It was October 3rd. I was starting my university life, meeting new people and finding new experiences. I felt like I was finally free from all my problems in the past, and that this was my chance to start over.
I went to a party at the beach, and I just wanted to feel like a normal teenager who hadn’t gone through all the issues I had already gone through so early in life. See, when I was 7 my brother sexually abused me and made me think that playing doctor was something every brother and sister did. This carried on for 3 years, and finally when I turned 15, I told my parents. I was confronted with how I was lying, and how “their son could never do something like that”. I felt pushed aside and worthless. I kept that secret with me for 9 years and I was trying to heal from what happened to me.
Being at that beach led to me drinking, which is something I never did as I grew up with a mother who struggled with heavy substance abuse, who is now skin and bones. I saw this beautiful brown haired boy who i thought would be interested in me, but in the end I woke up in the beach alley, naked with my clothes around me. I had said no, I was drunk, I had no control yet I blame myself for freezing and letting it happen, after I swore to myself I would never let It happen to me again. I thought I was stronger than that, but I failed myself again.
I held that in and only told my closest friend, but the day after I couldn’t move out of bed. I tried to bypass the struggle with myself and act like I was okay, because I went through it before yet I was at fault. I couldn’t keep myself together and when I told my parents, I was met with the reaction of “you shouldn’t have been drinking”. These 5 little words made me feel worthless and deserving of the pain because I decided to make the mistake of drinking too much.
I’m 18, and I wonder why I have to go through all this struggle when I want a normal life. I keep trying to feel something but a part of me has been lost since that night and its not coming back. But all I can do now is try to heal from what was taken from me.
Male rape is not a form of sexual abuse or rape commonly discussed in the media, but does that mean that male rape is non-existent. Hardly. Approximately 1 in every 6 men has or will experience a rape or child sexual abuse in their lifetime. That’s no small number. Male sexual rape is under-reported and wildly misunderstood. Here’s the truth:
Sexual assault can happen to anyone, no matter your age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted or abused may have many of the same feelings and reactions as other survivors of sexual assault, but they may also face some additional challenges because of social attitudes and stereotypes about men and masculinity.
It is a myth that men are not sexually assaulted, or that they are only sexually assaulted in prisons.
In fact, in between 9-10% of all rape survivors outside of criminal institutions are male according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Estimates of male rape from the U.S. Centers for Disease control reported that 16% of men experienced sexual abuse by the age of 18.
It’s incredibly likely that these reports are underestimates due to the barriers male survivors face in the reporting process: the U.S. Department of Justice records an average of greater than 12,000 reported sexual assaults of men annually, and predicts that if unreported assaults are included, the actual number of men who are sexually assaulted in the United States each year is approximately 60,000.
While these numbers include only males over the age of 12, the Department of Justice records that a male’s age of greatest risk of sexual assault is age 4. It is important to note, that unfortunately very few studies have been done to document the sexual abuse or sexual assault of men and boys.
It’s estimated that male survivors report sexual assault and abuse even less frequently than female survivors, and so it is difficult to make an accurate estimate of the number of men and boys who are being assaulted and abused.
Please note that researchers use “child sexual abuse” to describe experiences in which children are subjected to unwanted sexual contact involving force, threats, or a large age difference between the child and the other person (which involves a big power differential and exploitation).
How Do I Know If I Was Sexually Assaulted Or Abused?
From 1in6.org, for most guys, this is hard to figure out. For some men, it may not even be a helpful question to ask, at least not at first.
Why? Because of what a “yes” answer could mean, or appear to mean, for you and anyone else involved in those childhood or teenage experiences.
Labels like “abuse” can, in some situations, get in the way of understanding oneself and what’s going to be helpful going forward.
That’s why we suggest a (greater) focus on:
Whether an experience is having unwanted effects on you now.
How to understand those effects in the most helpful ways.
How to overcome those effects to achieve your goals in life
“Unwanted or abusive sexual experiences” is how we most broadly refer to past sexual experiences that can cause a variety of problems, long after they happened.
Our words are carefully chosen, because we strive to:
Respect every man’s experience and point of view.
When possible, avoid definitions or labels that could drive away a man sorting through his own unique experiences and options.
We also want to emphasize what “unwanted or abusive sexual experiences” does not mean…
By “unwanted” we do not mean that the experience had to be unwanted when it happened. For example, a boy may feel that he wants sexual contact with an adult (especially if the adult has manipulated him). Instead, when we say “unwanted,” we mean:
Looking back, is that an experience you wanted to have happened, to be part of your life?
Do you want to be having negative thoughts and feelings and behaviors that, looking back now, you suspect or believe are (at least partly) caused by that experience?
The “or” in “unwanted or abusive” does not imply that any unwanted sexual experience was also “abusive.” We don’t believe this is true. We’re just hoping that “unwanted” works well enough when it comes to describing past sexual experiences that may have contributed to problems you have now.
For some of you, that’s why you’re here right now. You’re trying to sort out, on your own terms:
“What was that past sexual experience really about?”
“What effects has that experience had on me?”
“Is that a reason why I’m struggling with _________?”
The question, “What was that sexual experience really about?” may be the most basic, and may take a while to process and understand as it implies other questions, like:
Was the other person in a position of power or authority over me?
