Lecture – Stigma and Male Childhood Sexual Abuse

Available with English captions.

Matthew A. Robinson, PhD, McLean Hospital – McLean Forum lecture

While sexual abuse of boys has received growing attention due to media coverage of various sexual abuse scandals (e.g., Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, Penn State University, Michael Jackson), relatively little is known about the prevalence and effects for adult male survivors.

This presentation considers the impact of stigma on male childhood sexual abuse (CSA) survivors and initial thoughts for how to challenge and overcome it.

Presentation highlights include:

  • Description of the prevalence and impact of male CSA
  • Recognition of stigma terminology and a model of societal stigma
  • Description of the effects of stigma for male CSA survivors

The majority of studies considering CSA have focused on girls/women. The handful of studies considering male CSA place prevalence rates between 4-16% in the general U.S. population. Studies in psychiatric populations suggest a prevalence rate of male CSA between 20-40%. Due to a number of factors (including stigma), these rates are likely a gross underestimate.

Stigma has been a widely studied phenomenon since Erving Goffman’s 1963 book where he defined it as an, “undesired differentness” that results from a “mark” distinguishing and discrediting an individual or group from the “healthy” majority.

Stigma has numerous negative effects including physical illness, depression, anxiety, suicidality, and social isolation. Stigma often serves as a barrier to seeking health care and can pervade nearly every aspect of a stigmatized individual’s functioning.