for every 2-4 girls abused. In contrast, the highest clinical ratios are for 1 boy to every 4 girls. Those who work with runaways, male child prostitutes, or child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient units appear particularly likely to encounter abused boys.

 Secondly, a variety of explanations have been advanced to explain the apparent under-reporting or under-detection of the sexual abuse of boys. Prominent among them have been the boy's fears of disbelief and of being labeled homosexual. Police patterns of reporting extra-familial abuse may mask its extent from protection or health agencies, which is important because extra-familial abuse does appear to be more common in boys, especially older boys, than girls. Although there has been some diminution of the cultural denial that girls can be abused, a parallel decrease of denial regarding boys has lagged behind. This is particularly true of father-son and of the much less common mother-son abuse. It is plausible that certain 'alertors' are more relevant for boys. The recent development of aggressive behaviour, homophobic anxiety, co-abuse of a sibling and abusing behaviour in particular deserve consideration.

Young, R. E.,  Bergandi, T. A., & Titus, T. G. (1994). Comparison of the effects of sexual abuse on male and female latency-aged children. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 9 , 291-306 .

ABSTRACT:  The psychological impact of childhood sexual abuse on latency-aged children was investigated by the combined use of self-report instruments and parent/caretaker reports. In the study, 20 males and 20 females who were in treatment at clinics in two large Southeastern cities comprised the abused groups, and a matched number of children from the same areas comprised a control group. The hypothesis that sexually abused children differ from nonabused peers was supported by the results. Abused children identified themselves as having more problems in peer interactions and saw themselves as more depressed than the nonabused children. Caretakers reported that the abused children had more problems with aggression, social interactions, and being overly sensitive to peers' negative statements; lacked appropriate social skills; and demonstrated more sexual acting-out behaviors. A second hypothesis, that within the abused children's group there would be significant differences between males and females, was not supported by the results. The direction of the group means on all the dependent variables for the abused male and female groups was, however, in the expected direction. Possible explanations for these results as well as future research needs are discussed.

On-line Resources on Victimization of Males

The National Organization on Male Sexual Victimization (NOMSV)

Cinematic Depictions of Boyhood Sexual Victimization by Richard B. Gartner, Ph.D. (paper published in Gender and Psychoanalysis , 1999; Volume 4:253-289).

What You Should Know About Child Sexual Abuse by The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

The Psychological Imapct of Sexual Abuse: Content Analysis of Interviews with Male Survivors by David Lisak 2MB PDF (Adobe Acrobat needed to read this report)

Sexually Victimized Boys Virginia Child Protection Newsletter

Sexual Abuse of Males: Prevalence, Lasting Effects, and Resources This website by Jim Hopper provides scholarly information and resources on the sexual abuse of boys and its potential lasting effects in the lives of men.

The Invisible Boy: Revisioning the Victimization of Male Children & Teens by Frederick Mathews, Ph.D. (1996) (disseminated by the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence of Health Canada ).

Books about the Effects of Child Sexual Abuse on Men

Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse (1991):  Mic Hunter discusses the societal dynamics of abuse, along with the scope, nature, and pervasiveness of abuse of male children. This myth-breaking book explains the ways in which boys are molested and the reasons why men remain silent about it later in life. Contains thirteen firsthand "survival stories," and provides an extensive resource list and bibliography.

Victims No Longer: Men recovering from Incest and other sexual child abuse (1990): This groundbreaking book by Mike Lew and Ellen Bass was one of the first books to focus on the needs of men sexually abused as children. This book is written specifically for men new to recovery. It challenges misconceptions about male victimization, and describes the painful effects experienced by many male survivors.

Leaping Upon the Mountains: Men Proclaiming Victory over Sexual Child Abuse (2000):   Picking up where Victims No Longer left off, Mike Lew and Richard Hoffman asked male survivors how they managed their difficult road to recovery - what worked and why. The book is guided by their answers and is divided into 3 sections dealing with early, middle and late recovery.

Broken Boys / Mending Men: Recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse  Counselor and survivor of childhood abuse, Grubman-Black discussse the healing process.

Betrayed as Boys (1999):  Richard B. Gartner examines how sexual abuse affects boys and discusses the ways in which they carry this hurt into adulthood. Dr. Gartner blends psychoanalytic understanding with insights from trauma-oriented theory and practice to present strategies for meeting the unique therapeutic needs of men with sexual abuse histories.

Alone and Forgotten: The Sexually Abused Man (1999)  In 1992, therapist Rod Tobin began working with male survivors of sexual abuse. Half of the men treated came from the general public; the other half had suffered abuse at boy's training schools. In Alone and Forgotten , he examines the major symptoms of sexually abused men, and explains how society's perceptions and the survivor's healing process differ from that of their female counterparts.

In My Father's Arms: A True Story of Incest (1999):   Walter De Milly's memoir of sexual abuse at the hands of his all-American father, who in addition to being a pillar of the community was a pedophile. This book recounts the author's attempts to grapple not only with the lingering effects of the abuse he suffered from infancy through adolescence, but also with his own homosexuality and the complex blend of hatred, pity, contempt, and love he feels for his aging and increasingly infirm father.

Speaking Our Truth (1995) : Neal King provides an anthology of writings by males sexual abuse survivors. This collection provides men's uncensored accounts of their abuse, their feelings, and descriptions of their struggles.

A Man's Recovery from Traumatic Childhood Abuse: The Insiders (2002): Therapist Robert Blackburn Knight tells his personal story of familial abuse. His insiders or subpersonalities kept the secrets and held the pain. As he went through therapy, they emerged, told their stories, and helped him face the brutal, ongoing sexual abuse by his parents that had made his childhood a nightmare of terror, shame, and pain. click here to read an excerpt