Men who were sexually abused during childhood are a stigmatized, under-studied, and marginalized population that is at risk for long-term mental health problems. However, many mental health practitioners feel under-prepared and ill-equipped to effectively treat male survivors of child sexual abuse. Furthermore, little is known about factors that may impact the mental health of male survivors such as disclosure of the sexual abuse. The purpose of this study was to (a) describe the disclosure process of male survivors using a lifespan approach, (b) identify disclosure differences based on age and type of abuser, and (c) explore relationships between disclosure attributes and current mental health. Using a large, purposive sample of male survivors (N = 487), the study found that, on average, men delayed telling (M = 21.38 years) and discussing the abuse (M = 28.23 years) for many years. Older age and being abused by a family member (i.e., incest) were both related to delays in disclosure. Most participants who told someone during childhood did not receive emotionally supportive or protective responses and the helpfulness of responses across the lifespan was mixed. Several variables (e.g., timing of disclosure, discussing with a spouse, response to disclosure) were related to current mental health problems. These findings are helpful for clinical social workers who practice with clients from this population. Specific suggestions for improving clinical practice (e.g., assessment, treatment, professional training) are discussed.
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The author received financial support from the John A. Hartford Foundation (Geriatric Social Work Initiative) and support during recruitment from the following organizations and individuals: the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, MaleSurvivor, 1in6.org, and Dr. Jim Hopper. The author is grateful for the useful comments of Dr. Carol Coohey and Dr. Thanh Tran during manuscript development and for the generosity and courage of the men who participated in this study.
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Easton, S.D. Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse Among Adult Male Survivors. Clin Soc Work J 41, 344–355 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10615-012-0420-3
- Child sexual abuse
- Male survivors
- Clergy abuse
- Mental health