FACT #8 – Male survivors of child sexual abuse delay disclosure for 20 years on average.
Many of the toxic stereotypes about men and masculinity contribute to the fact that male victims of sexual abuse delay disclosure for 20 years on average (see chart below). Often these are years of darkness – filled with emotional pain and suffering. There are many contributing factors to this delay, but the simple fact is that far too many boys and men spend far too long suffering in silence in shame.
In some cases, the delay is caused by a lack of awareness that the experiences a person may have had were actually abuse. According to Dr. Richard Gartner, a leading expert on the impacts of sexual abuse on boys and men, fewer males report sexual abuse than females “partly because fewer boys and men consciously identify their experiences as abusive. Cognitively, they may feel less traumatized, despite having a wide range of symptoms related to it.” Gartner, Richard B. Betrayed as boys: Psychodynamic treatment of sexually abused men. Guilford Press, 1999., p. 29
In other cases, survivors of abuse and trauma in childhood may only recall these memories after many years have passed. The impact of trauma on memory is still a controversial topic in some quarters, but the research is clear that traumatic memories can be suppressed and recalled later in life in some survivors. Many male survivors have reported that they recalled memories of the abuse they experienced as children only much later in their adult lives.
Regardless of the reasons that may contribute to a survivor’s delaying disclosure, one thing is also clear – survivors will disclose at some point in their lives. Often, however, the decades between the abuse itself and the disclosure are ones filled with great suffering. MaleSurvivor believes that every survivor has the right to disclose when they are ready, and also that whenever they do, every survivor has the right to be heard, to be believed, and to be supported.
By educating the public about the issues of male sexual abuse, we also hope that in time this 20+ year disclosure delay will come down. Allowing more survivors to get the help they need to heal sooner, and ensuring more perpetrators are held accountable.
Chart taken from from doctoral research conducted by Scott D. Easton Ph.D, ACSW, LMSW Boston College Graduate School of Social Work; March, 2012
N = 487 (MS members = 103; MS – members of MaleSurvivor); Adult survivors of CSA; ages 19-84