Sharing – Supporting disclosure for adult male survivors of child sexual abuse

The article below is targeted to counselors, but has a lot of interesting information about male survivors for anyone who is interested in the topics. The example of “John” referred to below is the sort of story I’ve lived, and heard, many times over the years:

“Adult male survivors of CSA face significant barriers to disclosure. These barriers include gender norms, social stigma and questions surrounding their own sexual identity. John was comfortable disclosing that he is a gay man. While John understood and accepted his sexual orientation, he still believed that the counselor might be “grossed out” upon hearing about his “early sex experiences.”


John’s conceptualization of his early childhood sexual experiences also is a typical barrier. Many adult male survivors may not conceptualize (or want to conceptualize) their childhood sexual experiences as CSA. John recoiled at the idea, instead preferring to call it “early sex experiences.””

The reality is that men who were sexually abused at a young age don’t often see themselves as sexual abuse victims, and often it’s because what happened to us doesn’t fit the descriptions we see on TV. In his example, what his older brother and his friends did to him was “just sex”, because he is gay anyway, even though he was 7 at the time it started. For many other male survivors, sexual abuse is what happens to girls, not boys, or if it does happen to boys it’s when a priest, or boy scout leader does it, not older kids, family members, women, or close family friends. That’s not sexual abuse, that’s something else.

It’s the lack of communication around these kinds of experiences, on top of all the other reasons men are less likely to come forward for decades, that makes it almost impossible to truly know the rates of male sexual abuse. We simply have no way of knowing how many survivors there are who don’t even think of their experiences as abuse.

They are out there though, and we should probably figure out a way to make sure they can get the support they need too.

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