What Is “Sexual Assault?”
In legal terms, sexual assault is any sexual contact that is against a person’s will or without consent. This includes situations where force, violence, or weapons are used as well as situations where the victim is too intoxicated or scared to give consent. Sexual assault happens to men as well as women. In fact, by most estimations, 5% to 10% of sexual assaults committed in the United States involve male victims. Some experts say that as many as 1 in 10 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. These numbers may sound startling because the problem of sexual assault against men isn’t talked about very much.
Sexual assault against men happens in lots of different ways. Some men are assaulted by a stranger, or a group of strangers, while others may be assaulted by someone they know. Men are sometimes sexually assaulted by women but most often they are sexually assaulted by other men. Some attackers use weapons, physical force, or the threat of force to gain the upper hand. Others may use blackmail or a position of authority to threaten someone into submission. Still others use alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both, to prevent victims from fighting back. No matter how it occurs, it is a violation of a man’s body and his free will and it can have lasting emotional consequences.
Myth Vs. Reality
Let’s take a look at some mistaken beliefs about male sexual assault and uncover the realities behind the myths…
Myth: Men can’t be sexually assaulted. Reality: Men are sexually assaulted. Any man can be sexually assaulted regardless of size, strength, appearance or sexual orientation.
Myth: Only gay men are sexually assaulted. Reality: Heterosexual, gay and bisexual men are equally likely to be sexually assaulted. Being sexually assaulted has nothing to do with your current or future sexual orientation. Your sexuality has no more to do with being raped than being robbed.
Myth: Only gay men sexually assault other men. Reality: Most men who sexually assault other men identify themselves as heterosexual. This fact helps to highlight another reality — that sexual assault is about violence, anger, and control over another person, not lust or sexual attraction.
Myth: Men cannot be sexually assaulted by women. Reality: Although the majority of perpetrators are male, men can also be sexually assaulted by women.
Myth: Erection or ejaculation during a sexual assault means you “really wanted it” or consented to it. Reality: Erection and ejaculation are physiological responses that may result from mere physical contact or even extreme stress. These responses do not imply that you wanted or enjoyed the assault and do not indicate anything about your sexual orientation. Some rapists are aware how erection and ejaculation can confuse a victim of sexual assault — this motivates them to manipulate their victims to the point of erection or ejaculation to increase their feelings of control and to discourage reporting of the crime.