Male Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Although public awareness is increasing in regard to the realities of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) for boys, adult male survivors of CSA often delay disclosure of the abuse for years or even decades. Little is known about the factors that impede or obstruct disclosure for sexually abused boys/men and because disclosure is often a prerequisite to help-seeking and accessing resources for help and support, unfortunately many adult male survivors of CSA never receive the support that they deserve and need.

Breaking the silence

Over the past two decades, public awareness of the sexual abuse of boys has increased dramatically. Stemming from national news coverage, in particular, the airing of Mary Raftery’s exposure of sexual abuse scandals within well-established institutions in Ireland (States of Fear, 1999 / Cardinal Sins, 2002) the direct response from the Irish Government to these broadcasts was to commission several wide reaching and explosive reports (Ferns, 2005 / Ryan, 2009 / Murphy, 2009 / Cloyne, 2011) which began to reveal the level and nature of abuse that had been, and continued to be perpetrated on the nation’s young boys and girls. Public disclosures by international figures and celebrities (US actor Tyler Perry, former professional cyclist Greg LeMond) plus mainstream films (Songs for a Raggy Boy, 2003 / The Kite Runner, 2007 / Mystic River, 2003 / The Prince of Tides, 1991/  Sleepers, 1996), and public campaigns by survivor organisations, led by One in Four, have introduced and continue to keep the issue of CSA of boys in the awareness of a large segment of the general public.

A lifetime of silence and secrecy

Despite this improved awareness, there is still considerable stigma attached to being a male survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Research in The USA (Easton, 2012) found that approximately 15% of adult men reported being sexually abused during childhood with many of these survivors remaining silent about the abuse for years or even decades despite experiencing considerable distress. On average, participants in this research study waited 21 years after the time of the abuse to tell someone, and 28 years to have an in-depth discussion about the sexual abuse. The report concluded that male survivors of CSA often wait long into adulthood before disclosing / discussing the sexual abuse and the impact this has had on their entire lives.