Sandusky Case Sheds Light on Sex Abuse

The Penn State sex-abuse scandal has triggered painful memories for child-molestation victims far beyond campus. And experts find the abuse has a different impact on boys than it does on girls. Girls who are molested by men suffer psychological damage, but the ramifications for boys run deeper because sex abuse often causes them to question their sexual identity or orientation. Jim Hopper, clinical instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, says socialization plays a key role: "A man says I'm not a real man, because I let someone do this to me ... Even after years of therapy they say this." The other prominent difference is that boys who are forced into sexual acts may still have an erection, an unwilling physiological response that makes them feel all the more confused, guilty—and less likely to report the encounter.