Was I manipulated into doing sexual things, or into believing I wanted to, even when I really didn’t?
Did sexual activity change what had been a positive relationship into one that involved secrecy and shame?
Was the other person using me and not really considering my experience or my needs?
Did the other person take advantage of vulnerabilities I had at the time – feeling isolated and lonely, feeling excited and curious but ignorant about sex?
These questions speak to possible exploitation, betrayal, and disregard for your well-being – experiences that can cause a variety of problems, right away and moving forward.
If you were a child, these questions apply to experiences with other children or teenagers, not just adults. No matter how old the other person was, if dominance, manipulation, exploitation, betrayal or disregard for your well-being were involved, the experiences(s) may have contributed to problems in your life now.
This idea here is not to push anyone to condemn – or even to label the other person or people involved – who may also have been good to you, and who you may still like, even love. Such experiences may have involved attention, affection and physical sensations that, at the time, you found pleasurable and in some way wanted (e.g., in a confused way mixed up with shame).
The point of trying to sort things out, if you choose to do so, is to understand whether – and if so, why and how – the sexual experience(s) may have helped to cause some problems you have now (like problems with shame, anger, addiction, or depression).
Ultimately, maybe no definition or label can address the needs or concerns behind your question. It may be that what’s most helpful to you is sorting it out with someone who has the experience, knowledge, and attitude to help you find your own personal answers and meanings.
Unique Issues Faced By Male Sexual Assault Survivors:
Society wrongly denies that men get sexually assaulted. With the exception of a prison joke, most people don’t even think about male sexual assault. When most people think of rape or sexual assault, they think of women. There’s a stigma that “real men” can fight off any attacker or that men are immune to sexual assault – and the issue that most people think that men, due to the nature of erections, cannot be forced into sex. These stigmas allow for men to feel safe from sexual assault.
Until it happens to them.
It’s really no wonder that men don’t seek help or report sexual assault. The percentage of men who report sexual assault is less than 5% – because they feel shame, isolation, and like they’re somehow “less of a man,” if they admit to being sexually assaulted.
For guys, the idea of being a victim is hard to accept. I mean, guys grow up believing they can defend themselves against ANYTHING. Dudes are supposed to believe that they can fight – TO THE DEATH – something like an unwanted sexual advance. Those masculine feelings are deeply rooted for most men – which can lead to guilt, shame and inadequacy for male sexual assault survivors.
Lots of male sexual assault survivors question whether or not it WAS sexual assault. Maybe they wanted it! Maybe they deserved it! I mean, they did fail to defend themselves…right? Male sexual assault survivors often become disgusted with themselves for not fighting back. The feelings are normal of any rape survivor, but the thoughts are flawed. Men who’ve been assaulted were just doing the best they could to survive. There’s NO shame in that.
Thanks to the guilt and shame spiral, a lot of male survivors punish themselves for the assault by engaging in self-destructive behavior. Drug or alcohol use and abuse. Picking fights. Social isolation. This is why male sexual assault survivors are at a higher risk for depression, work problems, and drug or alcohol addiction.
Sexual insecurities are common following a sexual assault are common. It may be hard to have sex or have a relationship with someone because any sexual contact may trigger a flashback. So if you’ve been the victim of male sexual assault, please just go easy on yourself and take some time to recover.
When heterosexual men are assaulted, they may question their sexuality, as though the assault may have made him gay, especially if the perpetrator accused the victim of enjoying himself. Sexual assault, though, is about power, anger, and control – not about sexuality. A sexual assault cannot “make someone gay.”
Gay men who have been sexually assaulted may feel self-loathing and self-blame, as though their sexuality caused it. In fact, some sexual assaults ARE the result of gay-bashing, motivated by fear of homosexuals. Remember that NO ONE deserves to be sexually assaulted.
What To Do If You’ve Been Assaulted:
Men who have been sexually assaulted should first get to a safe place and then call a friend and/or the police for help. Victims should refrain from showering or otherwise destroying physical evidence that may help convict the offender.
Remember, victims are not to blame for the assault.
By raising awareness about the prevalence of male sexual assault, we have hope that more and more men will feel comfortable reaching out for the help they need and deserve after surviving sexual assault.
How Do Men React To Sexual Abuse and Rape?
Men have many of the same reactions to sexual assault that people of other gender identities do. For all gender identity survivors: anger, anxiety, fear, confusion, self-blame, shame, depression, and even suicidal thoughts are all common reactions for someone who has experienced a sexual assault. Men, however, are more likely than women to initially respond with anger, or to try to minimize the importance or severity of the assault. Male survivors are also more likely to use or abuse alcohol or other drugs as a means to try and cope with the experience and the after-effects.
Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted may experience the same effects of sexual assault as other survivors, and they may face other challenges that are more unique to their experience.
Some men who have survived sexual assault as adults feel shame or self-doubt, believing that they should have been “strong enough” to fight off the perpetrator.
Men who were sexually abused as boys or teens may also respond differently than men who were sexually assaulted as adults. This list includes some of the common experiences shared by men and boys who have survived sexual assault. It is not a complete list, by any means, but it may help you to know that other people are having similar experiences:
Being afraid of the worst case scenario always occurring
Avoidance of people, sounds, smells, or places that trigger memories of the assault or abuse
New concerns or questions about their actual sexual orientation
Men commonly believe that being raped makes you “less of a man,” which is not true.
