Outcomes of sexual abuse differentiated by victim gender and perpetrator gender.

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Master of Science
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Gunn, J. M.

Most research regarding sexual abuse has focused on male perpetrators and the impact female-perpetrated sexual abuse has on victims remains comparatively unknown. How female-perpetrated sexual abuse impacts victims is important to understand to assess how it differs from male-perpetrated sexual abuse and how best to support these victims. To address this gap, the current study aimed to measure outcomes experienced by sexual abuse victims, and identify any differences in outcomes by victim gender and/or perpetrator gender(s). 109 female and 100 male adults who self-identified as victims of sexual abuse took part in the current study and completed an anonymous online survey. Participants were recruited from Prolific, New Zealand sexual abuse victim agencies and online discussion forums, and a New Zealand university. Findings suggested that female participants reported significantly higher symptoms relating to dissociation, anxiety, depression, sexual abuse trauma, total symptoms and lower self-esteem, once covariates were controlled for, compared to male participants. Perpetrator gender was only significantly associated with drug and alcohol use, whereby participants abused by males only reported significantly lower use than participants abused by females only and both males and females. No significant interaction effects between victim gender and perpetrator gender(s) were identified. These findings suggest that females may display worse outcomes following sexual abuse in many areas compared to males, but that perpetrator gender does not seem to be associated with negative effects of sexual abuse. Predominantly internalising symptoms, which are elevated for females in general, were measured, however. From these findings, it is concluded that sexual abuse perpetrated by a female is as damaging for victims as male-perpetrated sexual abuse. Findings could help shape professional and laypeople’s views which often perceive that sexual abuse perpetrated by a female is not as harmful for victims as male-perpetrated sexual abuse.

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