Male Sexual Abuse

Published in NZ Association of Counsellors Newsletter September 2001 Vol 22 No 1 and in Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care National Newsletter No 49 December 2001

Comments by Peter Milne about "Therapy Guidelines - Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse"

Written by Kim McGregor. Published by ACC 2001

I consider this to be a wonderful document that will be an asset to anyone in our profession who is working, or thinking about working, with people who have been sexually abused. It has been well thought out, well researched and lays out simply and clearly most of the issues involved in this work. My one concern is that it is written about working with women survivors and does not take into account some aspects of working with men.Â

While everything that Kim has said also applies to working with men there are some additional long term effects of CSA for men that are essential to take into account. These can be basically described in three concepts:

  • you can't be a man and a victim at the same time
  • Homophobia
  • male victims become perpetrators


You can't be a man and a victim at the same time
Our society as a whole finds it hard to believe that men can be (or have been) abused.
'You can't be a man and a victim at the same time' is a very strong component of gender stereotyping for men. Many men feel as if their whole masculinity has been stripped from them by their abuse. Briere describes this as a "violation of male sex-role requirements". He states:
"Victimisation can be construed as sadly congruent with the female role, whereas it is antithetic to social notions of masculinity. Instead males are encouraged from childhood to be strong, instrumental, assertive, and aggressive – traits that are incongruent with the concept of victimisation. Thus the growing boy's sense of socially defined masculinity is often undermined by his abuse because victimisation implies weakness and being done to rather than doing to."

Lew says "Since men are 'not supposed to be victims', abuse (and particularly sexual abuse) becomes a process of demasculinisation. He may see himself as less than human – an irreparably damaged freak".* This is increased even further when the offender is a woman (see next section)

This is a major issue for men particularly when the offender was male. Common comments from heterosexual men are "Am I really gay?", "Will my abuse turn me gay?" These messages are reinforced for some when they have difficulties with relationships as adults (which of course is common to many survivors of either gender).
From gay men "Did I become gay because I was abused?"
From both "Was I abused because somehow I was giving off gay messages when I was a child".
The myth for men abused by women is that they are "lucky". Society's blindness to this aspect of abuse places him in a powerful double bind. If he enjoyed the experience in any way it can't have been abusive. If he didn't he must be homosexual.*

Again Briere says "In a society as anti-homosexual as ours, this belief may engender panic and self-disgust beyond that associated with sexual molestation."

Male Victims become perpetrators
Gonsiorek, Bera & Le Tourneau describe this as the "Vampire Syndrome", which holds that once abused, a boy will become an abuser.* The reality is that only a very small proportion of men who have been abused become sexual offenders.

As with many of the myths this impacts both internally and externally. Many men fear that they will become perpetrators because of their abuse. This fear can be so strong as to lead to suicide rather than risk hurting someone else in the way they have been hurt. Many will avoid contact with children because of it.

Externally many men have experienced fear and rejection from others when they have disclosed their own abuse. For example families in which they have previously had good relationships suddenly preventing them from having contact with their children.


In every other aspect the effects of CSA and the treatment of it are the same as laid out so very well by Kim in this document. However if anyone working with men does not take the above into account the outcome is likely to be at best poor, at worst disastrous for their client.


[*] Briere "Therapy for Adults Molested as Children" P185

[*] Lew "Victims No Longer" P41

[*] Lew "Victims No Longer P58

[*] Briere "Therapy for Adults Molested As Children" P184

[*] Gonsiorek, Bera & Le Tourneau "Male Sexual Abuse" P48



Mike Lew "Victims No Longer" 1988,1990 Harpercollins Publishers Inc New. York,USA
John Briere "Therapy For Adults Molested As Children Beyond Survival, 2nd edition" 1996 Springer Publishing Company. New York, USA
John C. Gonsiorek, Walter H. Bera and Donald LeTourneau "Male Sexual Abuse A Trilogy of Intervention Strategies" 1994 Sage Publications Inc. New York, USA
Other Recommended Readings

Mike Lew "Leaping Upon The Mountains" 1999 Small Wonder Books. Massachusetts, USA
Richard L. Meth and Robert S. Pasick "Men in Therapy The Challenge of Change" 1990 The Guildford Press. New York, USA
Stephan D. Grubman "Broken Boys / Mending Men"1990 Ivy Books. New York, USA