Bursts of anger, feeling on edge all of the time, trouble sleeping, and being unable to relax
Withdrawal from friendships and relationships, preferring to isolate themselves to avoid feelings
Feeling shame or self-blame because you couldn’t stop the sexual assault or abuse – especially if you had an erection or ejaculated
Feeling scared that disclosing the rape or abuse won’t be believed; other people may judge them for it.
Male physiological reactions during a sexual assault may also make it more difficult for a male survivor to recognize that he was sexually assaulted. Some men may have an erection or may ejaculate during a sexual assault, and may later feel confused that perhaps it means that they enjoyed the sexual assault, or that others will not believe that they were sexually assaulted.
However, erections and ejaculations are purely physiological responses, sometimes caused by intense fear or pain.
In fact, some sadistic rape perpetrators will deliberately manipulate their victim to orgasm, out of a desire to have complete control over their victims. Thus, the perpetrator can continue to manipulate the victim even after assault, with the hope of scaring the person from reporting the rape. A physical reaction of an erection or ejaculation during a sexual assault in no way indicates that the man enjoyed the experience or that he did something to cause it or permit it. Many men who experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault may be confused and wonder what this means. These normal physiological responses do not in any way imply that you wanted, invited, or enjoyed the assault.
If something happened to you, know that it is not your fault and you are NOT alone.
Why Don’t Men Report Sexual Assault and Abuse?
Any victim – male, female, non-binary – has an internal struggle in deciding to report a rape. People are afraid of not being believed, of having their whole sexual life played out in front of the world, and often, people are afraid to show that someone overpowered them. Here are a number of reasons why men don’t report rape, sexual assault, or sexual abuse:
As men are socialized and expected to behave in our society; a male survivor of a sexual assault may feel as if he is not “a real man.”
As men in our society are expected to always be ready for sex and to be the aggressors in sexual relationships, it may be difficult for a man to tell others that he has been sexually assaulted, especially if the perpetrator was a woman. Additionally, either the you or those around him may feel that a “real man” should have been able to protect himself.
Unfortunately, our society expects men to be in control and the survivor, and other people may have difficulty accepting the idea that a man could be a victim to a rape or sexual assault. If your perpetrator is a woman, you may be mocked or feel ashamed that a woman overpowered you. It is common for both men and women to engage in “flight, fight or freeze mode” during a sexual assault, making him or her incapable of physically resisting the perpetrator.
Sexual assault is no sign of your physical weakness.
Homophobia leads men who have experienced a male-on-male rape to avoid disclosing the rape:
If the perpetrator is a man, some may may question their own sexuality, especially if he experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault. If you identify as gay, bi, or queer, and in the process of coming out, you may question how others perceive your sexual orientation.
You may also fear that you’ll have to disclose his sexual orientation if you tell others about the assault.
Homophobia and gay stereotypes may affect a man’s decision to disclose. Stereotypes on the promiscuity of gay men will often lead to victim-blaming from his support system – either saying the encounter was consensual or that the incident occurred because of their assumed promiscuity. This is simply not true – sexual assault happens due to the perpetrator exerting power and control – and homophobia is a tool that a perpetrator can use and perpetuate in order to maintain this power.
Though most of the perpetrators of sexual assault against men are also men, between 96-98% of sexual assaults against all people are heterosexual men, thus conflating gay, bisexual, or queer men with sexual assault is false.
By denying that males can be sexually assaulted, male survivors feel that they are alone, crazy, or abnormal in some way
Due to the disproportionate number of women who experience sexual assault, it is often seen as a “women’s issue,” as stereotypes cause most people to be more comfortable with the image of a woman being deprived of her power in a sexual assault than a man. Men and people of all genders also experience this form of violence. Many hospitals are not familiar with or prepared to look for signs of male sexual assault, and even some police departments still do not collect statistics on its frequency. National organizations like 1 in 6 and Band Back Together provide important resources for male survivors to normalize their response to trauma, reduce isolation, and seek support.
They feel shame:
Shame involves thoughts and feelings about who you are. It involves feeling unworthy of respect or positive consideration by others, feeling like you deserve to be judged or criticized, and feeling embarrassed in front of others. Shame may arise from the following societal-driven myths.
Males are not supposed to be dominated, let alone victims—especially sexually.
Males are not supposed to have sexual contact with other males (if this was the case for you).
Males are not supposed to experience vulnerable emotions, especially fear and sadness.
And males especially aren’t supposed to feel ashamed. (This one can create a vicious cycle of ‘shame over feeling ashamed’ that can seem impossible to escape.)
For many, the shameful sense of not being a “real man” because of what happened is a huge burden in their lives. It affects what and how they think and feel about themselves. It leaves them fearing how others would see them if they knew what happened. (Sometimes they can’t shake the belief that others must know and, in turn, see them as “not a real man.”)
There may be deeper, and unrecognized, sources of shame.
This shame is felt to some extent by just about every man who had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences. Yet it can be overcome, and many, many men have managed to do so.
But for many men who experience extreme shame – shame so intense that it drives many of their thoughts and behaviors, including always trying to “prove themselves” – there are other, deeper, and older sources of shame.
