Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Male Survivors
- Can men be sexually assaulted?
- What is male sexual assault?
- Who can be a perpetrator of male sexual assault?
- What are typical reactions during or after a sexual assault?
- What should I do if I was sexually assaulted?
Yes - many people believe that sexual assault is only committed by men against women. While the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by men, the fact is that 1 out of every 10 men is a victim of sexual assault, including childhood sexual assault.
Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact. It can be committed by the use of threats or force or when circumstances make one incapable of giving consent, such as intoxication or being below the age of consent, or when one is capable of giving consent, but does not. Male sexual assault can, for example, include unwanted touching, fondling, or groping of a male's body including the penis, scrotum or buttocks, even through his clothes. Male rape is any kind of sexual assault that involves forced oral or anal sex, including any amount of penetration of the anus or mouth with a body part or any other object. Male rape can also include forcing or coercing someone to penetrate another's mouth, anus or vagina.
A man can be sexually assaulted by a stranger, a family member, or someone he knows and trusts. Both men and women can sexually assault men. However, most sexual assaults against men are committed by other men, who actually identify themselves as heterosexual. It is important not to jump to the conclusion that man-against-man sexual assault only happens between men who are gay. Sexual assault is not about sexual desire or sexual orientation; it is about violence, control and humiliation.
Sexual assault is always a traumatic experience. Men usually share many of the same feelings of female sexual assault survivors such as denial, fear of being blamed, judged or not believed, guilt, shame, anger, sadness and withdrawal. However, male survivors may often experience these same feelings in a different way. For example, the male survivor may feel guilty (believing he is at fault for not preventing the assault) or shame (as though being assaulted makes him "dirty", "weak" or less of a "real man").
Men are also concerned about what the assault means in terms of their sexuality and/or masculinity. If a male victim became sexually aroused, had an erection or ejaculated during the sexual assault, he may not believe that he was raped. These are involuntary physical reactions. They do not mean that the victim wanted to be sexually assaulted, or that the survivor enjoyed the traumatic experience. Just as with women, a sexual response does not mean there was consent.
The experience of sexual assault may affect gay and heterosexual men differently. Gay men may have difficulties in their sexual and emotional relationships with other men and think that the assault occurred because they are gay. Heterosexual men often begin to question their sexual identify and are more disturbed by the sexual aspect of the assault than any violence involved.
Our society fails to see that men can be victims so men often have a difficult time accepting their own victimization and delay reporting to law enforcement and seeking help and support.
If you are a male survivor of sexual assault, remember:
- It was not your fault that you were assaulted
- You are not alone
- You have the right to do any or all of these things:
- ASK FOR SUPPORT: Talk with someone you trust and/or get help by calling the SATC hotline at 524-7273.
- SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION: Even if you think that you do not have any physical injuries, you should still have a medical examination. Although you may feel embarrassed about your injuries you may have been exposed to sexually transmitted infections so you need to ensure your own personal health and safety. Medical providers will, with your permission, collect physical evidence to be used if you decide to prosecute.
- REPORT IT TO THE AUTHORITIES: If you want to report the crime, notify the police. Reporting the crime may help you regain a sense of personal power and control and can also help to ensure the safety of other potential victims.
- Take it seriously.
- Ask him what you can do to support him.
- Let him know that it was not his fault.
- Let him know he is not alone.
- Tell him that help is available and encourage him to call the SATC crisis hotline.
- Do not pressure him to do certain things. He needs to know that he has choices and that you support him.
Strong or weak, outgoing or withdrawn, homosexual or heterosexual, old or young, male or female; no one does anything that justifies sexual assault.
(Adapted from material from the Student Health Services of Brown University and the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault)