Fathers with a history of child sexual abuse: New findings for policy and practice

CFCA Paper No. 6 – July 2012


According to a review of available Australian evidence, 4-8% of males report having suffered penetrative sexual abuse as a child, and an additional 11-16% report experiencing non-penetrative sexual abuse (e.g., fondling genitals, exposure to masturbation) (Price-Robertson, Bromfield, & Vassallo, 2010). Although these figures are less than those for females,1 they are still substantial, and indicative of a large number of Australian males living with the painful legacy of child sexual abuse. Compared to women with a history of child sexual abuse, little is known about these men and how their history of abuse impacts on their lived experience (Nalavany & Abell, 2004; Sorsoli, Kia-Keating, & Grossman, 2008; Teram, Stalker, Hovey, Schachter, & Lasiuk, 2006).

A body of research now demonstrates that a history of sexual abuse can have a profound influence on women's perceptions and experience of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood (Klaus, 2010; Simkin & Klaus, 2004; Sperlich & Seng, 2008). Such insights into the experiences of victim/survivor mothers are important because they can inform improved service provision and policy development in fields such as health, mental health, maternal and parenting education, and child and family welfare (Simkin & Klaus, 2004). However, such experiences would not be completely applicable to a male victim/survivor of child sexual abuse. Indeed, as gender can strongly influence the ways in which the trauma of child sexual abuse is experienced, manifested, and treated (Crome, 2006; Draucker, 2003; Getz, 2011), many male victim/survivors who are or plan to be fathers may face challenges that are quite distinct from those commonly reported by female victim/survivors. Researchers are only just beginning to empirically investigate the ways in which a history of child sexual abuse can influence men's perceptions and experience of fatherhood.2


1 Evidence suggests that the prevalence rate of child sexual abuse for females is roughly double that of males: 7-12% for penetrative abuse and 23-34% for non-penetrative abuse (Price-Robertson et al., 2010).

2 In this paper, the term "perception" (as in "perceptions and experience of fatherhood") is used to denote the feelings and attitudes towards fatherhood of all male victim/survivors of child sexual abuse, including those who are or have been fathers, as well as those who have not. The term "experience" is relevant only to those who are or have been fathers.