The husband’s experience of his wife’s childhood sexual abuse: An exploratory study and implications for couple therapy

Stacey Hunt-Amos, Richard J. Bischoff, Rene Pretorius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Childhood sexual abuse is a prevalent problem that has persistent negative consequences. Although attention in the literature is focused on the survivor of the abuse, spouses of survivors of abuse also experience negative consequences of the abuse. This report summarizes the findings of a study designed to determine the experience and meanings attributed to that experience of husbands of women sexually abused as children. Using phenomenological methodology, in depth interviews were conducted with four men who did not learn until after they were married that their wives had been sexually abused as children. The study found that although the manner of discovery varied, periods of shock and disbelief were common. As the realization of the reality of the abuse set in, each of these men experienced anger. Unfortunately, the anger disrupted the marital relationship and hindered the wife's recovery. Over time, husbands learned that their role in relation to their wife and the abuse was to be a trustworthy container of information about the abuse. Husbands learned that they had to give up their role as “fixer” and adopt a role as “supporter.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Couple and Relationship Therapy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 14 2004



  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Couple therapy
  • Partners of adult survivors of childhood abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

Cite this