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Counseling & Health Center

For Male Victims of Sexual Assault

According to RAINN: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, as many as one in 33 males will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. These numbers may sound startling because the problem of sexual assault against males isn't discussed very often.

Sexual assault is any form of unwanted sexual contact obtained without consent and/or obtained through the use of force, threat of force, intimidation, or coercion. It can range from unwanted sexual contact over the clothes, like touching someone’s buttocks or genitals, to rape.

"Consent” is a clear and freely given yes--not the absence of a no.

No matter how it occurs, sexual assault is a violation of a person's body and his free will, and it can have lasting emotional consequences.

Myth vs. Reality

There are many mistaken beliefs about the sexual assault of males.

MythReality
Males can’t be sexually assaulted. Any man can be sexually assaulted regardless of size, strength, appearance, or sexual orientation.
Gay males are more likely to be assaulted. Heterosexual, gay, and bisexual males are equally likely to be sexually assaulted. Regardless of a male's sexual orientation, a sexual assault is never his fault.
Gay males are more likely to sexually assault other males. According to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, most males who sexually assault other males identify themselves as heterosexual. This fact helps to highlight the reality that sexual assault is about violence, anger, and control over another person, not lust or sexual attraction.
Males cannot be sexually assaulted by women. Males can be sexually assaulted by women. Many people have difficulty understanding how a female could sexually assault a male. It may help to remember that sexual assault does not always involve penetration, but includes any unwanted contact, such as being grabbed, fondled, groped, or kissed. However, most perpetrators are male.
Erection or ejaculation during a sexual assault means the male being assaulted “really wanted it” or gave consent. These physiological responses may result from mere physical contact or even extreme stress. They do not imply that the male wanted or enjoyed the assault and do not indicate anything about the male’s sexual orientation. If a perpetrator is aware of how these responses can confuse a victim of sexual assault, they may manipulate their victims to the point of erection or ejaculation to increase their feelings of control and to discourage reporting of the crime.

Unique issues faced by male victims/survivors

The perception that men can’t be sexually assaulted because a “real man” can protect himself may cause males to feel invulnerable to sexual assault. It may also intensify feelings of isolation and shame after an assault occurs. Male victims/survivors often question whether they deserved or wanted to be sexually assaulted, because they feel that they failed to prevent the assault. Some male victims/survivors question their sexual orientation.

Feelings of guilt, shame, and anger may lead to self-destructive behavior, including increased alcohol or other drug use, increased aggressiveness, and withdrawal from close relationships with friends and partner. After being sexually assaulted, male survivors may experience difficulties with intimacy, such as trusting people, exploring new relationships, or enjoying sexual activity (if choosing to be sexually active). All victims/survivors need to understand that recovery may take time. They need to have patience with themselves and resist the pressure to be sexually active before they are ready.

For heterosexual males who have been assaulted by males, sexual assault may cause them to question or be confused about their sexuality. Unfortunately, many people have distorted ideas about male victims/survivors of sexual assault. For example, many people believe that gay males are more likely to be sexually assaulted. Perpetrators often accuse victims/survivors of enjoying the sexual assault, leading some victims/survivors to question their own experiences or feelings. In fact, being sexually assaulted has nothing to do with one’s sexual orientation in the past, present, or future. People do not “become gay” as a result of being sexually assaulted.

Sexual assault can lead gay males to attach feelings of self-blame and self-loathing to their sexual orientation. Sexual assault may lead a gay male to believe he somehow “deserved it,” or that he was “paying the price” for his sexual orientation. Ignorance or intolerance from those who blame the victim/survivor can reinforce this belief.

Gay males may also hesitate to report a sexual assault due to fears of blame, disbelief, or intolerance by police or medical personnel. As a result gay males may be deprived of legal protection and necessary medical care following an assault.

Some sexual assaults of males are actually forms of gay-bashing, motivated by fear and hatred of homosexuality. In these cases, perpetrators may verbally abuse their victims and imply that the victim deserved to be sexually assaulted. It’s important to remember that sexual assault is an act of violence, power, and control and that no one deserves it.

Adapted from UHS Website @UW- Madison 7/14