Boston College School of Social Work Assistant Professor Scott Easton has been awarded $156,500 from the National Institute on Aging to study male survivors of child sexual abuse, a vulnerable, often isolated, and vastly underserved population that is in serious need of practical support and interventions.
“We know that childhood events can have a long reach but we are absent a large body of evidence about how extensive this reach is,” says David Takeuchi, Associate Dean of Research at BC Social Work. “Scott’s novel and exciting project will provide new evidence about how child sexual abuse and other childhood events can have long lasting impact across the lifespan into older adulthood.”
Easton’s award is for a “Population Analysis of Male Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse at Mid and Later Life,” and represents one of the first ever studies of male survivors of child abuse using the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), a massive source of data that followed its participants beginning with their 1957 high school graduation, until many reached their 70s.
A major goal of Easton’s study is to analyze the WLS data using three concepts central to his work: disclosure history (when and what was the response to abuse), gender norms (was there a hyper masculine response or something different), and coping strategies (were the men able to process their experiences, and how did this affect their mental health). Following this grant, he plans to further expand the study to even larger populations, and one day, to design and evaluate clinical interventions.
Ultimately, it’s in the world outside where Easton envisions the most important outcomes of his research. Throughout his life, he’s known friends, families, and clients that have stayed quiet and suffered following a history of abuse, embarrassed that they might be alone in their experiences. “My deepest hope is that this scientific research can one day lead to real world solutions to impact people’s lives,” he explains. “I want to be able to help people to overcome the barriers they encounter, to seek out proper care to reduce their own suffering, and to find ways to realize their potential moving forward.”
Easton is fast-becoming a sought after voice on a topic that is in need of advocates. He publishes frequently on this research topic, and because of his experience, Easton was appointed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley to serve on the Archdiocese Review Board for the Catholic Church of Boston.
In addition to his accomplishments in research, Easton has experience working as a therapist or counselor in several practice settings (public agency, adolescent substance abuse center, and university admissions). At BC, he teaches Human Behavior in the Social Environment, Psychosocial Pathology, and Research Methods.