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Male sexual abuse survivors struggle in relations with health care providers -- study

New research reveals that male survivors of childhood sexual abuse face unique challenges that many health care practitioners do not recognize and understand as well as they should.

Canadian researchers have found that although both male and female childhood sexual survivors have similar anxieties and fears about their encounters with health care professionals, there are gender based differences concerning perceptions of victimhood, guilt, shame, homophobia and vulnerability.

"We found that it's doubly-difficult for males to come forward after they've been sexually abused, because many men have difficulty identifying and expressing their feelings. There is also a common perception that males should be strong and shouldn't ever admit vulnerability or ask for help," said Gerri Lasiuk, a PhD student in the U of A Faculty of Nursing.

"Given the pervasive stereotype of men as strong, in control, and always able to defend themselves, even health professionals have a hard time recognizing men as victims, especially if their abuser was a woman," said Lasiuk, who co-authored a paper on this topic in the June 2006 edition of the journal Issues in Mental Health Nursing.

"Many male survivors felt that health care providers are more skeptical toward male claims of abuse than they are of similar female claims. When the abuser was a woman, there was an attitude of, 'So what? Isn't that every boy's fantasy?" Lasiuk said.

Lasiuk added that abuse by a male on a boy often causes confusion around sexual identity as the boy grows up, and many male survivors do not disclose their abuse for fear that they will be considered homosexual.

Another issue for men is the myth that all survivors are predisposed to become abusers themselves.

"The research is clear that only a small percentage of survivors go on to be abusers," Lasiuk said. "This erroneous belief causes tremendous hardship for male survivors, who often have nowhere to tur
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Contact: Ryan Smith
ryan.smith@ualberta.ca
780-492-0436
University of Alberta
23-Jun-2006


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