Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 31-48

First online:

Resiliency in the Victim–Offender Cycle in Male Sexual Abuse

  • Ian LambieAffiliated withPsychology Department, University of AucklandSAFE Programme, University of Auckland
  • , Fred SeymourAffiliated withPsychology Department, University of Auckland
  • , Alan LeeAffiliated withStatistics Department, University of Auckland
  • , Peter AdamsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, University of Auckland

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The prevalence of childhood sexual abuse in child molesters is considerably higher than that in the general population. This finding had led to the “victim–offender cycle” being popularized as an explanation for sexual offending. However, not all child molesters were victimized as children, so it is of interest to examine the factors that contribute to the victim–offender cycle or, conversely, resiliency. This study examined the “moderating factors” that may prevent a male victim of sexual abuse from entering the victim–offender cycle. Two groups were interviewed as part of the study: a “resilient group” (n = 47) and a victim–offender group (n = 41). After correction for age and education level, the resilient group were less likely to have fantasized and masturbated about the abuse, less likely to report deriving pleasure from the abuse, more likely to have had frequent social contact with adolescent peers and to have had more family and nonfamily support during childhood. The findings support the need for multifactorial models of resiliency, the victim–offender cycle, and sexual offending. Recommendations about the prevention of the victim–offender cycle are made, including the need for a thorough systemic assessment of all male victims of sexual abuse and the involvement of their family system in counseling.

victim–offender cycle male sexual abuse resiliency prevention