Exploring Childhood sexual experiences and vulnerability to intimate partner violence among African American MSMW: Was that abuse or love?

John K. Williams, Kimberly A. Kisler, Dorie Glover, Andres F Sciolla

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background Childhood sexual abuse among men who have sex with men (MSM) has been associated with increased sexual risk for HIV infection, poorer psychological outcomes, and adult sexual and physical revictimization through intimate partner violence (IPV). For non-gay identifying (NGI) African American men who have sex with men and women (MSMW), a less studied population, appraisal and self-definition of childhood sexual experiences may influence sexual identity and the ability to establish safe physical and sexual boundaries. Attention to the relationship between appraisal of early sexual experiences and adult physical and sexual abuse needs to be considered when developing HIV risk reduction interventions for HIV-positive NGI African American MSMW. Methods Two groups, each meeting twice for 90-minutes, of HIV-positive NGI African American MSMW participated in semi-structured focus group discussions on childhood sexual experiences, appraisal and self-definition of these experiences, intimate adult relationships, and being HIV-positive. Discussions were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using consensual qualitative research and a constant comparison qualitative method. Results The overall sample included 16 men with a mean age of 40.5 years, who were predominantly high school educated. A little more than a third of the sample was employed with almost two-thirds earning an annual income of less than $20,000. Three major themes, each with two domains, were identified and included childhood sexual experiences, sexual identity, and intimate partner violence. The domains under childhood sexual experiences included appraisal and sexual decision-making, which focused on how these men defined and associated sexual abuse with current sexual decisions and behaviors. Approximately one-third of the sample did not perceive childhood sexual experiences to be traumatic, but the majority believed these experiences affected sexual decision-making subsequently. The domains for sexual identity included undeclared and declared sexual identities and focused on whether these men experienced difficulties in defining their sexual identities. Approximately half of the sample believed childhood sexual experiences contributed to confusion and high-risk exploration of their sexuality. Intimate partner violence included the domains of normative behavior and abuse equates to love and focused on how the men framed their adult experiences with abuse and its association to childhood experiences. Intimate partner violence was viewed to be commonplace throughout African American relationships in general, due to mirroring behaviors displayed by parents and violence being a proxy for manhood, strength, and love. Men reported being both victim and perpetrator in both male-female and male-male relationships with approximately half of the sample believing that IPV was not a reason to terminate a relationship. Conclusion Understanding how HIV-positive NGI African American MSMW interpret early sexual experiences may have an impact on sexual decision-making, sexual identity formation, and the ability to form healthy adult intimate relationships. The impact of early sexual experiences, with attention on appraisal of the incidents, must be considered when developing HIV risk reduction interventions for HIV-positive NGI African American MSMW.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSexual Abuse: Types, Signs and Treatments
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Pages1-22
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781612096117
StatePublished - 2011

Keywords

  • African American MSMW
  • HIV interventions
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)

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