Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse: Becoming Gender-Sensitive and Trauma-Informed

Jennifer Elkins, Katherine Crawford, Harold E. Briggs


While there is a wide body of literature examining the behavioral, emotional, and social consequences associated with being sexually abused, comparatively few studies have focused on males. Sexual abuse victimization among males remains largely under-reported, under-treated, and under-recognized by researchers, practitioners, and the public. Researchers trying to clarify why sexual abuse in males has been overlooked point to prevailing cultural norms, myths, assumptions, stigma, and biases about masculinity. Consequently, there is often an assumption that males are not negatively affected by sexual abuse. Drawing extensively from the literature, this article provides a critical review of: (1) the nature, experience and impact of sexual abuse victimization for males; and (2) the multidimensional processes that promote and inhibit resilient outcomes. It concludes with a discussion of trauma-informed and gender-responsive recommendations and future directions for social work practice, policy, and research. 


Sexual abuse; males; gender; trauma-informed care

Full Text:



Alaggia, R., & Millington, G. (2008). Male child sexual abuse: A phenomenology of betrayal. Clinical Social Work Journal, 36, 265-275. doi:

Avery, L., Massat, C., & Lundy, M. (2000). Posttraumatic stress and mental health functioning of sexually abused children. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 17(1), 19-34. doi:

Bal, S., Van Oost, P., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., & Crombez, G. (2003). Avoidant coping as a mediator between self-reported sexual abuse and stress. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27, 883-897. doi:

Banyard, V. L., Williams, L. M., & Siegel, J. A. (2004). Childhood sexual abuse: A gender perspective on context and consequences. Child Maltreatment, 9(3), 223-238. doi:

Bergen, H. A., Martin, G., Richardson, A. S., Allison, S., & Roeger, L. (2003). Sexual abuse and suicidal behavior: A model constructed from a large community sample of adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 42(11), 1301-1309. doi:

Bergen, H. A., Martin, G., Richardson, A. S., Allison, S., & Roeger, L. (2004). Sexual abuse, antisocial behaviour and substance use: Gender differences in young community adolescents. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 38, 34-41. doi:

Briere, J., & Elliott, D. (2003). Prevalence and psychological sequelae of self-reported childhood physical and sexual abuse in a general population sample of men and women. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27, 1205-1222. doi:

Briere, J., & Lanktree, C. (2013). Integrative treatment of complex trauma for adolescents (ITCT-A) treatment guide (2nd ed). Long Beach, CA: MCAVIC-USC, National Child Traumatic Stress Network, U.S. Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Bryant-Davis, T., Ellis, M. U., Burke-Maynard, E., Moon, N., Counts, P. A., & Anderson, G. (2012). Religiosity, spirituality, and trauma recovery in the lives of children and adolescents. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 43(4), 306-314. doi:

Buckle, S., Lancaster, S., Powell, M., & Higgins, D. (2005). The relationship between child sexual abuse and academic achievement in a sample of adolescent psychiatric patients. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29, 1031-1047. doi:

Clervil, R., & DeCandia, C. (2013). Integrating and Sustaining Trauma-Informed Care Across Diverse Service Systems. The National Center on Family Homelessness at the American Institutes for Research Committee. Retrieved from

Chappell, B. (2012, June 21). Penn State abuse scandal: A guide and timeline. National Public Radio. Retrieved from

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2012). Mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. Retrieved from

Corbin, T. J., Rich, J. A., Bloom, S. L., Delgado, D., Rich, L. J., & Wilson, A. S. (2011). Developing a trauma-informed, emergency department–based intervention for victims of urban violence. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 12(5), 510-525. doi:

Crable, A. R., Underwood, L. A., Parks-Savage, A., & Maclin, V. (2013). An examination of a gender-specific and trauma-informed training curriculum: Implications for providers. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 7(4), 30-37. doi:

Crete, G., & Singh, A. (2015). Resilience strategies of male survivors of childhood sexual abuse and their female partners: A phenomenological inquiry. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 37(4), 341-354. doi:

