Male Sexual Abuse

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Male Sexual Abuse

Male Sexual Abuse


Today, the occurrence of male sexual abuse by female perpetrators has been ignored, but we cannot completely remove it from our society. In recent years mental health professionals have become aware of the extent of male sexual abuse and the traumatic impact this abuse can have on young men (McLeer, Derlinger, Atkins, & Foa, 1988; Murphy, Kilpatrick, Amick-McMullan, & Veronen, 1988; Rimsa, Berg, & Locke, 1988; Van Buskirk & Cole, 1983). The grave implications of such trauma for the psychological health of male sexual abuse survivors as they become adults have also been well documented (Strean, 1988).

Literature Review

Most of the past literature on childhood sexual abuse has focused on female survivors. Recently, however, increasing attention has been given to male survivors of childhood sexual victimization, although the incidence of childhood sexual abuse among men is difficult to ascertain because of under-reporting. Social phenomena such as homophobia and "vulnerability" discourage men from admitting they were sexually abused as children and thus contribute to the problem of underreporting (Briere, Evans, Runtz, & Wall, 1988; Dimock, 1988; Pierce & Pierce, 1985; Roland, 1993; Sheldon & Sheldon, 1989). Nevertheless, it is estimated that cases of male sexual abuse vary from 3% to 31% (Finkelhor et al., 1986).

Like their female cohorts, male survivors of childhood sexual abuse experience long-term effects of the abuse and, in many instances, the symptomatology is similar (Briere et al., 1988). That is, men experience depression, anxiety, somatization, relationship and sexual issues, denial, depression, dissociation, lower self-esteem, shame, and guilt (Bruckner & Johnson, 1987; Elmore, Lingg, & Schwartz, in press; Hunter, 1991; Ratican, 1992; Scherzer, 1992). Although male survivors generally experience the impact of molestation in much the same ways as do their female counterparts (Briere et al., 1988), there are major differences in the ways in which their trauma is expressed. For instance, Bruckner and Johnson (1987) observed that the female survivors in their study tended to internalize their emotions, whereas the male survivors were more outwardly aggressive and displayed more anger than depression. This difference is described more vividly by Rencken (1989), who compared the male survivor to the "Stealth Bomber invisible to radar, revealing itself only when totally safe, and potentially, explosive" (p. 124).

Another difference between adult male and female survivors pertains to the differential socialization and expectations held for men and women (Courtois, 1988; Lew, 1988). Early in their development, men are taught to be self-reliant and strong, and to reject those qualities that are associated with femininity, such as softness, openness, and emotional expressiveness (Isley, 1992). It is understandable, then, that the male survivor can experience issues related to masculinity (Lisak, 1994), implied homosexuality, and other conflicts related to sexual identity, particularly in light of the probable prevalence of same-sex abuse (Blanchard, 1987). Such confusion about sexuality, which is a result of the socialization and development of men, was evident in research conducted by Dimock (1988), in which one of the characteristics of the men in Dimock's study was "masculine ...
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