Our study sought to explore patterns of disclosure of child sexual abuse (CSA) in a sample of adult men and women.
A telephone survey conducted with a representative sample of adults (n = 804) from Quebec assessed the prevalence of CSA and disclosure patterns. Analyses were carried out to determine whether disclosure groups differed in terms of psychological distress and symptoms of posttraumatic stress, and a logistic regression was used to examine factors associated with prompt disclosure.
Prevalence of CSA was 22.1% for women and 9.7% for men. About 1 survivor out of 5 had never disclosed the abuse, with men more likely not to have told anyone, than women. Only 21.2% of adults reported prompt disclosure (within a month of the first abusive event), while 57.5% delayed disclosure (more than 5 years after the first episode). CSA victims who never disclosed the abuse and those who delayed disclosure were more likely to obtain scores of psychological distress and posttraumatic stress achieving clinical levels, compared with adults without a history of CSA. In the multivariate analysis, experiencing CSA involving a perpetrator outside the immediate family and being female were factors independently associated with prompt disclosure.
A significant number of adult women and men reported experiencing CSA, and most victims attested to either not disclosing or significantly delaying abuse disclosure.