Journal of Traumatic Stress

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 525–548 | Cite as

The psychological impact of sexual abuse: Content analysis of interviews with male survivors

  • David Lisak


Autobiographical interviews with 26 adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim and content analyzed to identify common psychological themes. Approximately equal numbers of men were abused by male and female perpetrators, almost half came from disrupted or violent homes and a majority had a history of substance abuse. Fifteen psychological themes were identified: Anger, Betrayal, Fear, Homosexuality Issues, Helplessness, Isolation and Alienation, Legitimacy, Loss, Masculinity Issues, Negative Childhood Peer Relations, Negative Schemas about People, Negative Schemas about the Self, Problems with Sexuality, Self Blame/Guilt and Shame/Humiliation. The themes are discussed and illustrated with examples drawn from the transcripts.

Key words

sexual abuse male survivors post-traumatic stress disorder 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baker, A. W., and Duncan, S. P. (1985). Child sexual abuse: A study of prevalence in Great Britain.Child Abuse Negl. 9: 457–467.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Briere, J. (1992).Child Abuse Trauma, Sage Publications, Newbury Park.Google Scholar
  3. Briere, J., Evans, D., Runtz, M., and Wall, T. (1988). Symptomology in men who were molested as children: A comparison study.Am. J. Orthopsychiatry 58(3): 457–461.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Browne, A., and Finkelhor, D. (1986). Impact of child sexual abuse: A review of the research.Psychological Bull. 99(1): 66–77.Google Scholar
  5. Derogatis, L. R. (1977). SCL-90: Administration, scoring and procedure manual-I for the R (revised) version, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.Google Scholar
  6. Dimock, P. T. (1988). Adult males sexually abused as children: Characteristics and implications for treatment.J. Interpers. Viol. 3(2): 203–221.Google Scholar
  7. Finkelhor, D. (1979).Sexually Victimized Children, The Free Press, New York.Google Scholar
  8. Finkelhor, D. (1984).Child Sexual Abuse: New Research and Theory, The Free Press, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Finkelhor, D., Hotaling, G., Lewis, I. A., and Smith, C. (1990). Sexual abuse in a national survey of adult men and women: Prevalence, characteristics, and risk factors.Child Abuse Negl. 14: 19–28.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Fritz, G. S., Stoll, K., and Wagner, N. A. (1981). A comparison of males and females who were sexually molested as children.J. Sex Marit. Ther. 7: 4–59.Google Scholar
  11. Fromuth, M. E., and Burkhart, B. R. (1987). Childhood sexual victimization among college men: Definitional and methodological issues.Vict. Viol. 2: 241–253.Google Scholar
  12. Fromuth, M. E., and Burkhart, B. R. (1989). Long-term psychological correlates of childhood sexual abuse in two samples of college men.Child Abuse Negl. 13: 533–542.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Gilgun, J. F., and Reiser, E. (1990). The development of sexual identity among men sexually abused as children.J. Contemp. Hum. Serv. November: 515–523.Google Scholar
  14. Hunter, M. (1990).Abused Boys, Lexington Books, Lexington, MA.Google Scholar
  15. Hunter, J. A. (1991). A comparison of the psychosocial maladjustment of adult males and females sexually molested as children.J. Interpers. Viol. 6(2): 205–217.Google Scholar
  16. Johnson, R. L., and Shrier, D. K. (1985). Sexual victimization of boys experienced at an adolescent medicine clinic.J. Adol. Health Care 6: 372–376.Google Scholar
  17. Krug, R. S. (1989). Adult male report of childhood sexual abuse by mothers: Case descriptions, motivations and long-term consequences.Child Abuse Negl. 13: 111–119.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Lew, M. (1988).Victims No Longer, Nevraumont, New York.Google Scholar
  19. Lebowitz, L. (1990). Psychological and sociocultural themes in women's response to being raped. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Duke University, Durham, NC.Google Scholar
  20. Lisak, D., and Luster, L. (1994). Educational, occupational and relationship histories of men who were sexually and/or physically abused as children. Manuscript submitted for publication.J. Traum. Stress 7(4):Google Scholar
  21. Kercher, J. A., and McShane, M. (1984). The prevalence of child sexual abuse victimization in an adult sample of Texas residents.Child Abuse Negl. 8: 495–500.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Myers, M. F. (1989). Men sexually assaulted as adults and sexually abused as boys.Arch. Sex. Behav. 18(3): 203–215.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Nasjleti, M. (1980). Suffering in silence: The male incest victim.Child Welf. 59(3): 269–276.Google Scholar
  24. Risin, L. I., and Koss, M. P. (1987). The sexual abuse of boys: Prevalence and descriptive characteristics of childhood victimizations.J. Interpers. Viol. 2: 309–323.Google Scholar
  25. Saunders, B. E., Arata, C. M., and Kilpatrick, D. G. (1990). Development of a crime-related post-traumatic stress disorder scale for women within the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised.J. Traum. Stress 3(3): 439–448.Google Scholar
  26. Siegel, J. M., Sorenson, S. B., Golding, J. M., Burnam, M. A., and Stein, J. A. (1987). The prevalence of childhood sexual assault: The Los Angeles epidemiologic catchment area project.Am. J. Epidemiol. 126: 1141–1153.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Urquiza, A., and Capra, M. (1990). The impact of sexual abuse: Initial and long-term effects. In Hunter, M. (ed.),The Sexually Abused Male, Lexington Books, Lexington, MA, pp. 105–135.Google Scholar
  28. Urquiza, A., and Keating, L. M. (1990). The prevalence of sexual victimization of males. In Hunter M. (ed.),The Sexually Abused Male, Lexington Books, Lexington, MA, pp. 89–103.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Lisak
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Massachusetts at BostonBoston

Personalised recommendations