They feel guilt:
Guilt has to do with thoughts and feelings about things you’ve done. It involves feeling regret, and usually feeling critical or judgmental toward yourself, for having done something wrong or bad – something that conflicts with your values and with your view of being a good person, and may include beating up on yourself, for recent actions or things you did a long time ago.
For men who had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences, there can be extreme guilt about ways they responded to sexual experiences and the people involved.
It’s common to feel guilty about:
Not saying “no” or physically resisting.
“Letting” another person take advantage of sexual ignorance and curiosity.
Becoming sexually aroused or experiencing sexual pleasure, even when they didn’t want or like what was happening.
Having engaged in sexual activity with other children, even if manipulated or forced by others.
Not protecting a brother, sister, friend, or other child from someone doing the same things to them.
Thankfully, as with even the worst shame, it is entirely possible to overcome such deeply ingrained, “irrational,” and extreme guilt.
It can take time, and some people need considerable help, including professional help, along the way. But it can happen.
Many other men with histories of unwanted or abusive sexual experiences have learned to stop beating up on themselves for things that weren’t their fault. Many other men like you have learned how to make amends when they can and, when it’s an appropriate response, to truly forgive themselves
Does Sexual Assault Change Your Sexual Orientation?
Many men wonder, especially if they reached ejaculation, orgasm, or an erection, if that means that their sexual orientation has changed. This is untrue. Sexual assault is in no way related to the sexual orientation of the perpetrator or the survivor, and a person’s sexual orientation cannot be caused by sexual abuse or assault.
Some men and boys have questions about their sexuality after surviving an assault or abuse – and that’s understandable. This can be especially true if you experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault. Physiological responses like an erection are involuntary, meaning you have no control over them.
If the sexual experiences involved another male (or males), they may have thoughts and confusion about whether they are gay.
It’s very common to ask yourself:
Did it happen because I’m (really) gay?
Am I gay because it happened?
If anyone finds out, will they think I’m gay?
Can I ever be a “real man” if I was sexual with another male?
Sometimes perpetrators, especially adults who sexually abuse boys, will use these physiological responses to maintain secrecy by using phrases such as, “You know you liked it.” If you have been sexually abused or assaulted, it is not your fault.
In no way does an erection invite unwanted sexual activity, and ejaculation in no way condones an assault.
Dispelling Myths of Male Sexual Assault and Abuse:
When it comes to rape and sexual assault, there are a great number of myths swirling around; a woman “asked for it” because she got drunk in a bar, a woman “deserved it” for walking home alone at night, “if she hadn’t worn those clothes,” she wouldn’t have been raped. In pure stark reality, in the light of day, you can see that these myths about female sexual assault are bullshit.
However, men have an even more challenging set of misconstrued myths that may lead them to keep their abuse or assault silent. Let’s explore:
Myth: Child Sexual Abuse Is More Harmful For Girls Than Boys
Studies consistently show that long-term effects of child sexual abuse can be very damaging for BOTH girls and boys. The CDC discovered that sexual abuse of boys is more likely to involve penetration (of some sort), which is associated with far greater psychological harm.
Most studies show that the long term effects of sexual abuse and assault can be quite damaging for both males and females. One large study, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, found that the sexual abuse of boys was more likely to involve penetration of some kind, which is associated with greater psychological harm.
The harm caused by sexual abuse or assault mostly depends on things not determined by gender, including: the abuser’s identity, the duration of the abuse, whether the child told anyone at the time, and if so, whether the child was believed and helped.
Many boys suffer harm because adults who could believe them and help are reluctant, or refuse, to acknowledge what happened and the harm it caused. This increases the harm, especially the shame felt by boys and men, and leads many to believe they have to “tough it out” on their own. And that, of course, makes it harder to seek needed help in the midst of the abuse, or even years later when help is still needed.
Myth: Most Men Who Sexually Abuse Boys Are Gay.
Studies about this myth suggest that men who have sexually abused a boy most often identify as heterosexual and often are involved in adult heterosexual relationships at the time of abusive interaction.
There is absolutely no indication that a gay man is more likely to engage in sexually abusive behavior than a straight man; some studies even suggest it is less likely.
Remember though, sexual abuse is not an actual sexual “relationship,” – it’s an assault and the sexual orientation of the perpetrator isn’t ACTUALLY relevant to the abuse. A man who sexually abuses or exploits boys is not engaging in a homosexual interaction – any more than men who sexually abuse or exploit girls are engaging in heterosexual behaviors.
A child sexual abuser (often called “pedophile”) is a deeply confused individual who, for various reasons, desires to sexually use or abuse a child, and has acted on that desire.
Myth: Boys Abused By Men Have, Themselves, Attracted The Abuse Because They Are Gay (Or Become Gay As A Result):
While theories abound about how sexual orientation develops exist, experts do not believe that sexual abuse – or premature sexual experiences – play any role in the development of sexual orientation. No evidence exists that someone can “turn” or “make” somebody gay OR straight. Sexual orientation is a complex issue, and research does not explain why someone becomes homosexual, heterosexual, bi-sexual, pan-sexual, or any sexual behavior on the spectrum.
