Myth 9: Boys are always severely harmed by sexual activity with adults.
- Studies find some, but not all, boys suffer from a wide range of serious social, psychological, sexual, and school problems.
- Studies that mix willing activity and non-contact incidents with coerced contact tend to show less frequent and less intense harm.
- Studies of those identified by therapists or police as victims of sexual abuse (clinical and criminological studies) tend to show more extensive and serious harm.
- Some clinical and many non-clinical studies find the majority of boys are unharmed.
Researchers seem to agree that there is no set of reactions that is a single inevitable outcome of adult-minor sexual interaction, such as some sort of personality disorder. Negative outcomes seem to be associated with the following:34
- coercion (particularly if the boy seems willing but is in fact not)
- negative feelings about the interaction
- invasiveness and duration
- sex-negative attitudes
- emotional, unsupportive, or judgmental adult reactions
Thomas D. Oellerich, Department of Social Work, Ohio University:
The notion that child sexual abuse is a "destroyer" of mental health has been based largely on studies involving clinical samples. But even these, if objectively considered, indicated that child sexual abuse is neither necessarily nor usually psychologically harmful. That is, for the vast majority child sexual abuse is not a "destroyer" of mental health at any age...the widespread belief that child sexual abuse necessarily and usually causes psychological damage is a myth.35
For more information, see the section on this site about effects of adult-minor sexual interaction.
34. Beitchman et al., 1992; Constantine, 1981; Fergusson & Mullen, 1999; Ingram, 1981; Kilpatrick, 1987; West & Woodhouse, 1990.
35. Oellerich, 2001*.
*Will open an off-site article in a new window.