Ten Facts about Sexual Abuse of Boys and its Aftermath*

*adapted from the web site at www.malesurvivor.org and from Betrayed as Boys: Psychodynamic Treatment of Sexually Abused Men

1. Up to one out of six men report having had unwanted direct sexual contact with an older person by the age of 16. If we include non-contact sexual behavior, such as someone exposing him- or herself to a child, up to one in four men report boyhood sexual victimization. (1,2)

2. On average, boys first experience sexual abuse at age 10. The age range at which boys are first abused, however, is from infancy to late adolescence. (1,2)

3. Boys at greatest risk for sexual abuse are those living with neither or only one parent; those whose parents are separated, divorced, and/or remarried; those whose parents abuse alcohol or are involved in criminal behavior; and those who are disabled. (3)

4. Boys are most commonly abused by males (between 50 and 75%). However, it is difficult to estimate the extent of abuse by females, since abuse by women is often covert. Also, when a woman initiates sex with a boy he is likely to consider it a “sexual initiation” and deny that it was abusive, even though he may suffer significant trauma from the experience. (1)

5. A smaller proportion of sexually abused boys than sexually abused girls report sexual abuse to authorities. (3)

6. Common symptoms for sexually abused men include: guilt, anxiety, depression, interpersonal isolation, shame, low self-esteem, self-destructive behavior, post-traumatic stress reactions, poor body imagery, sleep disturbance, nightmares, anorexia or bulimia, relational and/or sexual dysfunction, and compulsive behavior like alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, overeating, overspending, and sexual obsession or compulsion. (3, 4)

7. The vast majority (over 80%) of sexually abused boys never become adult perpetrators, while a majority of perpetrators (up to 80%) were themselves abused. (1)

8. There is no compelling evidence that sexual abuse fundamentally changes a boy’s sexual orientation, but it may lead to confusion about sexual identity and is likely to affect how he relates in intimate situations. (3, 4)

9. Boys often feel physical sexual arousal during abuse even if they are repulsed by what is happening. (4)

10. Perpetrators tend to be males who consider themselves heterosexual (5, 6) and are most likely to be known but unrelated to the victims. (3)


1. Lisak, D, Hopper, J, Song, P (1996). Factors in the cycle of violence: Gender rigidity and emotional constriction. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 9: 721-743

2. Finkelhor D, Hotaling G, Lewis IA, Smith C. (1990). Sexual abuse in a national survey of adult men and women: Prevalence, characteristics, and risk factors. Child Abuse and Neglect, 19:557-68

3. Holmes, W, Slap, G (1998). Sexual abuse of boys: Definition, prevalence, correlates, sequelae, and management. Journal of the American Medical Association, 280:1855-1862

4. Gartner, RB (1999). Betrayed as Boys: Psychodynamic Treatment of Sexually Abused Men. New York: Guilford Press

5. Groth, AN, Oliveri, F (1989). Understanding sexual abuse behavior and differentiating among sexual abusers. In S. Sgroi (Ed.), Vulnerable Populations, (Vol. 2, pp. 309-327). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

6. Jenny C, Roesler TA, Poyer KL (1994). Are children at risk for sexual abuse by homosexuals? Pediatrics; 94:41-4