Commonly, boys and men who’ve been abused become confused about their sexual identity and orientation, no matter how their sexual orientation identifies them. Some men who’ve identified as heterosexual fear that they may really be homosexual due to the abuse they suffered as boys, believing that the abuse precludes them from being a Real Man in society. Even men who clearly identify as heterosexual, who project very traditional heterosexual traits, fear that others will “find them out” as gay or not Real Men.
Men who identify as gay or bi-sexual may wonder if their sexual orientation was influenced in any way by their childhood sexual abusive experience or even have caused their orientation.
Many boys abused by males wonder if something about them sexually attracted the person who abused them and will unknowingly attract other males who will use and abuse them. While understandable fears, they are not true.
One of the great tragedies of childhood sexual abuse is how it robs a person’s right to discover his own sexuality in his own time.
It is very important to remember that abuse comes from the abusive perpetrator’s failure to develop and maintain healthy adult sexual relationships, and his or her willingness to sexually use and abuse kids, not from desire.
Abuse has nothing to do with the preferences or desires of the child who is abused, and cannot determine a person’s natural sexual identity.
Myth: Boys and Men Who Are Sexually Assaulted Will Become Perpetrators
This myth can be especially damaging for the fear this puts in men and boys who’ve been sexually abused. They may fear becoming just like their abuser and some will believe that they’re a danger to children.
Unfortunately, this is due to society’s belief that being abused creates a terrible likelihood that men and boys who have been raped or abused sexually will become perpetrators themselves. This also means that people aren’t as supportive of a man or a boy’s sexual assault than others when they need support the most.
While some of the men who’ve sexually abused others suffered histories of sexual abused, it is NOT TRUE that most become abusers. Most boys do not go on to be sexually abusive as adults; even those who perpetrate as teens can get help when they are young and don’t usually abuse children as adults.
The best available research suggests that 75% or more of those who commit acts of sexual or physical abuse against others were themselves abused as children. However, the research also indicates that:
The vast majority of children who are sexually abused do not go on to abuse others.
Myth: Boys Can’t Be Sexually Abused or Raped, and If He Is? He Can’t Ever Be A “Real Man.”
From very early on in life, the boy child is seen as a manly guy, encouraged not to cry, to suppress his emotions, or even become a victim; if he is sexually abused as a child, or raped as a young man, he cannot become a Real Man. Our society expects that men cannot be victims, men should be able to protect themselves, and if you’re a “successful” male, you will never be physically or emotionally vulnerable.
Whether you agree with that definition of masculinity or not, boys are children; weaker and more vulnerable than those who sexually abuse or exploit them. Those who use their greater size, strength and knowledge to manipulate, force, or coerce boys into unwanted sexual experiences and while the victim remains silent. This is usually done from a position of authority -, coach, teacher, religious leader – or status – older cousin, admired athlete, social leader – using whatever means are available, called child grooming, to reduce resistance. Ways a perpetrator grooms his prey include attention, special privileges, money or other gifts, promises or bribes, even outright threats.
What happened to us as children does not need to define us as adults – male OR female. 1 in every 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18, and these boys – with support and healing – can grow into strong, powerful, courageous, healthy men.
Myth: If a Man or Boy Experiences Sexual Arousal During the Abuse and Assault, he enjoyed it – which makes it the victim’s fault
Many people – men and women alike – believe this myth is true and carry feelings of guilt and shame especially if they were physically aroused during the abuse.
Physiologically, it’s important to understand that boys and men can respond to sexual stimulation with an erection or even an orgasm – even in sexual situations that are traumatic or painful.
That’s just how male bodies and brains work.
The people who sexually use and abuse boys understand this and use it to continue to perpetrate the abuse – telling the child “you wanted it,” and “you liked it. That does NOT make it true; no child wants to be sexually exploited and abused. None.
Unfortunately, because the predator is able to spot the type of children susceptible to grooming and abuse, many boys are able to be manipulated into sexual abuse that they may not understand and do not like.
There are often situations in which a boy, after being gradually manipulated with attention (child grooming), affection and gifts, feels like he wants such attention and sexual experiences. In an otherwise lonely life, the attention and pleasure of sexual contact from someone the boy admires can feel good.
In reality, this sexual abuse is still about a boy who was vulnerable to manipulation by a predator and groomed accordingly. It’s still about a boy who was betrayed by someone who selfishly exploited the boy’s needs for attention and affection to use him sexually.
Myth: If A Man or Boy Is Abused By A Female, He Was “Lucky”
This myth claims that not only can males not be sexually assaulted or abused, but that any experience with girls and women – especially older women – is proof that he is, indeed, a Real Man. Confusion arises from focusing on the sexual aspect of the incident rather than the abusive one; a man or boy has been violated, exploited, and betrayed by someone who has more power, or someone he trusts or admires.
Coerced, premature, or otherwise sexually exploited sexual experiences are NOT positive – no matter who imposes them (someone in a position of power over the boy or man. At its bones, being sexually exploited by a female causes insecurity, confusion, and harm the person’s capacity for trust and intimacy.
Someone who is homosexual and experienced arousal during abuse from a female perpetrator may become confused by his sexual identity.
Being a child or man who has been sexually used or abused, whether by males or females, causes a variety of other emotional and psychological problems. Unfortunately, boys and men often don’t recognize the connections between what happened with the abuse and rape with problems they experience later in life. Being abused as a sexual object by a more powerful person, male or female, is never a good thing, and can cause lasting harm.
