What is known about effective recovery services for men who have been sexually abused?

What is known about effective recovery services fo…
01 Oct 2019
Summary Report
01 Dec 2019


This literature review brings together current evidence about effective approaches to support men who have been sexually abused (as children and/or adults) in their journey of recovery. The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) commissioned this literature review to inform service planning. Because of the limited evidence base we have taken a broad exploratory approach to examine what is known about supporting men, and what is considered emerging good practice.


A wide range of academic and grey literature was reviewed. To inform our literature search and provide insights into effective supports and service design we consulted with five experts who have extensive experience as practitioners and researchers.

Key Results

  • The psychological impact of sexual abuse experienced by men can include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, self-harm/suicide and self-blame.
  • Gender stereotypes that perceive men as dominant, tough and sexually driven compound the effects of sexual abuse on men and can increase feelings of shame, anger and psychological distress.
  • Sexual harm affects different groups of men in different ways. For Māori men, sexual harm is considered a violation of mana and can cause not only physical and psychological distress, but also cultural and spiritual distress.
  • Men disclose sexual harm at lower rates than women. Harmful myths that persist about the sexual abuse of men and boys serve to delay or prevent disclosure. Māori men and Pacific men may be discouraged from seeking support due to a lack of culturally responsive services.
  • Currently there are eight organisations in New Zealand funded by MSD to provide specialist support to male survivors in the form of peer support services. Most other services, including crisis services, counselling and helpline support, are available to everyone rather than men specifically. There are not enough culturally appropriate services for Māori, and particularly for Māori men.
  • Peer support for people with mental illness has been found to lead to improvements associated with hope, recovery and empowerment.
  • Cognitive and behavioural interventions have been found to decrease symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety in survivors of sexual harm. However, the majority of participants in these studies are women.
  • The evidence suggests a range of support options are needed, including long-term support tailored to men’s individual, social and cultural needs.
Page last modified: 26 Jan 2024