Deep and almost unbearable suffering: consequences of childhood sexual abuse for men's health and well-being

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Abstract

Previous studies indicate that childhood sexual abuse can have extensive and serious consequences. The aim of this research was to do a qualitative study of the consequences of childhood sexual abuse for Icelandic men's health and well-being. Phenomenology was the methodological approach of the study. Totally 14 interviews were conducted, two per individual, and analysed based on the Vancouver School of Phenomenology. The main results of the study showed that the men describe deep and almost unbearable suffering, affecting their entire life, of which there is no alleviation in sight. The men have lived in repressed silence most of their lives and have come close to taking their own lives. What stopped them from committing suicide was revealing to others what happened to them which set them free in a way. The men experienced fear- or rage-based shock at the time of the trauma and most of them endured the attack by dissociation, disconnecting psyche and body and have difficulties reconnecting. They had extremely difficult childhoods, living with indisposition, bullying, learning difficulties and behavioural problems. Some have, from a young age, numbed themselves with alcohol and elicit drugs. They have suffered psychologically and physically and have had relational and sexual intimacy problems. The consequences of the abuse surfaced either immediately after the shock or many years later and developed into complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of perceived societal prejudice, it was hard for the men to seek help. This shows the great need for professionals to be alert to the possible consequences of childhood sexual abuse in their practice to reverse the damaging consequences on their health and well-being. We conclude that living in repressed silence after a trauma, like childhood sexual abuse, can be dangerous for the health, well-being and indeed the very life of the survivor.

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