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Never-Betrayed Men Less Likely to Indulge in Child Sex Abuse

A University of Oregon study has found that young men who have never been traumatized are the least likely population// to believe a person’s recounting of child sexual abuse.

The study – published in the March issue of the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly – also finds that males with high sexism beliefs also tend to believe that such incidents, if they happened at all, were not harmful to the victim.

Some 80,000 cases of child sexual abuse are reported annually in the United States, according to federal statistics. Jennifer Freyd, a UO professor of psychology and co-author of the new study, reported in the journal Science in 2005 that abuse involving sexual contact between adults and children has been experienced by at least 20 percent of women and as many as 10 percent of men worldwide, and that 86 percent of sexual abuse cases are never reported to authorities.

Freyd has since been studying the factors that may explain why some people don’t believe that such abuses occur, a phenomenon that discourages victims from speaking out and allows perpetrators to escape unpunished and possibly repeat such crimes.

'Until we change societal attitudes, abuse victims are less likely to speak up,' said lead author Lisa DeMarni Cromer, a former UO doctoral student who has since graduated. 'That means that abuse can keep occurring to them, and that they won't get the societal support they need. It's positive social support and being believed that is most likely leading to positive mental health outcomes.'

In the new study, 318 university students were divided into groups based on self-reporting of abuse history and sexist attitudes. They heard short vignettes in which a male or female described an incident that occurred at age 9 years involving an adult figure. The victim in each case also reported whether the memory has always remained fresh, since the incident or if it was recently recalled.

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