Tips for Taking Care of Yourself:
Get some support. Find people who understand what you’re feeling and those who love you just as you are. Don’t isolate yourself.
Engage in some hard exercise or some relaxation techniques.
Talk about the assault – express your feelings. Doesn’t have to be with everyone, just people you trust.
Get some counseling.
Remind yourself that you’re safe now – no one can hurt you.
Let out some of your anger in safe, healthy ways like writing or reading.
Write a post for Band Back Together. Remember: you can be anonymous!
Supporting Male Sexual Assault and Abuse Survivors:
It can be hard to tell someone that you have experienced sexual assault or abuse as you may fear that others will not believe you and will instead judge you. Stereotypes about masculinity can also make it hard to disclose to friends, family, the police, or the community.
Men and boys who’ve experience rape and sexual abuse also may face challenges in actually believing that it is possible for them to be victims of sexual violence, especially when perpetrated by a woman. Below are a few suggestions on how you can support a man or boy who discloses to you that he has experienced sexual assault or abuse.
Listen. Many people in crisis are certain that no one could possibly understand them or take them seriously. Show them they matter by giving your undivided attention. It is hard for many survivors to disclose assault or abuse, especially if they fear not being believed.
Validate feelings. Avoid making overly positive statements like “It will get better” or trying to manage their emotions, like “Snap out of it” or “You shouldn’t feel so bad.” Instead say “I believe you” or “That sounds like a really hard thing to go through,” and “I’m so sorry this happened to you.”
Express concern. Tell them in a direct way that you care about them by saying something like “I care about you” or “I am here for you.” Offer to help them in any way you possibly can.
Do not ask about details of the assault. Even if you are curious about what happened and feel that you want to fully understand it, avoid asking for details of how the assault occurred. However, if a survivor chooses to share those details with you, try your best to listen in a supportive and non-judgmental way.
Provide appropriate resources. There may be other aspects in men’s lives that could limit their ability to access resources and services after experiencing sexual assault or abuse. For example, trans men may face barriers when navigating medical care or black men may have concerns about reaching out to law enforcement. Be sensitive to these worries, and when supporting a survivor try your best to suggest resources you feel will be most helpful.
For those struggling, here are some things that might help you begin to heal.
Coping with problems associated with sexual violence
In more recent years, people have become aware of the horrors of child sexual abuse or sexual assault, and the significant impact that it can have on someone’s life. When seeking to acknowledge some of the difficulties that men can face as a result of sexual violence, care needs to be taken to recognize men’s capacity to lead full and rewarding lives.
Do not fall into the trap of making experiences of sexual abuse or sexual assault the explanation for all life’s problems.
When talking with men about issues related to child sexual abuse or sexual assault, Jim Hopper suggests it is useful to keep in mind that:
All human beings suffer painful experiences, and some of these occur in childhood.
Being sexually abused is one of many painful and potentially harmful events that a man may experience.
Whether and to what extent childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault (or other painful experiences) negatively affect our lives depends on a variety of factors .
Child sexual abuse or sexual assault, in itself, does not “doom” people to lives of horrible suffering.
If a person has been sexually abused and experiences some problems or symptoms, the abuse is not necessarily the primary (let alone only) reason for these challenges.
All caregivers of children are sometimes unable to protect children from painful experiences.
We all need love and support to deal with the effects of painful experiences.
Everyone must find ways to acknowledge and deal with emotions generated by painful experiences – whether or not we receive support from others.
Many coping or self-regulation strategies work in some ways, but also limit us in other ways.
Following an experience of child sexual abuse or sexual assault, it is not unusual for people’s lives to become closely connected with problems related to that experience. However, seeing the person as the problem and all of his current difficulties as a result of sexual abuse or sexual assault can be counter-productive.
Please also visit Helping Someone Heal From Sexual Assault and Rape
What Are The Long-Term Negative Outcomes For Male Sexual Assault Victims?
Men dealing with the effects of childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault
There is no prescribed way of how people are affected by sexual abuse or sexual assault; everyone is different. However, we do know sexual violence can have profound effects on men’s lives. Below is a list of some common problematic responses which are associated with an experience of sexual violence, including childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault. These have been identified through research, and through talking directly with men.
Use of alcohol or other drugs.
Suicidal thoughts and behavior.
Flashbacks and invasive thoughts.
Nightmares and insomnia.
Anxiety and fear.
Mental health difficulties.
Difficult feelings of guilt, shame or humiliation.
Problems related to masculinity and gender identity.
Questions and difficulties related to sexuality.
Problems related to “being a man”
Unfortunately, men who have experienced sexual violence have another set of difficulties to deal with; difficulties created by our society’s expectations and assumptions of gender. Dealing with sexual violence often means dealing with a lot of ideas around ‘being a man.’
Below is a list of problems that men who have been subjected to sexual violence often confront. These relate to the expectations of what a man ‘should’ do or be in our community. Child sexual abuse or sexual assault can lead to:
Pressure to “prove” his manhood:
Physically – by becoming bigger, stronger and meaner, by engaging in dangerous or violent behavior.
Sexually – by having multiple female sexual partners, by always appearing ‘up for it’ and sexually in control.
Confusion over gender and sexual identity.
