Santa Clara University

Wellness Center

Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Brian Kassar, Psy.D.

Staff Psychologist & Outreach Coordinator

Men Stopping Rape Program

Director Counseling & Psychological Services



Boys get sexually abused, even though it’s not talked about very much. Estimates are that anywhere from one in four to one in eight men is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.1 In a 1996 study of 600 college men, 28% of those surveyed reported some form of sexual abuse as a child.1 If one in eight males is a survivor of abuse, that means that if you live in a dorm with 50 guys, about 6 of them were sexually abused. If you’re in a fraternity with 100 members, 12 were sexually abused. In a university with 6,000 men, 750 of them are survivors of sexual abuse.


If you’re a guy and you were sexually abused, you probably have a lot of questions and confusion. Maybe you’ve never talked about it or gotten help. You may not be aware of your resources. Maybe you don’t even label what happened to you as “sexual abuse.” This website is especially for those who are male survivors of childhood sexual abuse and will discuss facts, myths, and effects of sexual abuse, as well as resources for recovery.


Things you should know
It was not your fault, no matter what the situation was, how your body reacted, or who the abuser was. You were abused because somebody betrayed your trust and misused their authority or their relationship with you.

  • Being sexually abused doesn’t define your sexuality.
  • Being sexually abused as a boy doesn’t make you less of a man.
  • There are a lot of effects of sexual abuse, but that doesn’t mean you have to be affected by them forever.

You can recover, and there are many resources to help you. Utilizing resources doesn’t make you weak, nor does it mean that you’re labeling yourself as a “victim.” It means you’re taking a step towards recovery.


Sexual abuse comes in different forms. Take a look at the following scenarios and see if you can identify which ones are sexually abusive:

  • A father gives his son a “Penthouse” magazine for his 16th birthday
  • A mother bathes her 13-year-old son
  • An uncle exposes himself to 8-year-old nephew
  • An 18-year-old female baby sitter lets a 12-year-old boy fondle her
  • A mom inspects her son during puberty to make sure he’s “developing properly”
  • A 19 year-old male has oral sex with a 14-year old boy
  • A 24-year-old female teacher has sex with her 15-year-old student

**All of the above scenarios are sexually abusive. Sexual abuse comes in two basic categories: Direct Contact Sexual Abuse and Non-Direct Contact Sexual Abuse.


  • An adult sexually touching a child (fondling, oral sex, penetration)
  • Having a child sexually touch an adult (fondling, oral sex, penetration)
  • Stripping a child for spanking or punishment


  • Photographing the child for sexual purposes
  • Inappropriate talk about sex, sexual experiences
  • Showing or providing pornographic material
  • Inappropriate talk/ridicule about child’s genitals or sexual development
  • Inappropriate exposure of genitals to child
  • Masturbating or being sexual in front of a child
  • Watching a child undress, bathe, etc.
  • Verbal/emotional abuse of sexual nature (“faggot,” “pussy,” “cocksucker”)
  • Having a child witness others have sex/be sexually abused
  • Having the child be sexual with animals
  • Engaging a child in prostitution

Most child abuse experts feel that until a child reaches the age of consent (usually 18), any of the above acts would be considered abuse if they took place before the boy was 18. 1  Sex with a child is not about love. Sexual abuse is about misusing power and authority to use a child to gratify the adult’s sexual needs and need for power.



Myths and Misconceptions
There are several myths and misconceptions that keep male survivors under-identified:


Myth:  “Males aren’t victims of abuse

Fact: We know that boys are abused; yet our culture often minimizes this fact. The fallacy is that boys and men should take care of themselves and can’t be “victims.” 3 This notion often keeps boys/men from recognizing or reporting that what happened to them actually was abuse. 1


Myth:  “If children didn’t want to be abused, they would say ‘stop’”

Fact: Children usually don’t question adults, and are often coerced by bribes, threats, and use of authority. 2 These often include threats to harm the child or their family, threats to remove child from family, convincing child nobody will believe him and that he’ll be labeled “bad,” and threats to harm pets. 4


Myth:  “Boys are always ready for sex”

Fact: The idea that boys always want sex is a misconception. Sex with inappropriate boundaries or before a person is emotionally ready is unhealthy. When someone manipulates power and authority to engage in sex with a young person, it is abusive. 1,2


Myth:  “Boys are not negatively affected by early sexual abuseand; non-violent sex between children and adults is not damaging”

Fact:  Most every inappropriate sexual experience is traumatic, and nearly all victims experience confusion, shame, guilt, anger, and low sense of self worth in response to early sexualization.2,3


Myth:  Boys who were abused by males will become gay”

Fact: It isn’t likely that early sexual experiences will define someone’s adult sexual orientation, though being prematurely exposed to sex may cause confusion later 1,2,3,5


Myth:  “If a boy was aroused, erect, or had an orgasm during the abuse, it means that he liked it and that it wasn’t abuse”

Fact: Many victims are aroused, erect, or even achieve orgasm when they are abused, but this does not mean that they enjoyed it, nor does it mean that they weren’t abused. The physiological responses of erection and orgasm can happen even in coercive, humiliating, or frightening experiences. This often creates a great deal of shame or confusion for survivors.1,2,5


Myth:  “Children are most likely to be abused by a stranger

Fact: 75-95% of offenders are known to the victim and are often related to the child. 2


Myth:  “Boys are abused by adult homosexuals”

