An exploration of how British South Asian male survivors of childhood sexual abuse make sense of their experiences
Despite the existence of long settled South Asian communities in Britain, there is a dearth of research on child sexual abuse. Moreover, most of the existing literature considers the experiences of women. This study aims to explore the phenomenon of child sexual abuse among British South Asian male survivors and to understand how they make sense of their experiences. A three phase approach was utilised consisting of semi-structured interviews with six service providers working in a sexual abuse counselling organisation; two single gender focus groups with members of British South Asian communities who had not experienced child sexual abuse; and semi-structured interviews with eight British South Asian male survivors of child sexual abuse. Their accounts were analysed separately using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Superordinate themes from the service provider interviews included: what stops survivors disclosing abuse, the effects of child sexual abuse on survivors, the impact of culture, and being a man. Themes gleaned from the focus groups were culture and community, gender differences, generational differences, izzat and sharam and attitudes to counselling. Themes from the survivor interviews included disclosing child sexual abuse, masculinity and sexuality, the impact of culture and experiences of counselling. Through the lens of masculinities theory, the study argues that the way British South Asian men construct and understand experiences of child sexual abuse is largely determined by cultural and societal expectations of ‘being a man’. Cultural imperatives of shame and honour when contextualised within the masculinities framework were shown to be crucial to South Asian men’s experiences of child sexual abuse. Experiences of counselling were on the whole positive, but service providers had largely homogenized views of South Asian communities, mirrored in the focus group discussions, where a distrust of service providers was expressed, as well as concerns around the cultural ignorance of some service providers. On the basis of the findings, recommendations for service providers include discreet forms of community based support, online counselling, greater outreach work with British South Asian communities and improved equality and diversity training. For policymakers, it is recommended that more funding is allocated for sexual abuse support services, and best practice guidelines are developed for agencies working with male survivors of abuse. Future research directions include the application of intersectionality theory to British Asian survivors’ experiences; more research focusing on abuse across different faith groups; documenting the experiences of survivors who have not yet disclosed to agencies, and gathering the perspectives of counsellors and service providers from a more diverse range of ethnic backgrounds.
- PhD