Childhood sexual experiences and adult health sequelae among gay and bisexual men: Defining childhood sexual abuse
Gay and bisexual men carry the burden of HIV infections in the United States and have high rates of childhood sexual abuse that predict HIV and other health outcomes. This study examined differential effects of forced, consensual, and no childhood sexual experiences (CSE) on health outcomes among a probability sample of adult men who have sex with men (MSM). The forced sex group had the highest levels of psychological distress, substance use, and HIV risk. There were no differences in rates of depression and suicidal ideation between the consensual- and no-sex groups. The consensual- and forced-sex groups had higher rates of substance use and transmission risk than the no-sex group. The forced-sex group, however, had significantly higher rates of frequent drug use and high-risk sex than the consensual group. Findings suggest that forced CSEs result in a higher-risk profile than consensual or no childhood sexual experiences, the kind of risk pattern differs between forced and consensual childhood sexual experiences, and the underlying mechanisms that maintain risk patterns may vary. It is important to clarify risk patterns and mechanisms that maintain them differentially for forced and consensual sex groups so that interventions may be tailored to the specific trajectories related to each experience.