As a victim, I can tell you the memories, sense of guilt, shame and anger live with you every day. It destroys your faith in people, your will to achieve, to love, and one’s ability to cope with normal everyday living.
'William Peter', Private Sessions, p. 8 of The Royal Commission Final Report, Vol 3: Impacts
This module provides an overview of research and practice evidence of the effects of child sexual abuse on men's lives. Whilst the effects of childhood sexual abuse can be profound and extensive, there is no prescribed way that men experience and respond to sexual abuse. Effects of sexual abuse can vary in intensity and impact. They can be episodic and appear throughout the life course, with some 'sleeper effects' appearing at critical life stages, as an individual engages in work, relationships, parenting or their independence and health becomes compromised. Effects of sexual abuse are rarely single and discrete, often producing a cluster of difficulties. Men who have been sexually abused report 'complex trauma', struggling to deal with overwhelming memories and emotions, to establish a sense of self, of personal and relational integrity, separate from the traumatic experience and its ongoing impacts.
In this module, gender specific impacts on men are included in a way that does not seek to amplify these, but acknowledges that there are both similarities and differences in the way that males and females experience and respond to sexual abuse. In providing this overview of common effects, details are provided of coping strategies adopted by men and their long term usefulness. Care is taken not to produce a totalising account of 'damage and pathology' that does not acknowledge the agency, skills and knowledge of those who have been sexually abused. More recently, research into 'traumatic growth' has highlighted how men and women impacted by sexual abuse report a greater appreciation and valuing of life, closer, more intimate relationships, increased personal resilience and commitment to raising awareness, improving services and preventing further abuse.
Overview of module sections
- Common effects
- Some differences in male experiences and responses to child sexual abuse
- Effects of the abuse by clergy and faith based personnel
- The heterogeneity of men's experiences, coping, and traumatic growth
- References and resources
This section describes some common effects in men who experienced sexual abuse in childhood.
Whilst there are many similarities in women's and men's reported experiences, impacts and responses to childhood sexual abuse, research and practice evidence is beginning to identify some particular differences. In detailing some of these gendered differences, it is recognised that there is considerable diversity of experience amongst men and amongst women and that in many respects the similarities amongst those who have survived sexual abuse outweigh the differences (sometimes it is more a matter of degree, the particular clustering of effects, interpretation and meaning, than unique difficulties).
This next section presents research evidence about a specific context for sexual abuse in which men are more likely to be victimised than females.
As has been discussed, there is no prescribed way that people are impacted by sexual abuse or assault. Every boy and girl, man and woman is different. Whilst we know that sexual abuse or sexual assault has profound and ongoing effects on people's lives, we also know that getting on, developing healthy supportive relationships and making a positive contribution is possible.
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