Associate Professor Scott Easton has contributed a chapter to the recently released book Understanding the Sexual Betrayal of Boys & Men, edited by renowned psychologist and psychoanalyst Richard B. Gartner. In this Q&A with Innovate, Easton discusses what it means to him to have been included in the project, some of the specifics of his chapter, and how the book has helped him to set new goals in his own work moving forward.
Tell us about how you became involved in this project.
Scott Easton: First of all, it’s a real honor to be a part of this book. Dr. Gartner is a leader in the field of treating men with trauma histories including sexual abuse. I remember studying his work during my own doctoral program. To now be included in his latest book is really gratifying. It’s an opportunity to be published alongside top professionals in the clinical, research, and advocate communities when it comes to this topic.
I was recommended to Dr. Gartner through the grapevine of scholars working on male victims of trauma, and I’m hopeful that’s due to the strength of my scholarship. My early mentors here at BC, including James Lubben, Alberto Godenzi, and Barbara Berkman, stressed the necessity of establishing a coherent, integrated program of research from the beginning of my career. I think that this helped me to delve deep into understanding a specific population, adult male victims of childhood sexual abuse, and establish scholarly expertise.
Give us a sense of what’s included in the chapter you were asked to complete.
SE: I was asked to provide an overview of existing research on male survivors of sexual abuse. In the chapter, I profile three specific areas of research in depth and paint a portrait of the scholarship in each of those areas. Briefly, they are:
- Predictors of mental health problems for male survivors of sexual abuse. Some survivors will experience depression, anxiety, and somatic problems, while others don’t. This study identified factors that predict psychosocial problems in this population.
- Barriers to disclosure. To get help, survivors need to first reach out to someone. There are a vast number of reasons why someone would hesitate to do so, including the stigma attached to sexual abuse. In the words of one survivor, “we feel like Vietnam War-era burn victims.” This section gets at some of the major barriers to disclosure that inhibit help-seeking and social support.
- Despite the trauma of sexual abuse, some survivors actually experience growth, including improvements in relationships or a renewed sense of purpose in life. Others don’t. Which factors are related to that sense of growth?
SE: Absolutely. By taking a fresh look at the scholarly landscape, I’ve definitely identified some new research directions I’d like to pursue. There are huge holes in the existing body of research. A few examples: There’s very little data on addictive behaviors like substance abuse or gambling habits of many survivors. We also know little about how experiencing sexual assault as a boy affects being a parent later in life, or how faith, hope, and social support may be mechanisms for recovery from sexual violence for boys/men. All of the topics have high relevance for clinical treatment, so there is great opportunity for this empirical research to inform practice.
What is most exciting to you about having been included in this project?
SE: This is just such a remarkable opportunity to disseminate research findings, not only to other scholars, but even more importantly, to practitioners. This book is intended primarily for therapists and for graduate schools training the next generation of mental health providers. It’s an amazing opportunity to reach people in the field who are actually helping the survivors.
Equally important, this book also serves as a resource for survivors themselves. Many people in the general public don’t have access to PsycINFO or other academic databases, so this is an opportunity for someone who is in distress to buy a practical resource off the shelf at Barnes & Noble and embark upon a self-help or self-recovery process. That is deeply satisfying.