Dhaliwal, G, Gauzas, L., Antonowicz, D., & Ross, R. (1996). Adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse: Prevalence, sexual abuse characteristics and long term effects. Clinical Psychology Review, 16(7), 619-639. doi:

Dilorio, C., Hartwell, T., & Hansen, N. (2002). Childhood sexual abuse and risk behaviors among men at high risk for HIV infection. American Journal of Public Health, 92(2), 214-219. doi:

Dong, M., Anda, R., Dube, S., Giles, W., & Felitti, V. (2003). The relationship of exposure to childhood sexual abuse to other forms of abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction during childhood. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27, 625-639. doi:

Dube, S., Anda, R., Whitfield, C., Brown, D., Felitti, V., Dong, M., & Giles, W. (2005). Long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse by gender of victim. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 28(5), 430-438. doi:

Duke, N. N., Pettingell, S. L., McMorris, B. J., & Borowsky, I. W. (2010). Adolescent violence perpetration: Associations with multiple types of adverse childhood experiences. Pediatrics, 125(4), e778-e786. doi:

Easton, S. D., Renner, L. M., & O’Leary, P. (2013). Suicide attempts among men with histories of child sexual abuse: Examining abuse severity, mental health, and masculine norms. Child Abuse & Neglect, 37(6), 380-387. doi:

Fallot, R., & Bebout, R. (2012). Acknowledging and embracing "the boy inside the man:" Trauma-informed work with men. In N. Poole & L. Greaves (Eds.), Becoming trauma-informed (pp. 165-174). Toronto, ON: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Feiring, C., Rosenthal, S., & Taska, L. (2000). Stigmatization and the development of friendship and romantic relationships in adolescent victims of sexual abuse. Child Maltreatment, 5(4), 311-322. doi:

Feiring, C., Taska, L., & Chen, K. (2002). Trying to understand why horrible things happen: Attribution, shame and symptom development following sexual abuse. Child Maltreatment, 7(1), 26-41. doi:

Feiring, C., Taska, L., & Lewis, M. (1999). Age and gender differences in children's and adolescents' adaptation to sexual abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23(2), 115-128. doi:

Foster, G., Boyd, C., & O'Leary, P. (2012). Improving policy and practice responses for men sexually abused in childhood (ACSSA Wrap No. 14). Melbourne: Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault, Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Gagnier, C., & Collin-Vézina, D. (2016). The disclosure experiences of male child sexual abuse survivors. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 25(2), 221-241. doi:

Gover, A. (2004). Childhood sexual abuse, gender and depression among incarcerated youth. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 48(6), 683-696. doi:

Harris, M., & Fallot, R. D. (Eds.). (2001). Using trauma theory to design service systems. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hebert, M., Parent, N., Daignault, I., & Tourigny, M. (2006). A typological analysis of behavioral profiles of sexually abused children. Child Maltreatment, 11(3), 203-216. doi:

Heger, A., Ticson, L., Velasquez, O., & Bernier, R. (2002). Children referred for possible sexual abuse: Medical findings in 2384 children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 26, 645-659. doi:

Heru, A. (2001). The linkages between gender and victimhood. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 47(3), 10-20. doi:

Holmes, W. C. (2008). Men’s self-definitions of abusive childhood sexual experiences, and potentially related risky behavioral and psychiatric outcomes. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32(1), 83-97. doi:

Holmes, W. C., & Slap, G. B. (1999). Sexual abuse of boys: Definition, prevalence, correlates, sequelae, and management. JAMA, 281(23), 631-632. doi:

Homma, Y., Wang, N., Saewyc, E., & Kishor, N. (2012). The relationship between sexual abuse and risky sexual behavior among adolescent boys: A meta-analysis. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51, 18-24. doi:

Hopper, E. K., Bassuk, E. L., & Olivet, J. (2010). Shelter from the storm: Trauma-informed care in homelessness services settings. Open Health Services and Policy Journal, 2, 131-151. Retrieved from

