Understanding Health Risks and Promoting Resilience in Male Youth with Sexual Violence Experience

In 2015, SARAVYC will join a team of researchers seeking to increase health knowledge about and improve services for male youth who have experienced sexual violence.The CIHR funded grant, led by Principal Investigator Christine Wekerle of McMaster University, will target Aboriginal youth health (mental health resilience) as well as the engagement of youths’ in violence prevention. The research will also target health risk behaviors, mediators of impairment, and resilience for health promotion.

The objectives are:

  1. to describe the mental and physical health impairment and resilience factors in males who have experienced sexual violence compared across a broad range of contexts
  2. to point towards promising intervention targets and service delivery contexts by documenting the mediators and moderators of the secxual violence impairment and sexual violence resilience relationship,
  3. to build and modify interventions addressing the complex trauma response within various service-providing contexts
  4. to strategically engage in knowledge translation to maximize reach and potential impact

Our goal is to form a network of researcher-community partnerships that demonstrate sustained investment in health and are prepared to address this hidden health problem. We want to forge an integrated knowledge transmission-research agenda over the next five years by bringing together 13 co-investigators working on nine multi-level projects


Lead by Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc SARAVYC will answer the following questions:

  1. What are the contexts, exploitation experiences, and related health challenges of sexually exploited homeless and street-involved boys, and do they differ from those of sexually exploited homeless and street-involved girls?
  2. What resilience factors are linked to lower odds of health problems among sexually exploited runaway and street-involved boys? What resilience factors are linked to lower odds of health problems among boys who are in school?
  3. How might we need to adapt an existing effective intervention among sexually exploited girls for it to be feasible and effective for sexually exploited boys to promote resilience and health risks?

In partnership with the McCreary Centre Society, Dr. Saewyc and SARAVYC will be conducting an 12-city survey of street-involved and homeless youth age 12-19, using the same participatory methods from 2006 and 2000.

During year 1, SARAVYC will be able to compare boys exploitation contexts with those of similarly street-involved girls, including age of first exploitation, housing, transience levels, and the timing of potential preceding exposures, such as first substance use, running away or being kicked out, as well as patterns of health risks and trauma responses. We will examine whether the contexts and prevalence of sexual exploitation have changed over time in BC for boys or girls, as well as changing patterns of accessing services among youth This information will support guidance to health and social services for boys and young men who have experienced exploitation, and inform intervention and policy.

We will also draw on two large-scale population surveys of school-based youth in BC and Minnesota, both of which ask boys (and girls) about childhood sexual asult, running away, health problems, and resilience factors. Although these surveys do not ask about sexual exploitation as a specific form of sexual abuse, we will be able to also test patterns of risk and resilience among boys, particularly those who are also runaways.

We will use multivariate modelling, primarily logistic regression and probability profiling, to identify how combinations of risk and protective factors influence the probability of health problems, such as suicide or self-harm, problem substance use and risky sexual behaviours. We will examine health and risks for sub-groups of boys, such as gay and bisexual boys, who are at higher risk for sexual abuse than heterosexual peers. These patterns will be used to identify promising avenues for interventions.

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