“If you call yourself a victim, you’re acknowledging that something happened to you that you couldn’t control. You couldn’t defend yourself or fight back. Men grow up being told we’re supposed to be tough, we’re supposed to be masculine and self-sufficient, we should be able to defend ourselves and others. My father was teaching me how to fight before I was being taught to read.”
– Writer, Santino Hassell
Not only are men denied the language to speak of their assaults, their experiences of sexual abuse and violence are erased on a widespread scale. Sexual violence on men is very much under-reported as compared to sexual violence on females. Male survivors of rape and sexual assault are less likely to report the crime and seek help largely because of society’s emphasis on the role of men and boys. Male victims of sexual violence may feel ashamed because they were overpowered or dominated, and shame may contribute to feeling of isolation and a hesitation to seek professional help. They may also feel that they are “less of a man” and no longer have control over their own body. Male survivors may feel a particular sense of disturbance from the notion that they could not protect themselves from an attack and were somehow conquered, even if the attack consisted of numerous rapists.
Sexual violence on men may involve touching, penetration, genital-to-genital contact, or even a physical attack that is sexualized in some form or another. These attacks may be performed by more than one perpetrator and can result in severe injuries and physical pain for the victim. Post-sexual violence treatments for men may initially result in feelings of discomfort and humiliation due to the procedures involved. Male survivors may have to undergo a rectal examination to check for injuries and evidence of the attackers. The genitals may also be examined, as well as the mouth and throat if oral penetration occurred.
It doesn’t matter whether the victim is gay, bisexual, or heterosexual, sexual violence can be extremely traumatic and difficult to work through. Heterosexual males may begin to think that the sexual assault makes them gay or that they will eventually turn homosexual. While men may feel the need to withdraw from any and all sexual relationships for some time following the trauma, they should be reassured that it does not change their personality or their sexual preference in any way.
Bisexual and gay victims are often targeted because of their sexual orientation. Because of its nature, this type of assault is considered a hate crime. While bisexual and gay men suffer through the same types of mental and physical trauma, they may also experience a few variations. For instance, gay male victims may blame their sexual orientation or themselves for the trauma. Furthermore, gay, bisexual and transgender rape and assault victims commonly feel that they will receive disrespectful or hostile treatment from hospitals or other trauma treatment centers as a result of their orientation or lifestyle choice. Any rape victim, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, should be reassured and reminded that the rape was in no way, shape or form their fault.
Addressing the issue of male sexual victimization and yes, the existence of female perpetrators, does not in any way, diminish the need for our continued conversation and focus and resources for female victims of sexual violence, and conversations about male perpetrators, and ending that whole cycle as well. Our resources and our compassion in general should be neither finite nor gender-segregated. No one deserves to be raped and sexually assaulted. No one deserves to be coerced. No one deserves harassment or unwanted sexual contact.
Everyone, everyone, should have access to resources, and a pathway to healing.
Helpful Reading for Male Survivors of Sexual Violence
- When men are victims
- When a man is raped
- Victims No Longer (Second Edition): The Classic Guide for Men Recovering from Sexual Child Abuse
- Speaking Our Truth: Voices of Courage and Healing for Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
- Broken Boys / Mending Men: Recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse
- Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse
- A study of male survivors