Research Brief: Sexual violence against boys is common and associated with physical and mental health consequences

Sexual violence against boys is common and associated with physical and mental health consequences


Globally, data on sexual violence against boys is not widely available. Even as research and public awareness efforts are drawing increased attention to violence against girls, the prevalence and risk factors for sexual violence among boys are largely unknown. Data on sexual violence against boys can be used to catalyze action to prevent and respond to this serious problem. This study used Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) data from 3 countries: Haiti, Kenya, and Cambodia. Data were collected among boys ages 13-24.

Key Findings

  • There were both consistencies and differences between countries in boys’ experiences of sexual violence in childhood.
    • Nearly one in four (23%) boys in Haiti experienced any form of sexual violence in childhood, compared to 15% in Kenya and 6% in Cambodia.
  • Despite some differences, across all countries the most common perpetrators were people who were known to the victim.
    • In Haiti, the most common perpetrators were friends or neighbors (65%).
    • In Kenya, the most common perpetrators were romantic partners (37%).
    • In Cambodia, the most common perpetrators were relatives (37%).
  • Most incidents of sexual violence against boys happened in the perpetrators’ or victims’ homes in Haiti (60%), compared with outside the home in Kenya (65%) and Cambodia (52%).
  • Victims of sexual violence experienced more health problems, including sexually transmitted infections, anxiety and depression, and thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts than non-victims.
  • Victims also reported more attitudes that are favorable to violence against women compared with non-victims, and were more likely to have sex with others in exchange for goods or services than non-victims.

What is added by this report?

This study found that although there were some differences across the three countries, the devastating effects of sexual violence on health were evident across the countries. The findings in this study suggests that prevention and response strategies that are tailored to the local context are needed to help meet the unique needs of each country and location.


Sumner SA, Mercy JA, Buluma R, Mwangi MW, Marcelin LH, Kheam T, Lea V, Brookmeyer K, Kress H, Hillis SD. Childhood sexual violence against boys: A study in 3 countries. Pediatrics 2016; 5: 1-11.

*Footnote: some variation between prevalence estimates from published papers and country reports may exist. This variation reflects slight differences in the subsamples and variables used in the analyses.

Page last reviewed: November 8, 2018