Hughes, D., Rodriguez, J., Smith, E. P., Johnson, D. J., Stevenson, H. C., & Spicer, P. (2006). Parents' ethnic-racial socialization practices: A review of research and directions for future study. Developmental Psychology, 42(5), 747-770. doi:

Hunter, S. V. (2011). Disclosure of child sexual abuse as a life‐long process: Implications for health professionals. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 32(2), 159-172. doi:

John Jay College Research Team. (2004). The nature and scope of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and deacons in the United States, 1950-2002. Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Jones, D. J., Lewis, T., Litrownik, A., Thompson, R., Proctor, L. J., Isbell, P., ...,Runyan, D. (2013). Linking childhood sexual abuse and early adolescent risk behavior: The intervening role of internalizing and externalizing problems. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41(1), 139-150. doi:

Kelly, E. (2013). The Jerry Sandusky effect: Child abuse reporting laws should no longer be don’t ask, don’t tell. University of Pittsburgh Law Review 75, 209-233. doi:

Kelly, P., Koh, J., & Thompson, J. (2006). Diagnostic findings in alleged sexual abuse: Symptoms have no predictive value. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 42, 112-117. doi:

Kenny, M.C. & Abreu, R.L. (2015). Training mental health professionals in child sexual abuse: Curricular guidelines. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 24(5), 572-591. doi:

Kenny, M. C., & McEachern, A. G. (2000). Racial, ethnic, and cultural factors of childhood sexual abuse: A selected review of the literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 20, 905–922. doi:

Kia-Keating, M., Grossman, F., Sorsoli, L., & Epstein, M. (2005). Containing and resisting masculinity: Narratives of renegotiation among resilient male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 6(3), 169-185. doi:

Kim, J., & Cicchetti, D. (2004). A longitudinal study of child maltreatment, mother-child relationship quality and maladjustment: The role of self-esteem and social competence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32(4), 341-354. doi:

Knight, C. (2015). Trauma-informed social work practice: Practice considerations and challenges. Clinical Social Work Journal, 43(1), 25-37. doi:

Lab, D., & Moore, E. (2005). Prevalence and denial of sexual abuse in a male psychiatric inpatient population. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 18(4), 323-330. doi:

Manly, J. (2005). Advances in research definitions of child maltreatment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29, 425-439. doi:

Masten, A., Roisman, G., Long, J., Burt, K., Obradovic, J., & Riley, J. (2005). Developmental cascades: Linking academic achievement and externalizing and internalizing symptoms over 20 years. Developmental Psychology, 41(5), 733-746. doi:

McGuffey, C. S. (2005). Engendering trauma: Race, class and gender reaffirmation after child sexual abuse. Gender & Society, 19(5), 621-643. doi:

McGuffey, C. S. (2008). "Saving masculinity": Gender reaffirmation, sexuality, race, and parental responses to male child sexual abuse. Social Problems, 55(2), 216-237. doi:

McLeod, D. A. (2015). Female offenders in child sexual abuse cases: A national picture. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 24(1), 97-114. doi:

Miller, A. B., Esposito-Smythers, C., Weismoore, J. T., & Renshaw, K. D. (2013). The relation between child maltreatment and adolescent suicidal behavior: A systematic review and critical examination of the literature. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 16(2), 146-172. doi:

Newcomb, M. D., Munoz, D. T., & Carmona, J. V. (2009). Child sexual abuse consequences in community samples of Latino and European American adolescents. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33(8), 533-544. doi:

Ohene, S., Halcon, L, Ireland, M., Carr, P & McNeely, C. (2005). Sexual abuse history, risk behavior, and sexually transmitted diseases: The impact of age of abuse. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 32(6), 358-363. doi:

O’Leary, P. J., & Barber, J. (2008). Gender differences in silencing following childhood sexual abuse. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 12, 133-143. doi:

Ompad, D., Ikeda, R., Shah, N., Fuller, C., Bailey, S., Morse, E.,…Strathdee, S. A.. (2005). Childhood sexual abuse and age at initiation of injection drug use. American Journal of Public Health, 95(4), 703-709. doi:

