Friday, April 03, 2009

How Can You Determine If your Son Has Been Sexually Abused?

I wrote this paper circa the year 1995, in spite of all these years and the technological advances and the dissemination of information, we still have much to do about maltreatment and more importantly sexual abuse. When we hear "sexual abuse" mostly we use to think in the abuse perpetrated against girls, nonetheless, the boys are actually as much in danger as their counterparts. Therefore, and because a casual conversation with a friend over the behavioral problems that his son is having at the school and at home, I am posting this paper, in which I think I summarized the main psychological disorders and characteristics that are commonly observed in sexually abused children's behavior both, at the onset of their victimization, as well as, thereafter the long term psychological effects. Hope, that this paper can be used as an aid to help parents that are facing such predicaments as now is facing my friend.

The Most Common Long Lasting Psychological Effects of Sexually Abused Boys in United States of America

by John M. Kennedy T.

Affiliation: The Center For Human Development
The Plow of The Sea Inc.

Abstract: This paper is focused on the almost perpetual psychological effects of sexually abused boys in United States of North America. These effects are traumatic and affect the behavior of these victims in very profound ways. The majority of studies about male children sexual abuse coincide in that there is a great diversity of long lasting psychological effects, from withdrawal to aggression, including strong desires of self-destruction with the manifestations of frequent suicidal impulses. Investigations have found that most of the times the sexual abuse does not come alone, it is perpetrated, most of the time, instead in combination with other types of abuses such as, psychological [neglect, isolation, negative criticism, maltreatment], verbal [screaming, insulting], and the physical and even in some extreme cases torture and murder. The societal denial about these problems contributes to increase the amount of unreported cases of boys who are sexually assaulted every day in USA and having been able to survive are not sharing or telling their stories. Naturally, disclosure is a necessary "evil", but the sense of guilty and shame of the sexually abused boys, which is increased exponentially by the gender factor, excerpt too much psychological pressure in these children’s minds, making their cases to remain in the darkness and in secrecy, within a painful and isolated silence; all too embedded, cryptically and forever, deep inside de emotions and memories of the victimized male children who must learn how to grow and live in a society that seems to be unconcerned about it, from childhood throughout the very last days of their adulthood, without the necessary support or closure, but full of angriness, causing them to become potential mere agents in the long chain of children molestation and abused in which once they were only the victims.


In United States of North America, like in any other parts of the world, the study of the sexual abused boys is problematic, because the lack of empirical or factual and available information (Young, et al. 1994, p. 294). The underreporting of male children has been widely discussed, analyzed and, finally attributed to (a) the social reinforcement and (b) the inhibitory influence upon the victim and/or his parents of the social stigma of homosexuality. (Roane, 1992, p. 232). All we know about the psychological effects in sexual abused boys comes from two main sources: (a) disclosure, i.e., abused boys’ self-reports, and (b) informants; both support the evidence that sexual abuse contributes to depression and other mental disturbances in the victims (Young et al., 1994, p. 303).

The definition of childhood sexual abuse is seen as the result of a minor having had any sexual experience(s) with an adult or older individual. The nature of child sexual abuse range fondling to penetration (Young et al., 1994, p.296) and its consequences in the psyche of the victims are diverse, and it depends of various factors, such as the sex of the offender, relation of the perpetrator with the child, and the type, as the frequency, of abuse (Roane, p.19920) Article starts here.

Induction: A Real Case Scenario

Matthew was a frail/shy child who had difficulty relating with peers, boys and girls alike. He was especially fearful of adults, having been raised in a strict puritanical home. His interpersonal difficulties led to his being a “loner.” At about the age of eight, he was lured into a neighborhood garage by two teenagers who raped and sexually abused him many times. Matthew was thoroughly confused and overcome by this brutal experience. About that sexual abuse, Matthew remained silent because of threats made by the perpetrators. Finally, at the age 23, Matthew was able to reveal his experiences to a college counselor. The effects of the abuse are still intensely felt by Matthew, who at the time of the disclosure was in the late stages of his early adulthood (Black & DeBlassie, 1993, p.123).

Like Matthew's, large number of incidences shows that these crimes, which involve all types of sexual abuse of boys, go largely underreported, due to the secretive nature of the offense and, the implied collusion that is forced upon the victims by their perpetrators and, passively encourage by the societal denial that includes evenly family members. (Black & DeBlassie, 1993)

Some studies show that the number of cases of sexually abused male children and adolescents, is constantly and dramatically increasing in U.S. (Dimock, 1998). In addition, Finkelhor (1994) affirms that 46,000 to 92,000 boys under the age of 13 are sexually molested each year. Other experts state that 3% to 9% of males in the general population have been sexually victimized as children or adolescents. (Briere, Evans, Runtz & Wall, 1998)

Some Important Indicators for an Early Detection

The first psychological effects of sexual abuse in boys serve as indicators of the onset of abuse; they are the initial short term effects manifested by the victims, they are so important since its early detection could improve extremely the help that parents and specialist could provide to the young victims. However, these indicators are difficult to assess, as they vary according to the developmental level of the victim and often differ from one child to another. One national estimate suggests that toddlers and preschool children who are minor than five years old comprise 15% to 18% of those who are sexually victimized each year (National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, 1978).

