Male Child Sexual Abuse: A Phenomenology of Betrayal

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Clinical Social Work Journal, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp. 265-275

The prevalence rate of male child sexual abuse varies in the literature but is estimated by many researchers to be between 4-14% in the general population. This qualitative phenomenological study sought to explore the effects of boyhood sexual abuse on the present lives of men and examine how those effects have found expression in men’s everyday lives. In-depth interviews were conducted with 14 male survivors of childhood sexual abuse (all abused by men) selected from a clinical population through snowball sampling methods. Emergent themes included men’s denial, rage, and confusion about their roles in the abuse; feelings of specialness; early sexualization; disturbances in sexuality and intimacy; profound feelings of loss; and feelings of hope and resilience.

Findings suggest that therapists have a responsibility to ask male clients about sexual victimization, educate themselves on therapeutically responding to disclosure of male child sexual abuse, receive training to counsel sexually victimized males, advocate for the development of men’s services, and take an active role in shifting attitudes towards men’s vulnerabilities. These findings are constrained by the study’s small sample size, the clinical nature of the sample, and its retrospective design.

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