Sense of being inadequate as a man.
Sense of lost power, control, and confidence in relation to manhood.
Problems with closeness and intimacy.
Fear that the sexual abuse has caused or will cause him to become ‘homosexual’ or ‘gay.’
Homophobia – fear or intolerance of any form of ‘homosexuality.’
As is apparent from the above list, some problems are specifically related to gender expectations and the social world in which a man lives. In sorting out any of these difficulties, it is therefore important to acknowledge the social and relational parts of the identified problems.
Other Factors That Influence The Impact of Sexual Assault
The more we learn about child sexual abuse, the more we understand the multiple factors which can influence how much it impacts upon men’s lives.
Research has shown that what occurred, who was involved, and how the man was responded to, all influence the types and degree of problems a man has to deal with.
Factors which have been found to be significant are:
The age at which the abuse began – earlier onset is linked to greater impact.
The duration and frequency of the abuse – the longer it goes on for, and the more often it occurs, the greater the impact.
The type of activities which constituted the abuse – if there is penetration, use of violence, and emotional manipulation all result in greater impact.
The nature of the relationship with the person perpetrating the abuse – if the person is a close family member, or someone who was previously trusted, the impact is greater.
The number of persons involved in the abuse.
How disclosure of the abuse occurred, and how it was responded to – if a man is confronted with disbelief and lack of support, it can create further difficulties. 
Although the above factors have been found to influence the extent of problems related to an experience of sexual violence, none of the identified factors automatically damn a man to a life of misery and pain.
Research suggests the following three factors can also influence the degree of impact sexual violence has on a man’s life:
The basic constitutional characteristics of the child (for example, temperament, sense of self-esteem and sense of personal control).
A supportive family environment (warmth, nurturing, organization and so on).
A supportive individual or agency that provides positive support that assists the child.
Unfortunately, research suggests that currently men are less likely to access and receive support from family, friends and specialized sexual assault services than women are. It is therefore important that, when men do come forward and seek assistance, their friends, family and service professionals take time to listen to the man and link him in with appropriate support.
Reclaiming Your Life:
It’s important for all male sexual assault survivors to remember that their feelings and reactions are both normal and temporary. Fear and confusion will lessen, but the trauma of a sexual assault may disrupt things awhile. Some feelings will happen out of the blue and are related to the sexual assault – you’re not going crazy.
It’s hard to want to talk about your feelings – you probably just want to get over it and move on with your life. Eventually, you’ll have to deal with those feelings to heal and gain control of your life again. So talk to a friend, a therapist, a hotline counselor – anyone you trust – to work through those feelings. It’s a key part of reclaiming your life after a sexual assault.
Remember – you won’t be functioning 100% after the assault. It’s normal to feel tired, forgetful or irritable – be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to feel how you feel.
Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN) – A site dedicated to raising awareness and offering support for those who have been sexually abused. Includes information on female and male survivors of sexual assault.
1in6 For Men – A site that includes an online support group that is available simply by clicking a link on the site. An excellent place for survivors to find support from the security of their own homes.
ManKind Initiative – A UK-based site that centers on men in abusive relationships. The site’s mission is broad and includes all forms of domestic violence, including sexual abuse. There is information on legal support and local resources.
National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) – An activist organization that is “pro-feminist, gay affirmative, anti-racist, dedicated to enhancing men’s lives, and committed to justice on a broad range of social issues including class, age, religion, and physical abilities.”
Band Back Together’s How To Heal From A Rape or Sexual Assault Page helps those affected by sexual violence, rape, and sexual abuse, not only for the survivor but also for his or her loved ones.
If you have been sexually assaulted/raped and are in need of immediate assistance, call 1-800-656-HOPE.
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
What is Rape?
Rape/Sexual Assault is illegal sexual contact (usually involving force) done upon a person without consent.
Rape is also defined as sexual contact inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent, due to either diminished physical or mental capacity.
The third definition of sexual assault is when the assailant is in a position of authority (such as a doctor or teacher) and uses that authority to force someone into sexual acts.
Rape/Sexual Assault are crimes of motive and opportunity and NOT the victim’s fault.
People who are raped suffer greatly. They feel victimized, isolated, “dirty” and guilty. It is in no way their fault what has happened to them. Assailants render their victims powerless. After such an attack, victims need to feel empowered to stand up for themselves, report the offense, and to seek help and safety so they can recover from their experience.
It takes a huge amount of courage to stand up, break the silence and report a sexual assault.
Please, know that you are not alone.
Help! I Was Just Raped!
Get yourself to a safe place. Immediate safety is what matters most of all.
Preserve all evidence of the attack. Do not bathe, wash your hands, brush your teeth, eat or smoke. If you’re still at the place the rape occurred, do not clean or straighten anything up. Write down all the details you can remember about the attack.
Whether or not you alert the authorities, for your own health, you must receive medical care.
While receiving medical care, you will be asked if specially trained nurses can perform a forensic examination. This exam is to collect any DNA or other evidence that can link your attacker to the crime. You do have the right to refuse this exam.
Know that what happened is NOT your fault.
Report the rape to the authorities.
Remember that recovering from rape takes a lot of time and patience.