Fact: Most child sexual abuse is perpetrated by men who are heterosexual and do not find sex with other men at all attractive.2,3 Many child molesters abuse both boys and girls. Also, girls and women perpetrate sexual abuse against boys.2


Myth:  “When a boy and older woman have sex, it’s the boy’s idea—he not being abused”

Fact:  Child abuse is an act of power by which an adult uses a child. Abuse is abuse, regardless of the perpetrator’s gender.2 This myth is perpetuated by the ideas that when a woman is sexual with a boy she is “showing him the ropes” and that these boys, who are supposedly always ready and willing to be sexual are “lucky.”1,2,5 The false idea is that “girls get raped and hate it, but boys are seduced and love it” (p.26).2


Myth:  “Males who are abused as children will all grow up to sexually abuse children”

Fact: Only a portion of those who were abused go on to abuse children2,3



Common Effects of Abuse
Sexual abuse can cause many conflicts, symptoms and confusing feelings. Here are some examples of the things male survivors experience:

Conflicts with gender and masculinity: Boys who were abused often feel an additional layer of shame and guilt because of our culture’s idea that men should be able to “take care of themselves” or that they should have been able to prevent the abuse. This often makes it more difficult for male survivors to seek help. 1,2,5

Confusion about sexuality: Being prematurely exposed to sex can cause a lot of confusion. Adult survivors of abuse may be uncomfortable with sex, which may lead them to question their sexuality. If the perpetrator was male, they may wonder if they are gay, particularly if their body responded to the abuse. Gay men may question if the abuse “caused” them to be gay. These concerns are common, and it’s not likely that abuse defines one’s sexuality, but it may cause some confusion.1,2,5


Difficulty with relationships: Because of the misuse of power or trust, it’s common for survivors to have difficulty with trust/intimacy, distrust of power or authority, or unhealthy or abusive relationships. 1,2,5

Homophobia: If the survivor’s abuser was male, he may grow to have strong feelings of homophobia (hatred of homosexuals). This is unfortunate because the survivor’s relationships with men (regardless of their orientation) will be inhibited and limited. 1


Grief/Loss: Because those who have been abused experienced things that were intrusive, frightening, or inappropriate, survivors often feel a sense of grief or loss: loss of their innocence, loss of childhood, etc. The feelings of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression) are common.2  


It’s common for abuse survivors to experience the following:

  • Having sex with many partners to prove heterosexuality or that they’re “OK.”
  • Fear/discomfort or ambivalence about sex; avoidance of sex
  • Fearing that sex will “ruin” a good relationship
  • Difficulty reaching/maintaining erection or orgasm
  • Seeing sex as non-relational: something that is done “to” rather than “with”
  • Seeing sex as a tool or commodity to get what you want
  • Compulsive/frequent sexual activity (masturbation, hook-ups)
  • Frequent use of pornography
  • Compulsive Behaviors 1,2,5

If you were abused and have experienced any of the above, please get help. You may want to avoid getting treatment to “just forget about it.” You may think you’re not being “tough” if you get help. These are misconceptions that are keeping you from being the best, most healthy person you can be. There are many resources available to you that can give you information and support:


Counseling:Your campus probably has a counseling center. It is staffed with trained professionals who will help you move toward recovery. Counseling doesn’t mean that you’re “weak” or “crazy.” It means you’re taking a brave step by confronting something troublesome in your life. Ignoring things won’t fix the problem; counseling can.  Utilize the free Counseling Center services on campus to help you through this process. 


Self-help:There are many resources that may be helpful in addition to counseling. The following is a brief list, but these should not be used in replacement of professional help. Also, please be aware that reading information may stir some feelings; read what you’re comfortable with and stop if feelings become too intense to cope with.


Bolton, F.G., Morris, L.A., MacEachron, A.E. (1989). Males at risk: The other side of child sexual abuse. Sage: NewburyPark, CA.

Grubman-Black (2002). Broken boys, mending men: Recovery from childhood sexual abuse.

Hunter, Mic (1990). Abused boys: The neglected victims of sexual abuse. Random House: New York.

Lew, M. (1990). Victims no longer: Men recovering from incest and other sexual child abuse.

Lew, M. (2000). Leaping upon the mountains: Men proclaiming victory over sexual child abuse.

Sonkin, D.J. (1998). Wounded boys, heroic men: A man’s guide to recovering from child abuse. Adams: Holbrook, MA.

Tobin, R. (1999). Alone and forgotten: The sexually abused man.


Internet Resource:

Website that provides information, resources, therapist-finder, and retreat information



1: Gartner, R.B. (1999). Betrayed as boys: Psychodynamic treatment of sexually abused men. Guilford: New York.

2: Hunter, M. (1990). Abused boys: The neglected victims of sexual abuse. Random House: New York


4: Bolton, F.G., Morris, L.A., MacEachron, A.E. (1989). Males at risk: The other side of sexual abuse. Sage Publishing: Newbury Park, CA.

5: Otani, A. (2000). Counseling male abuse survivors: Issues and treatment strategies. Presentation at the American College Personnel Association National Convention, April 2000, Washington, D.C.

6: American Psychological Association (2002). DSM-IV-TR. APA: Washington, D.C.


The preceding material is intended for informational purposes only, and not intended to replace the services of a trained medical or mental health professional. Brian Kassar, Psy.D.


Dr. Kassar is a clinical psychologist at Montana State University’s Counseling and Psychological Services. His work includes helping male survivors of sexual abuse, as well as educating men on health issues, violence prevention, and body image issues.


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