It would be nice if 2019 is the year that the stigma around male survivors of sexual assault ends. Movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp have energized the conversation around sexual assault and have held abusers of both women and men accountable for their actions. Sadly, men’s sexual assault often remains overlooked. 1 out of every 4 men will be a victim of sexual assault, and 1 in 6 men will have experienced sexual assault in their childhood. These numbers are probably underestimated. According to clinical research done by Scott Easton of Boston College School of Social Work, men are not only less likely to report being sexually assaulted, but they will also wait on average of 20 years to make a report.
There are a lot of misconceptions about who sexually assaults males. Not only is it a false belief that male survivors were all abused by homosexual men, it is actually more probable statistically that the abuser would identify as heterosexual. While a perpetrator could be anyone, it remains unlikely that the survivor was victimized by a stranger. In fact, 20% of male sexual assaults occur in the home of family or friends, and commonly happen within a short distance of the victim’s home. Assaults by a known person are referred to as attachment trauma, and can cause even more destructive emotional trauma in the victim. Another typical myth is that women cannot sexually abuse a man. This is completely false, as a person can be victimized by either a man or woman. Furthermore, a National Crime Victimization Survey found when analyzing cases, that 28% of male sexual assaults involve a sole female abuser, and 38% of cases involve at least one female.
The challenge facing male survivors is the archaic views that stigmatize them. Male survivors feel embarrassed or ashamed of their inability to fend off the abuser or their impotence in preventing the abuser to establish power over them. These are classic examples of the harmful practice of victim blaming. It is vital to understand that no survivor of sexual assault is at fault for their own victimization. Male survivors typically deal with feelings of depression, panic and anxiety, and are more at risk to become addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Additionally, the assault can be an extremely confusing experience for the man. Male victims of sexual assault commonly grapple with the implications about their sexuality after being victimized by a male. Even if the victim became sexually aroused during the assault, this is no indication of the victim’s sexual orientation, nor does it imply that the victim consented to the assault. But being victimized by a woman is also confusing. Men who hear about high school, or even middle school, students having sex with the “hot” teacher often joke about it. The reality is that, like most sexual assault, this is about power. So boys who are assaulted learn skewed power relationships. They need help every bit as much as a boy assaulted by a man.
The most degrading myth concerning male survivors is that being a survivor will make them more likely to abuse someone else. A 2016 study analyzing this correlation found only 3% of the victimized boys studied, sexually abused someone else later in life. Therapy and support can be life-changing for those experiencing emotional trauma, yet the negative attitudes toward male sexual assault have prevented survivors from the healing process for too long. By debunking these myths, male survivors can begin to realize that they are not alone and are not doomed to isolation.
If you or someone you know has been a male victim of sexual assault, contact Koller Trial Law for a free consultation.