At least one in six men is sexually abused before his 18th birthday, and this number rises to one in four across the lifespan. Sexual and gender minority (SGM) men are exposed to traumatic events, particularly sexual violence, at even higher rates. SGM males suffer a host of negative mental health consequences from sexual abuse, including posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and dependence, depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior. They also experience a number of significant difficulties associated with minority stress, such as low self-esteem, sexual identity formation disturbances, and difficulties forming healthy adult intimate relationships. The cumulative impact of sexual abuse, in conjunction with individuals’ SGM status, also appears to result in higher rates of trauma and revictimization, including anti-gay violence and discrimination. Although SGM male survivors suffer significant psychological distress and disorders, they typically do not seek formal mental health treatment or they take, on average, decades to do so.
This study will investigate two different psychotherapies, delivered online by peer specialists with shared lived experience, to see if we can facilitate SGM male sexual abuse survivors’ formal entry into mental health services. Increasing their entry into mental health services may help address an important healthy disparity by alleviating their psychiatric distress, increasing their quality of life, and helping them get the treatment they need and deserve. Given the prevalence of sexual trauma in the lives of men, and its well-documented connection to mental and physical health disorders, facilitating their entry into formal mental health services is imperative.
In collaboration with MaleSurvivor, a nonprofit trauma survivor organization that provides resources to male abuse survivors and their loved ones, we will successfully recruit and retain participants, establish a community-based research advisory board to facilitate the identification and enlistment of participants, and work to develop plans to share the study progress and results in formats most useful to the different communities involved, including SGM participants, other trauma survivors, and SGM populations as well as their families.