Society tends to place a greater eye on female victimization when it comes to rape and sexual assault. I get that. It’s pretty scary to think about the physical strength of a male vs. the strength of a female and the odds of defending herself. There’s a bit of testosterone involved.
Females are not the only victims of rape, and we are doing society a disservice by neglecting this important reality.
As we know, instances of sexual assault and rape are markedly underreported for many reasons. According to the National Institute of Justice, these are some of the more common reasons that men and women do not report sexual abuse:
- lack of support by authorities
- distrust of legal system
- fear of retribution
- afraid of what others will think
Consider this: what if a male is physically or psychologically forced into having sex, either by a man or woman? There is an untruth that all guys “want it”, so males cannot be raped. Another fallacy is if a man is raped, he must identify as gay. Imagine how difficult it would be to report the assault when the societal assumptions about male sexuality are so skewed.
According to Sally Strosahl, M.A., LCPC, this situation is more common than we realize, and the psychological effects on the male victim can be devastating, just as it is for other sexes (female and intersex*). She relayed the following story about a high school male with whom she had the privilege to counsel.
“Mike (not his real name) began to close himself off from friends and family. He often retreated to his bedroom after dinner rather than engage with the family as he usually had in the past. His appetite decreased as well and he began to lose weight.
Mike, who is typically upbeat and easygoing, suddenly became surly and easily irritated. As his personality continued down a negative path, his parents recognized this as an indicator of depression and sought out my therapeutic services.
After the first couple of sessions, he began sharing personal details about his relationship with his girlfriend. She was a bit older; a senior in contrast to his sophomore status.
Mike wasn’t quite ready for a sexual relationship, though he did enjoy time spent together. However, his girlfriend had different ideas and wanted to engage in sexual activity with this young man. Using psychological coercion, she forced him into a physically intimate relationship despite his preference to wait until he was ready.
Using threats such as, “ If you don’t have sex with me, I’ll tell everyone you have a small penis” or derogatory statements such as, “I don’t know why I bother going out with you. You have no idea how lucky you are to have me.” She was psychologically abusive by taking advantage of his vulnerability. Mentally beating Mike down, his “girlfriend” coerced him to have sex – otherwise knows as rape. However, this young woman soon grew bored with him and broke it off, possibly going on to her next sexual conquest.
After several sessions of therapeutic work, he slowly came to understand that he was a victim of rape, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Eventually he met a new girl – his age – and has a healthy relationship thanks to the hard work this young man went through with counseling and with the support of his parents.
I want to emphasize that as awful as rape and sexual assault is for a victim, not getting the appropriate psychological help to recover can make the situation infinitely worse. I encourage all victims of abuse – sexual or other – to seek help. It is not your fault – no matter if you are male or female. Get help.”
Sexual assault of men is real. Because of the social stigma attached to it, reporting is incredibly low. According to the Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine, 61% of all rapes are not reported. Male-only statistics are harder to come by because of the lack of reporting. Being aware that this actually occurs is the first step in advocating for these individuals.
Here are some telling statistics according to The Campus Sexual Assault Study researched by RTI International.
Since entering a college campu
We are all familiar with the media accounts of men in power who have sexually assaulted and abused young boys and men. Religious leaders, teachers, a university football coach … all using their authority to coerce males for their sexual pleasure and/or to demonstrate their dominance. But women can do the same.
I happened upon this interesting article When Men Are Raped by Hanna Rosin as I was finishing up this blog post. For further investigation about men who are sexually assaulted, I recommend this article.
Would you like more information or support? Please go to these links. You are NOT alone.
Universities also offer support and counseling. Please, go talk to someone. It’s not your fault.
(*Intersex: A person is born with ambiguous male and female anatomy – external as well as internal. Sometimes it is obvious at birth, other times it isn’t noticed until puberty, and sometimes a person never knows! There are several medical conditions associated with being intersex, including Turner Syndrome and Klinefelter Syndrome. This has nothing to do with sexual orientation. See my blog for more information about different types of identities.