Summary: Research has documented wide-ranging psychological impacts of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) for male survivors, but their experience of relationships is understudied. This qualitative review aimed to synthesize the qualitative literature concerning the experience of partner relationships for male CSA survivors. Electronic searches were conducted across PsycINFO, CINAHL, and PubMed, complemented by hand searches of references. Searches were limited to English-language peer-reviewed studies. Studies were included if they sampled adult male CSA survivors and reported qualitative data on their experience of partner relationships. Sixteen studies met the review criteria. Articles were quality-appraised using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme qualitative checklist (2018), and narrative synthesis derived five themes: “sexual orientation confusion,” “sexual intimacy difficulties,” “the barrier of emotional intimacy,” “navigating agency,” and “healing and growth through love.” Key findings were male CSA survivors can face considerable barriers to relational intimacy; however, romantic relationships also offer a space to heal and experience post-traumatic growth (PTG). Clinicians should be aware of the diffuse impacts CSA can have upon male survivors’ intimate relationships. Helping survivors and their partners build a safe space in which to process CSA, reassert agency and relational boundaries, and express love and validation can support survivors toward PTG. (Authors’ abstract).
Primary authors: Weetman, Chloe. | Kiemle, Gundi | Lowe, Michelle | Balfour, Robert