There are many myths surrounding sexual assault. The truth is that sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status, ability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender, yet male sexual assault is a startling reality for many men:
- Research indicates that about 1 in 6 boys (18 and under) and 1 in 10 adult men have experienced sexually assaulted
- Most male survivors (as many as 95% of men who are assaulted) do not report it. Sexual assault is defined as any sexual contact with/of the breasts, buttocks, groin or genitals of another person, with any body-part or object against a person’s will or without consent.
- Sexual assault may also involve forced masturbation of another person. Rape is defined as any non-consensual sex or unwanted penetration (anal, oral) with any body-part or object.
- Most survivors of sexual assault and rape will experience physical, mental, and emotional effects from the assault, including sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, anger, shame or embarrassment, anxiety and/or feelings of vulnerability.
Unique issues for male survivors:
- Guilt or embarrassment about not being able to protect or defend oneself – Many people believe that a man should be able to defend himself against all odds, or that he should be willing to risk his life or severe injury to protect his pride and self-respect. Many male survivors may question whether they deserved or somehow wanted to be sexually assaulted because “they failed to defend themselves”. These beliefs about “manliness”
and “masculinity” are can lead to intense feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy for the male survivor of sexual assault. These feelings are normal, but remind yourself that you did what seemed best at the time to survive— there’s nothing unmasculine about that.
- Fear of not being believed or ridiculed – Many people think that sexual assault only happens to women. Few men report their assault or seek support from other resources, such as medical attention or psychiatric care. Many men will not tell friends and family due to fear of not being believed or being ridiculed resulting in feeling isolated and that they have no one to whom they can turn.
- Feeling confused, isolated or invalidated in their relationships – Many men pull back from relationships following an assault. Male survivors may develop sexual difficulties or begin questioning their sexuality after being assaulted. It can be difficult to resume sexual relationships or start new ones because sexual contact may trigger flashbacks, memories of the assault, or just plain bad feelings. – Take the time you need and don’t pressure
yourself to be sexual before you’re ready.
- Denial of injury or risks – Many male survivors not know or deny that their assault may have caused injury or feel like they can handle it on their own – to “tough it out.” Sexual assault can leave a male survivor exposed to sexually transmitted infections and well as bruises, cuts and lacerations which may be exposed to bacterial infections.
- Men are more likely to increase alcohol or drug use or engage in other self destructive or risky behaviors – As a result of feelings of guilt, shame and anger some men “punish” themselves often resulting in self-destructive behavior. For many men, this can mean increased alcohol or drug use, increased aggressiveness, like arguing with friends or co-workers or even picking fights with strangers.
- Men are at greater risk for attempting suicide after an assault – Additionally, male survivors of sexual assault are at increased risk for depression, experiencing trouble at work, physically injuries, or developing alcohol and drug problems.