Shame and guilt in men exposed to childhood sexual abuse: a qualitative investigation

J Child Sex Abus. 2012;21(2):155-75. doi: 10.1080/10538712.2012.659803.


This study examined the experiences of shame and guilt in adult males sexually abused as children. Seven participants attending a service for male sexual abuse completed measures of shame, guilt, dissociation, and childhood trauma history and subsequently participated in a focus group. All participants experienced childhood sexual abuse in the "severe" range and showed elevated scores for shame, guilt, and dissociation. Four superordinate themes with associated subordinate themes emerged: (a) self-as-shame (foundations of self-as-shame, fear of exposure, temporary antidote: connection), (b) pervasiveness and power of doubt and denial (from others, from self, consequences of incredulity), (c) uncontrollability (of problems after disclosure, of rage, of intrusions and emotional pain), and (d) dissociation. Results are discussed with reference to the existing literature and the emerging "self-as-shame" construct, which appeared to encapsulate participants' view of themselves.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Attitude to Health
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Guilt*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Men / psychology*
  • Men's Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Concept*
  • Shame*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors / psychology
  • Young Adult