Lecture – Stigma and Male Childhood Sexual Abuse

Available with English captions.

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

Childhood sexual abuse of boys has received growing attention in recent years because of media coverage of sexual abuse scandals. Cases involving the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, Penn State University, Michael Jackson, and others have called attention to this common but misunderstood issue.

Despite the increase in awareness, not much is known about the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse and its impact on adult male survivors. Current data suggests women survivors are more common than men, and most studies considering childhood sexual abuse have focused on girls and women.

Still, estimates suggest that about 2 in every 10 men in America have experienced childhood sexual abuse. Data further indicates that consequences for adult survivors are significant and damaging but often underreported and/or under-recognized.

Watch now to learn more about:

  • The prevalence and impact of male childhood sexual abuse
  • How to recognize stigma terminology and societal stigma
  • The effects of stigma for male childhood sexual abuse survivors
  • Approaches for challenging and overcoming abuse-related stigma

The handful of studies considering male childhood sexual abuse place prevalence rates between 4 and 16% in the general U.S. population. Studies in psychiatric populations suggest a prevalence rate of male childhood sexual abuse between 20 and 40%. These rates are likely a gross underestimate due to several factors, including mental health stigma.

In this talk, Robinson examines the impact of sexual abuse on boys and men, including the harmful effects of related stigma. Survivors, he reports, often experience depression, anxiety, social isolation, and suicidality. There are also physical consequences, such as higher rates of heart disease and stress.

Also, Robinson shares that individuals facing related stigma often report problems maintaining good relationships, feelings of disconnection from others, and issues related to sexual identity.

During the lecture, Robinson explains that stigma is often a barrier to seeking health care, which can influence many aspects of a stigmatized individual’s functioning.

To address these issues, Robinson offers suggestions for challenging and overcoming related stigma. He discusses the positive impact that support groups can have on survivors. He points out the importance of public outreach efforts, like McLean’s Deconstructing Stigma campaign. And he calls on individuals to change the way they speak about and behave toward people who have experienced childhood sexual abuse.