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Some Facts About Male Survivors of Sexual Assault

In Sexual Assault Awareness on July 2, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Rape can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime.  Any male can be the victim of sexual assault, regardless of age, class, race, disability or sexual orientation.

Although few men expect to be raped, it happens more than most people realize.  Approximately one in twelve adults seen by Sexual Assault Services are men.

Thousands of men are raped each year, yet only a fraction of these assaults are reported.  Male rape is one of the most under reported of crimes; male rape survivors are among the most under-served crime victims.

In our society, enormous stigma is associated with being the victim of sexual assault.

Survivors of sexual assault frequently encounter unsupportive or even hostile reactions from the criminal justice system, social service providers, family friends and lovers.

As a result, male survivors of sexual assault too often suffer the enormous trauma that rape can create in isolation and silence, trying to forget that the assault ever happened. Below are several common myths associated with male sexual assault followed by a brief outline of the facts.

Myth: A strong man can´t be raped.  He must have consented.  
Fact: In fact, being strong is no defence against rape and just because a man did not fight off his attacker does not mean he consented.  Surprise, a weapon, threats, being outnumbered or frozen by fear, makes fighting back impossible for most victims.  Any man can be raped when his attacker, for whatever reason, has more power.

Myth: Men are the offenders of sexual assault not the victims.
Fact: Although most offenders of sexual violence are men, men can also be victims.

Myth: Only gay men are raped.
Fact: Both heterosexual and homosexual men are raped and statistics show that victims are more likely to be straight than gay.  Sexual preference is not generally relevant, except perhaps where the victim is the target of an attack motivated by homophobia.

Myth: Only gay men rape other men.
Fact: Both heterosexual and homosexual men rape other men. Those who commit sexual assault are motivated by the desire for power over others and so sexual preference is not particularly relevant to them.

Myth: Men do not usually know their assailant.
Fact: Although men are sometimes sexually assaulted by strangers, it is more common for them to know their attacker.  Sexual Assault Services see men who have been raped by strangers, acquaintances, family members, teachers, colleagues, youth leaders, and others.


Myth:
 If it´s someone you know, it´s not rape.
Fact: Your rights over your body are the same whoever is involved.  If the attacker is someone you know and trust, the abuse is in many ways worse.

Myth: If a victim is sexually aroused during a sexual assault, it means he wants to be raped.
Fact: Sometimes males who are being raped experience or are forced into a state of sexual arousal.  This does not mean that the individual wants to be raped.  This response, which may be involuntary, is one way the body chooses to protect itself from the physical and emotional trauma of the attack.

Myth: Men can’t be raped.
Fact: Any person can be the victim of rape.  Although outdated laws in NY State define rape of males as “sodomy”, the reality of the crime and the intensity of its impact make sexual assault one of the most devastating acts of violence a male can experience.

Myth: Rape of men only happens in prison.
Fact: Those who claim that rape of males happens only in prisons contribute to the continuing denial of the problem of rape in the larger community.  Sexual assault can occur anytime, anyplace.

Myth: All rape victims are young and weak.
Fact: Any male, no matter how old or strong, can be the victim of sexual assault.

Myth: The best way to cope with rape is to forget about it.
Fact: Denying the impact of rape can have serious emotional consequences.  Virtually any reaction is normal.  These can include anger, fear, guilt, self-blame, denial, depression, sexual dysfunction, sleeplessness, feelings of helplessness, feelings of being out of control and difficulty with concentration.  The intensity of these feelings can contribute to the individual’s decision not to tell anyone about the assault.

Men who have been raped are often very reluctant to seek help.  They are accustomed to bottling things up rather than talking about them.  Their reluctance to speak out may be increased by the fact that they are misled by some of the myths and misconceptions about men and rape, which are common in the community.  Although it can be hard at first to talk about the effects of being assaulted, most people find that it is very helpful to do so.

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