Male Victims

Male Victims:

Male victims of sexual abuse constitute an extremely under-identified, under-served and frequently misunderstood population.

Did You Know
Prevalence rates for males ranged from 3% - 29% (as cited in Barnett et al., 1997, p. 761).

Though sexual abuse is under-reported by both males and females, males are in a unique position.

Males are far less likely to disclose sexual abuse. Cultural bias, gender identity factors, fear of being labelled homosexual, the perception that males need less support, plus a host of other issues play a role.

Why Males Don't Disclose

A cultural bias maintains that males cannot be victims. Males are expected to be confident, knowledgeable, and aggressive. To be a victim means one is an inadequate male.

If the boy's body has responded sexually, he feels he is somehow responsible for the sexual abuse.

Male victims struggle with issues of homosexuality as most offenders are male. Their homophobia plus their confusion and fear encourage silence. Not to mention the social stigma attached to homosexuality.

If a boy receives money for sex, he is less likely to be perceived as a victim.

If a boy has a homosexual orientation, he is often blamed for the "seduction" of the older male, instead of being acknowledged as a legitimate victim of sexual abuse.

Molestation by an older female is often viewed positively as a kind of "initiation rite" into manhood. Cultural pressure encourages participation while denying feelings.

Males, more than females, may fear loss of freedom and independence if the sexual abuse should be made public.

Fear of reprisals from the offender plays a role in under-reporting.

When boys are victimized, they tend to be blamed more for their abuse and are viewed as less in need of care and support.

Boys fear negative judgment by family and friends.

Embarrassment and/or confusion prevent males from disclosing.

Some Statistics on Male Victims:

Within the past few years, North American researchers have found that one out of six boys is a victim of sexual abuse (Dorais, 2002, p. 162).

Researchers surveyed 1,213 grade 6 - 8 students at Toronto area schools on whether they had been a victim of unwanted sex behaviours in the previous 6 weeks: 22% of males reported having been victimized (Blackwell, 20023).

Canadian estimates have shown that there are close to five million male victims of sexual abuse, most of which are unwanted sexual touching (Matthews, 1996, p. 154).

In a Los Angeles Times poll conducted in 1990 with 2,626 men and women over 18 years of age, Finkelhor and Associates (19905) discovered that 16% of the men recalled a history of sexual abuse. The median age for these male victims was 9.9 years of age (as cited in Wiehe, 1998, p. 216).

According to Dorais (2002, p. 177) two trends are evident in the existing statistics on male sexual abuse victims:
  • the more recent the research, the higher the incidence of abuse
  • with growing awareness, more men seem willing to disclose

In one study of 30 male victims, the average age at the first time of abuse was 8 years, 4 months (Dorais, 2002, p. 1848).

32% of (or an estimated 4,519) child sexual abuse investigations conducted with Social Services Agencies in Canada in 1998 involved males. 16% of these investigations involved boys in the 4 - 7 age group (Trocme et al., 2001, p. 659).

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NOTE: Information pages on this site were based on material from the Canadian Red CrossCanadian Red Cross RespectED Training Program. Written permission was obtained to use their copyrighted material on this site.

Male Victims

1 Barnett, O., Miller, P., & Perrin, R. (1997). Family violence across the life span. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

2 Dorais, M. (2002). Don't tell: The sexual abuse of boys. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press.

3 Blackwell, T. (2002, May). Academics see sex crimes in schoolyard. The National Post.

4 Matthews, F. (1996). The invisible boy: Revisioning the victimization of male children and teens. Ottawa: National Clearinghouse on Family Violence.

5 Finkelhor, D., Hotaling, G., Lewis, I., & Smith, C. (1990). Sexual abuse in a national survey of adult men and women: Prevalence , characteristics, and risk factors. Child Abuse & Neglect, 14(1), 19-28.

6 Wiehe, V. (1998). Understanding family violence: Treating and preventing partner, child, sibling and elder abuse. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

7 & 8 Dorais, M. (2002). Don't tell: The sexual abuse of boys. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press.

9 Trocme, N. & MacLauren, B. et al. (2001). Canadian incidence study of reported child abuse and neglect: Final report. Ottawa: National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Health Canada.

Back to Child Abuse Effects Homepage from Male Victims

Updated Feb 23, 2017

E-book: Victim To Victory

From Victim to Victory
a memoir

How I got over the devastating effects of child abuse and moved on with my life


E-book: Victim To Victory

From Victim to Victory
a memoir

How I got over the devastating effects of child abuse and moved on with my life


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