Sexual Abuse of Boys

Written by Dr. Sidney Langston 

Until recently, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the subject of males who were molested as children. Unfortunately, this is not due to an absence of male victims. Analysis indicates that one in three girls and one in five or six boys are sexually abused in childhood.  Because it has been under-reported, the incidence of sexual abuse in males is thought to be as high as one in four. In general, our society has been more accepting of the disclosure of sexual abuse of girls than of boys. This led to a scarcity of information on male sexual abuse. Thus the long-term impact of such victimization has been largely unknown. Nor was there much data on potential differences of the effects of abuse in males and females. However, more research on this has been appearing in the literature.

Abuse typically starts for males around six to nine years of age. Research also depicts that incest accounts for 50% of male abuse cases. Incest is any contact or interaction (visual, verbal or psychological) between a child/adolescent and a parent or other family member during which the child/adolescent is being used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or any other person. Incest includes a variety of behaviors such as: staring at body parts; touching genitalia during rough play; gently rubbing the genital area; sodomy or telling sexually stimulating jokes/stories. In any inappropriate sexual encounter, the perpetrator absolutely bears the whole responsibility. If you are a victim, do not let anyone ever convince you that you are in any way responsible.

Research is beginning to indicate that childhood sexual abuse is extremely traumatic for males. If there is little affection between father and son, sexual abuse may appear to fill the son's natural, healthy needs for fatherly touching. Early sexual experiences are more likely to produce confusion and fear.

Emotional development is stunted at the age the abuse occurs, although growth in other areas of their lives continues. When abuse occurs between the age of two and six, it can interfere with gender development. Young male children who are victims of abuse do not have the opportunity to understand what constitutes a healthy expression of their sexuality.

Violation can cause a boy to completely distrust men and question, or even reject, his maleness. He may wonder if other boys view him as a sex object. He may even see sexual contact as the way to get the normal attention from men that he has always wanted. However he never learned to obtain this in a healthy way.

Adult males who were sexually abused as children demonstrate high levels of anxiety, depression, anger, sleep disturbances, dissociation and post-sexual abuse trauma. These men often become addicted to substances or sex. They may engage in homosexual and bisexual behavior and attempt suicide—often accomplishing it.

According to Rev. Howard Milton, who has counseled extensively in this area, “the male incest survivor will restructure his world in order to make sense of it and to make sure he will survive as intact as possible.”  The problem with these survival "skills" is that, although they help victims survive a very difficult, crazy and extremely painful trauma, if they continue to practice these behaviors into adulthood, they only lead to trouble.

The most common survival tactics are:

  • Minimizing – (a form of denial) telling oneself that what happened is no big deal;
  • Denial – burying the memory and refusing to acknowledge the reality of it;
  • Blocking/dissociation – placing the memory deep within the subconscious mind where it can't be reached or developing Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The development of DID is more common in females, but it occurs in males as well;
  • Rationalization – excusing and finding reasons for the perpetrator’s behavior. For example, “Daddy was drunk and didn't know what he was doing”; and
  • Division– dividing the offender into a “good daddy” and a “bad daddy,” then denying the bad daddy and personally taking responsibility for the abusive behaviors.

Each of these survival tactics is built upon a lie. Victims will never be free until they face the reality of their abuse and grieve their losses. Healing and recovery are possible for those who are willing to embrace the pain and then embark on a journey to wholeness.


Root Causes of Homosexuality. Love in Action Newsletter. San Rafael, CA
Male Incest Survivors. Day One Newsletter. Allentown, PA.

Copyright 1993, El Rophe Center, Inc.