Toddlers and preschoolers may exhibit extreme behaviors on either end of the withdrawal-aggression continuum. They also could show precocious sexual knowledge; act out sexually with peers, and/or report difficulty sleeping and nightmares that often involve violent or sexual content (Black & DeBlassie, 1993, p. 126). Others signals are the sudden fear of being hurt, during diapering, baths, or dressing; intense fear of someone whom the child had known without fear before (e.g., someone of a particular sex, or a noncustodial parent).

Fagot et al. (1989) identified the initial effects of abuse in very young child. This study concludes that the young children who played passively and alone, unless approach, but who nevertheless, were aggressive or antisocial were those who had been sexually molested. Although withdrawal and truancy can be indicators of child abuse, as the sudden increase of aggressiveness or a pattern of coming to school early and leaving to classes late can be warning signs of abuse too.

The Long Lasting Psychological Dissorders

The long term psychological effects of sexual abused boys differ widely within a gamut of causes, all within a great range of known and unknown parameters. Incidentally, the degree of the trauma experienced by the victim has been found to be influenced by factors, such as the sex of the offender (generally male but not only male) the closeness of the child’s relationship with the perpetrator, the duration of the abuse (a single incident or multiple occurrences), the severity of the abuse (from fondling to penetration accompanied by force or bodily trauma) and, the age of the victim at the onset of the sexual abuse (Black & DeBlassie, 1993, p. 127).

It is considered that there are two groups of long lasting psychological effects, i.e., internalizing and externalizing, the scores of these groups correlate with a wide range of childhood stressors and do not discriminate as to the source of the stress. However, those behaviors that tend to correlate more specifically with child abuse and, those that pertain more precisely with male victims, include somatic complains and physical symptoms that are sexual in nature. The long term psychological effects in sexual abused male children and adolescents result in a real symptomatology. Among the effects, an in contrast with the other stressors presented by the other groups of children that are non-victims of sexual abuse, it can be distinguished the greater incidence of suicide attempts and higher levels of anxiety and depression. Other investigations report the same effects, depression, suicidal gestures, anxiety, somatic complaints, disturbed interpersonal relations, symptoms all due largely to the inability to trust others, and characterized by school difficulties, a decrease in the level of social functioning, heightened sexual activity showing preoccupation that often includes compulsive masturbation, homophobic concerns, infantile behavior (in adolescents), paranoiac or phobic behavior, and poor body image or changes in the bodily functions. A males’ sense of powerlessness may even be channeled into aggressive sexual behavior wherein the victim becomes an offender. (Black & DeBlassie, 1993, p. 128).


In summary, there are clearly identifiable and measurable psychological differences between sexually abused male children and adolescents with their matched non-abused counterparts, and it had been largely reported that male victims showed more sings of heightened levels of anxiety, worry, a rumination, particularly related to identity issues, than did their female counterparts. (Lamb & Edgar-Smith, 1994, p. 294) Future research should explore further the harmful and long lasting psychological effects in sexual abuse boys since successful treatments depend on it. No single effect, however, has been found to be universal in all cases. (Black & DeBlassie, 1993, p. 128)


Black, C. A. & DeBlassie, R. R., Sexual abuse Male Children and Adolescents: Indicators, Effects, and Treatments. Adolescence, (Vol. 28, No. 109). San Diego, CA: Libra Publishers, Inc.

Briere, J., Evan, D., Runtz, M., & Wall, T. (1988). Symptomatology in adult male who were molested as children: A comparison study. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 58(3),457-46 1.

Fagot, B.I., Hagan, R., Youngblade, L.M., & Potter, L. (1989). A comparison of the play behaviors of sexually abused, physically abused, and nonabused preschool children. Topics on early childhood special education, 9(2) 88-100

Lamb, S. & Edgar-Smith S. (1994). Aspects of disclosure: Mediators of Outcome of childhood Sexual Abuse. Journal of interpersonal violence, 9(3), 307-326.

National Center on Child Abuse and Neglected. (1978). Child sexual abuse:Incest, assault and sexual exploitation. U.S. Dhew Pub. No. (OHDS) 79-30 166. Washington, DC: Author.

Roane, T. H. (1992). Male Victims of Sexual Abuse: A case Review within a Child Protective Team, Child Welfare, (Vol. 71, No 3).

Young, R.E., Bergandi, T. G. & Titus, T. T. (1994). Comparison of the Effects of Sexual Abuse on Male and Female Latency- Aged Children. Journal of interpersonal violence, 9(3), 291-306.

Nota Bene: For those who want a hard-copy of the paper or to print more easily this information, click in ► Here ◄ for the PDF version of the paper

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