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Dale's Web Pages

Sexual child abuse and homosexual men


SEXUAL CHILD ABUSE AND HOMOSEXUAL MEN

By Dale O'Leary


 

I. UNDERSTANDING SEXUAL ABUSE OF BOYS

A. Rate of Abuse

While some people believe that any sexual activity involving a child is potentially abusive, the definition of sexual child abuse is limited to a sexual relationship in which there was coercion, force or threat of force and/or if the age difference between the participants is deemed to be such that the child/or adolescent cannot be considered to have been able to freely consent. Sexual abuse can take place between a child and an adult, a child and an adolescent, an adolescent and an adult, or peers if coercion is involved.

David Finkelhor has written extensively on sexual abuse of children. He conducted a study of 796 college students. Using a broad definition of abuse, he found that of the 266 males in the study, 9.7% had experienced sexual abuse, 4.1% had a sexual experience as a child with adult, 2.3% as a child with adolescent partner at least 5 years older, and 2.3% as an adolescent with an adult at least 10 years older. Close to 70% of the experiences involved force. For the boys, 17% involved a family member, 53% an acquaintance, and 30% a stranger. About 60% of the experiences were single encounters.

According to George Rekers, editor of Handbook of Child and Adolescent Sexual Problems:

about 6 percent of children of both sexes have endured prolonged and unwanted sexual relations imposed upon them by an older person. At least half of these individuals (about 3 percent of the population sampled) will suffer long-term impairment of mental health as a result of these experiences. (Rekers, p.145)

B. Abusers

Fixated child abusers are overwhelmingly male. About a third of those who offend against children target boys, however non-incestuous offenders against male children have many more victims than offenders against female children. According to a study by Abel "the mean number of victims of non-incestuous offenders against female children was 19.8, which that of such offenders against male children was 150.2. (Abel 1988)

Men who abuse boys follow predictable patterns, often seeking out employment or activity that allows them access to the type of child they finds sexually appealing. In some cases the abuser also wins the confidence of the parents. The abuser targets vulnerable boys by offering friendship, attention, financial incentives, or forbidden activities. He gives the boys the very things that responsible adults deny them and in the case of the vulnerable boys fulfills the unmet needs for adult affirmation. He may first seduce the boy into a forbidden non-sexual activity, such as alcohol or drugs, then introduce the sexual element to their relationship, sometimes telling the boy that he wants to teach him about sex or that all friends engage in these behaviors. Once the activity has begun if the boy appears reticent, the abuser threatens him with exposure and or violence. The abuser may take pictures to use as part of the threat or to satisfy his need to relive the incident..

C. Victims

While the experience may initially be frightening and unpleasant, the child may also be sexually aroused and stimulated by the activity which adds to his guilt and confusion. If the boy is particularly needy, he may identify with the molester and come to believe that the experiences are normal. The boy may feel a duty to protect his abuser or believe that he will be punished if he tells. He may be ashamed to admit he is a victim.

The negative effects of sexual abuse are manifold, as Rekers points out:

Much of the psychological injury derived from the exploitation can be linked back to the manner of entrapment, the length of time of encapsulation, and the nature of the sexual activity. Children are confused over the use of power and authority, with resulting disorganizing impact on their thinking. As the abuse continues, their belief about sex between adults and children shifts from "This is wrong" to "This is right."(Rekers, p. 167)

The isolation caused by the secrecy is, according to Rekers, particularly harmful:

At some level, the child knows that the sexual activity is wrong because it has to be kept secret...Social ties are broken. Commitment and social ties to values lose their color and dominance.. (Rekers, p.168)

The child becomes isolated, cut off from the parents and unable to trust adults in general or form normal attachments and non-sexual bonding. According to Rekers:

To attach in a social way requires a degree of trust and faith, but this component of normal development has been shattered and destroyed for abused youth. Rather than developing a normal trusting social bond with others, the abused child develops a bond to the perpetrator and their shared sexual activities. Abused children are trapped by the abusing relationship.(Rekers, p. 167)

The boy may experience "traumatic confusion" and reenact what he has learned by engaging in masturbation or by molesting younger children: According to Rekers, some of those who are abused become abusers:

males having been victims of sexual abuse themselves, become, in adolescence and adulthood, sexual abusers, sometimes with a pedophile fixation on young children. A variety of factors may explain this reality: trying to gain mastery over the earlier abuse by repeating it, but in a controlling manner; socially learned behavior, reinforced by sexual stimuli; and attachment to the abuser, in youth whose own families provided imperfect emotional attachments.(Rekers, p.158)

Rekers offers a number examples of abuse. In one case, "A 26-year-old single male, employed by a local YMCA as an accountant and sports coach, became sexually involved with three boys, ages 8 to 9. His sexual activity continued for over a year, during which he recruited many other boys" In another case, an 18-year-old single male, employed as a sports coach "became sexually involved with five boys 8 to 9 - for more than five years." (Rekers, p.166) According to Rekers:

The boys were programmed by their sports coach to be overly attached to him. The youths were at the crucial developmental period and thus vulnerable to an adult male who showed them attention. The coach gave the boys what appeared to them to be love and attention, meeting the narcissistic wish of a child to be the center of attention. In return, in exchange for being taught about sex and for being made to feel special, the coach secrecy about activities.(Rekers, p.167)

In one case the boy was forced into oral and anal sex. After the molestation was uncovered:

Dan talked about how much he trusted the coach, and noted that the coach was very important to him after his own father had left the household. The coach would explain to him that what they were involved in was normal, and he convinced Dan what he wanted to do with Dan is what friends do to one another. Dan later realized he had been photographed nude at different times by a hidden video camera.(Rekers, p. 170)

After experiences of sexual abuse a number of the boys began to question their sexual identity and wonder if they were homosexual. (Rekers, p.169)

Rekers also points out that the vulnerable child is also most likely to be effected negatively by the experience of sexual molestation:

It is a cruel paradox that those children least able to cope with the burden of sexual seduction are those most vulnerable to its effects. Children with good self-esteem, a trusting and confident relationship with an adult, and well-developed ego strengths are likely to report any attempted or achieved sexual assault immediately. However, a child whose ego development has been undermined by loss of a parent, problematic attachments to adults, and depressed self-esteem because of emotional and physical abuse or neglect is particularly vulnerable, and is rarely able to prevent or report continuing sexual assault. (Rekers, p. 157)

Unfortunately, boys who have had early childhood experiences which could predispose them to adult homosexuality -- in particular unmet childhood needs for father affirmation and deep desire for male companionship -- are most vulnerable to the enticements offered by a determined abuser - male attention, hugs, and affirmation.  

II. SEXUAL ABUSE OF HOMOSEXUAL MEN

A. Rate of abuse

Given the above description of boys who are vulnerable to sexual child abuse, one might expect that homosexual males would be more likely to have been sexually molested as children. Several studies confirm this hypothesis.

Shrier and Johnson interviewed 300 intercity boys as part of a general intake health history at an adolescent outpatient clinic. Forty of the adolescents disclosed an experience of being sexually assaulted by a male before puberty. These 40 were compared to an age-matched control group from the same sample of boys who do not report abuse. Shrier and Johnson found that while 90% of the control group reported they were heterosexual, only 42.5% of those reporting sexual victimization said they were heterosexual - 47.5% said they were homosexual, and 10% said they bisexual. Only 6 of the 40 victimized boys had revealed the molestation to anyone prior to participation in the study interview.(Johnson 1985)

Shrier and Johnson feel that the 40 cases found may represent only a faction of the actual incidence, because although nearly half of the clinic patients are under 15, not one boy under 15 admitted molestation. In addition only 6 of the 40 who admitted being molested were under age 17. This suggests that younger adolescents may be extremely unwilling to admit previous molestation and may do only because they are suffering from some sexually related problem.(Johnson, 1985)

In a study by Remafedi, 239 men aged 13 to 21 who identified themselves as homosexual or bisexual were queried. Of these 42% had been sexually abused or assaulted. In addition 30% had attempted suicide; 23% used cocaine; 66% used marijuana regularly; 29% had been arrested; 11% had accepted money for sex.. Based on the number of unprotected sexual acts and number of sexual partners, the author concluded that 63% of these young men were at extreme risk for HIV infection.(Remafedi, 1994) It was not clear from the study if the 42% who had been abused were among those who attempted suicide, used drugs, or engaged in unsafe sex.

In 1992 Lynda Doll and associates published a study of "self-reported childhood and adolescent sexual abuse among adult homosexual and bisexual men." They identified 1,001 men who had engaged in sexual activity with another man in the previous five years and had attended a STD clinic.

In the Doll study any sexual activity of a child under 6 with someone three or more years older was defined as a abuse. For children under 12 in addition to an age difference or use of force, any anal penetration was considered abusive. For adolescent males 16 to 18, the relationship was defined as abusive only if the partner was 10 years old or involved force.

Among the 1,001 participants 360 (37%) reported sexual contact before the age of 19 with a partner whom they perceived as being older or more powerful than themselves (94% of these the first such contact was with a male). In 53% of the cases the abusers were over 19, in 43% of the cases they were family members. Force was used in 49% of all contacts.  

B. Seeing abuse as a positive experience

Besides the 360 who reported abuse, an additional 267 of the 1,001 participants reported oral or anal sexual contact with a male partner before the age of 16 years, but "answered negatively to the question about older or more powerful:" However, according to Doll, 49 of these probably should, on the basis of the age difference between the partners, be classified as sexual abuse. Adding these 49 to the original 360, one can calculate that 40.8% of the 1,001 men experienced childhood sexual abuse.