Paul, J., & Paul, W. (2016). Counselor attitudes of effectiveness with sexually abused men. Community Mental Health Journal, 52, 1057-1063. doi:

Persky, A.S. (2012). Beyond the Penn State scandal: Child abuse reporting laws. Washington Lawyer, 21(10). Retrieved from

Pietrantonio, A. M., Wright, E., Gibson, K. N., Alldred, T., Jacobson, D., & Niec, A. (2013). Mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect: Crafting a positive process for health professionals and caregivers. Child Abuse & Neglect, 37, 102-109. doi:

Pintello, D., & Zuravin, S. (2001). Intrafamilial child sexual abuse: Predictors of postdisclosure maternal belief and protective action. Child Maltreatment, 6(4), 344-352. doi:

Quas, J., Goodman, G., & Jones, D. (2003). Predictors of attributions of self-blame and internalizing behavior problems in sexually abused children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44(5), 723-736. doi:

Richardson, M., Henry, J., Black-Pond, C., & Sloane, M. (2004). Multiple types of maltreatment: Behavioral and developmental impact on children in the child welfare system. Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma, 1, 317-330. doi:

Rosenthal, S., Fiering, C., & Taska, L. (2003). Emotional support and adjustment over a year's time following sexual abuse discovery. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27, 641-661. doi:

Simon, V. A., Feiring, C., & McElroy, S. K. (2010). Making meaning of traumatic events: Youths’ strategies for processing childhood sexual abuse are associated with psychosocial adjustment. Child Maltreatment, 15(3), 229-241. doi:

Sorsoli, L., Kia-Keating, M., & Grossman, F. K. (2008). "I keep that hush-hush": Male survivors of sexual abuse and the challenges of disclosure. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 55(3), 333. doi:

Spataro, J., Mullen, P., Burgess, P., Wells, D., & Moss, S. (2004). Impact of child sexual abuse on mental health. British Journal of Psychiatry, 184, 416-421. doi:

Speigel, J. (2003). Sexual abuse of males: The SAM model of theory and practice. NY: Brunner/Rutledge.

Stander, V., Olson, C., & Merrill, L. (2002). Self-definition as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse among navy recruits. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70(2), 369-377. doi:

Stevens, T., Ruggiero, K., Kilpatrick, D., Resnick, H., & Saunders, B. (2005). Variables differentiating singly and multiply victimized youth: Results from the National Survey of Adolescents and the implications for secondary prevention. Child Maltreatment, 10(3), 211-223. doi:

Teram, E., Stalker, C., Hovey, A., Schachter, C., & Lasiuk, G. (2006). Towards malecentric communication: Sensitizing health professionals to the realities of male childhood sexual abuse survivors. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 27, 499-517. doi:

Ullman, S., & Filipas, H. (2005). Gender differences in social reactions to abuse disclosures, post-abuse coping, and PTSD of child sexual abuse survivors. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29, 767-782. doi:

Walrath, C., Ybarra, M., Holden, E., Liao, Q., Santiago, R., & Leaf, P. (2003). Children with reported histories of sexual abuse: Utilizing multiple perspectives to understand clinical and psychosocial profiles. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27, 509-524. doi:

Wekerle, C. (2013). Resilience in the context of child maltreatment: Connections to the practice of mandatory reporting. Child Abuse & Neglect, 37, 93-101. doi:

Wolfe, D. A., Francis, K. J., & Straatman, A. L. (2006). Child abuse in religiously-affiliated institutions: Long-term impact on men's mental health. Child Abuse & Neglect, 30(2), 205-212. doi:

Yasui, M., & Dishion, T. J. (2007). The ethnic context of child and adolescent problem behavior: Implications for child and family interventions. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 10(2), 137-179. doi:


Copyright (c) 2017 Jennifer Elkins, Katherine Crawford, Harold Briggs


Indiana University School of Social Work
902 West New York Street
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, 46202
Voice: 317.274.6705
FAX: 317.274.8630
TDD/TTY: 317.278-2050