Disclosure and Prevention of Sexual Violence against Male Children and Youth

This project aimed at the prevention of sexual violence against male children and youth. Because of norms and practices of masculinity, the obstacles and contradictions that male victims of sexual violence face in the process of disclosure are partly different to those that female victims experience. Through biographic and multidimensional reconstructions of processes of disclosures of boys and young men, we identified needs and gaps in the support system for male victims of sexual abuse and formulated recommendations for adequate help for this group. We designed and tested training modules for people working in pedagogical institutions and organisations, counsellors and therapists but also doctors and parents.


According to police criminal statistics, almost a quarter of child victims of sexual abuse are male. While generally only between half and two thirds of all cases of sexual abused are disclosed, there is evidence that boys find it harder to disclose experiences of sexual violence than girls. At the same time, most counselling and support programs explicitly or implicitly address female victims of sexual violence. We understand that sexual assault against boys entails gender-based problems that only male victims have. These problems differ from gender-based problems that boys without experiences of sexual abuse as well as girls with experiences of sexual abuse have. Being the victim of sexual assault, being weak and in need of help in this system of gender binary is incompatible with being a boy/man.

Biographic and multidimensional reconstruction of disclosure

Following a literature review, three kinds of interviews were conducted. The aim of interviews with specialists from various fields of research and practice was to gather knowledge about processes of disclosure of male victims of sexual abuse and to identify knowledge gaps and open questions.

The core of this project was formed by biographic interviews with predominantly young men who have experienced sexual abuse in their childhood or youth and who have disclosed the abuse. The objective of these interviews was to understand the conditions that enable or disable male victims to disclose sexual violence and to formulate resilience factors within processes of disclosure.

Furthermore, there interviews were undertaken with persons who were significant in the processes of disclosures of the men interviewed. Here, the aim was to further identify and explore the conditions and factors that help male victims to disclose abuse.

Case studies included interviews with men who have disclosed sexual violence as well as important persons in the disclosure process.

Knowledge transfer

On the basis of the empirical research, we developed and tested training modules for educational practice with boys (at school or within youth work), for counselling and therapeutic practice with parents and with male victims of sexual violence and for doctors. These modules were oriented towards awareness raising, prevention and adequate reactions in cases of sexual violence (allegations).

Furthermore, the project produced policy recommendations with respect to an adequate system of help and support that includes male victims of sexual abuse.

Project Team

This project was conducted by Dissens – Institute for Education and Research in cooperation with the Association for Men and Gender Issues Styria (Austria), Tauwetter e.V. (Berlin, Germany), Dreist e.V. (Eberswalde, Germany) und mannigfaltig Minden-Lübbecke e.V. (Germany).

This cooperation ensured a strong link between theory, empirical research and educational and psychosocial practice. Insights were not only be presented in an academic context, but also transferred to and tested within practice.

An advisory board, consisting of researchers from psychology, sociology, education and political science, accompanied the research. The interdisciplinary character of the project and the advisory board helped to find useful solutions to a societal problem.