However, only 132 of those who reported abuse regarded the experience negatively both at the time of contact and at the time of the interview. According to the analysis, "A positive response at the time of contact was correlated with a greater number of months of contact between the two partners." The remaining 228 regarded the experience as neutral or positive either at the time of contact or at the time of the interview or both. To these should be added the 49 who did not regarded sex with an older person as abuse. It appears that the more abusive the situation actually was in terms of duration and acts engaged in, the more likely the victim was to consider the experience postively. "Clinicians have suggested that these responses may represent a reframing of the experience in a more positive light in order to deal with a potentially overwhelming negative experience."(Doll, 1992)

This reframing of problematic child sex by homosexual men can be seen in McWhirter and Mattison's study of homosexual male behavior. They divide homosexual men into various categories and the first of these is described as follows:

This man usually had his first sexual experience at around age five or six, most commonly with a boy, and from then on had a clear awareness of his attraction to males... He has been to bars and baths and participated in group sex. He is proud to be gay and is far out of the closet (McWhirter, p.273)

While McWhirter and Mattison treat these early sexual experiences as a positive sign of gay awareness, it is also possible that some of these men were the victims of prolonged sexual abuse and may have as children abused other children.

Bell and Weinberg conducted a study of the development of homosexuality and reported finding "no support for the notion that homosexual males are likely to have been "seduced" by older men."(Bell, p. 101) However, homosexual writer and AIDS activist Larry Kramer has a very different take on childhood experiences of homosexual men with older persons:

In those instances where children do have sex with their homosexual elders, be they teachers or anyone else, I submit that often, very often, the child desires the activity, and perhaps even solicits it, either because of a natural curiosity that will or will not develop along these lines, or because he or she is homosexual and innately knows it. This is far from "recruitment." Obviously, there are instances in which the child is unwilling, and is a victim of sexual abuse, homo- or heterosexual. But, as with straight children anxious for the experience with someone of the opposite sex, these are kids who seek solicit, and consent willingly to sex with someone of the same sex. And unlike girls or women forced into rape and traumatized, most gay men have warm memories of their earliest and early sexual encounters; when we share these stories with each other, they are invariably positive ones.(Kramer, p.234)

C. Health Consequences

Reviewing various studies on HIV infection it is noteworthy that a number include evidence of sexual molestation, without comment or follow up. For example a study on HIV infection among homosexual and bisexual men 18 to 29 done in 1994 reported 68 (17.9%) of the 380 were HIV- positive. When the 52 men, who did not report engaging in regular sex with men and all of whom were HIV-negative, were removed from the analysis, the percentage HIV-positive increased to 20.1%. Although "some subjects reported that they had first engaged in regular sex with male when they were as few as 4 years old," the researchers did not investigate the relationship between this behavior and HIV infection.(Osmond, 1994) It is highly likely that these young men would be among those who were HIV-positive.

In another study of HIV risk among homosexual and bisexual men, 425 men ages 17 to 22 were surveyed. Data provided in the study reveals that 40.9% had a lifetime history of forced sex; 28% received payment in return for sex with men, 22% began anal sex with men when they were age 3-14. Forced sexual experience can have negative health consequences. At the time of the study, 9.4% of the 425 were HIV positive, and 19.8% were positive for hepatitis B.(Lemp 1994)


References

Abel, G., Becker, J., Cunningham-Rather, J., Mittelman, M, Rouleau, J. (1988) Multiple paraphilic diagnosis among sex offenders. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatric Law. 16:153-168.)

Bell, A., Weinberg, M. (1978) Homosexualities: A Study in Diversity Among Men and Women. Simon & Schuster: New York.

Doll, L., Joy, D., Batholow, B., Harrison, J., Bolan, G., Douglas, J., Saltzman, L., Moss, P., Delgado, W. (1992) Self-Reported Childhood and Adolescent Sexual Abuse among Adult Homosexual and Bisexual men. Child Abuse & Neglect. 18:825-864.

Finkelhor, D., Araji,S., Baron, L., Browne, A., Peters, S., Wyatt, G. (1993) A Sourcebook on Child Sexual Abuse. Sage:Newbury Park.

Johnson, R., Shrier, D. (1985) Sexual Victimization of Boys: Experience at an Adolescent Medicine Clinic. Journal of Adolescent Health Care. 6:372 -376.

Kramer, L (1981) Reports from the Holocaust. NY: St. Martin's Press

Lemp, G., Hirozawa, A., Givertz, D., Nieri, G., Anderson, L., Linegren, M., Janssen, R., Katx, M. (1994) Seroprevalence of HIV and Risk Behaviors Among Young Homosexual and Bisexual Men. Journal of the American Medical Association. 272, 6: 449:454.

McWhirter, D., Mattison, A. (19 ) The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Osmond, D., Page, K., Wiley, J., Garrett, K.., Sheppard, H., Moss, A., Schrager, L., Winkelsteing, W. (1994) HIV infection in homosexual and bisexual men 18 to 19 years of age: The San Francisco Young Men's Health Study. American Journal of Public Health. 84, 12: 1933-1937.

Remafedi, G.(1994) Predictors of Unprotected Intercourse Among Gay and Bisexual Youth: Knowledge, Belief, and Behavior. Pediatrics. 94:163-165.

Rekers, G. (1995) Handbook of Child and Adolescent Sexual Problems. NY: Lexington Books


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From Dale's Disk, sexabuse.rtf - Sept. 1999
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