The numbers are staggering. According to RAINN
1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime
Every 2 minutes, someone is sexually assaulted/raped in the United States
Taking Care of Yourself After a Rape:
Taking care of yourself after a sexual assault may be a really hard thing to do. You may not want to get out of bed, let alone take a shower, but it’s important that you take care of yourself, physically AND emotionally.
Make sure to get enough sleep, exercise, food, and medical care.
Get counseling if you feel it would help. Call 800-656-HOPE to find a center near you.
Write it out. Keep a journal or write about the assault here on Band Back Together. We’d be honored to have you with The Band.
Try meditation exercises to de-stress.
Make sure everyone in your life is supportive and loving. Keep nurturing relationships that make you feel good about yourself. Don’t isolate yourself – spend time with friends and family who love you.
Avoid friends or family who only call you when they need something. You don’t have to cut them off completely or anything like that, but these aren’t the relationships you need to foster at this time.
Make some time for fun. Whatever it is that you like to do (run, paint, write, hang with friends) make some time to enjoy your life again.
Types of Sexual Violence:
There are many different types of sexual assaults, according to RAINN.
Acquaintance Rape – coercive sexual activities that occur against a person’s will by means of force, violence, duress, or fear of bodily injury, perpetrated by someone with whom the victim is acquainted.
Child Sexual Abuse – may involve a family member (incest) or a non-family member and may involve sexually suggestive language, oral sex, prolonged kissing, vaginal or anal intercourse, prolonged groping, forcing a minor to watch pornography, sexual aggression.
Dating or Domestic Violence – is a pattern of behavior in any relationship used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
Drug Facilitated Sexual Violence – sexual violence in which drugs or alcohol are used to compromise an individual’s ability to consent to sexual activity.
Incest – sexual contact between two people who are so closely related that marriage is illegal.
Male Sexual Assault – despite what society believes, men can be and are sexually assaulted and raped.
Military Sexual Trauma (MST) – a broad term used by the Veterans Administration (VA) to categorize ANY sexual misconduct, rape, sexual advance or sexual harassment within the military. Victims of MST are no different from victims of any other sexual assault. The same feelings of shame, guilt and anger are common in any trauma victim. The VA has specific resources for victims of MST, whether retired or current active duty military.
Multiple-Perpetrator Sexual Assault – Multiple-perpetrator sexual assault, sometimes called gang rape, occurs when two or more perpetrators act together to sexually assault the same victim.
Partner Rape – rape or sexual assault that occurs between two people who currently have – or have had – a consensual sexual relationship.
Prisoner Rape – If you’re an inmate, a former inmate, or know an inmate who survived sexual assault while in prison, there are resources available to you
Sexual Assault/Rape – anyone can be a rape victim – men, women, children, those who are straight or gay.
Sexual Assault As A Hate Crime – victimization of an individual based upon race, religion, national origin, ethnic identification, gender or sexual orientation.
Sexual Exploitation by Helping Professionals – sexual contact between any helping profession – doctors, lawyers, therapists, police officers, nurses, teachers, or priests.
Sexual Harassment – requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances or offensive remarks about a person’s gender or sex. This also includes creating a hostile work environment, such as through posting sexual pictures, leering, or physical contact.
Sexual Abuse by Medical Professionals – When you go to the doctor, dentist, hospital or physical therapist, or see other medical professionals, you trust them to treat you with respect as they care for your health.
Sexual Abuse of People with Disabilities – Consent is crucial when any person engages in sexual activity, but it plays an even bigger, and more complicated role when someone has a disability.
Stalking – a serious, frequently violent, life-threatening crime that can escalate over time
Aftereffects of Rape/Sexual Assault
There are many devastating aftereffects of rape that a rape victim has to deal with. These can range from mild to severe and are all normal reactions. Here are the most common reactions following a rape:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – many rape victims experience extreme feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear as a direct result of the attack.
Substance Abuse – many rape survivors turn to alcohol or other substances of abuse to try to relieve their emotional suffering.
Self-Injury – deliberate self-harm or self-injury may be used by rape victims as a way of coping with their emotional pain.
Depression – of all the emotional and psychological problems following an assault, depression is most common.
Sleep Disorders – many of those who have been attacked will experience sleep disturbances and problems.
Eating Disorders – those who have been sexually assaulted often use the control of food in an attempt to deal with negative emotions.
Suicide – some of those who have been sexually assaulted consider ending their own life as a response to the negative feelings about the assault.
Pregnancy – as a sexual assault may have involved bodily fluids, there is a possibility of pregnancy resulting from the attack.
Sexually Transmitted Infections – if the rape involved the exchange of bodily fluids, there is a chance for the transmission of sexually transmitted infections.
How To Protect Yourself From Being A Rape/Sexual Assault Victim:
Not all rapes can be prevented, but here are some tips for protecting yourself from becoming a sexual assault victim.
Protect Yourself Socially:
Attend social gatherings and parties with a group of friends, check in with them throughout the night and leave with them.
Keep an eye on your friends. Make sure they watch out for you.
Don’t leave your drink unattended and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know.
Trust your instincts.
Call 911 if you think a friend has been drugged.
Avoid Dangerous Situations:
Know your surroundings and environment.
Walk with purpose.
Trust your instincts.
Don’t load yourself down with heavy packages.
Keep your cell phone on you.
Avoid isolated areas.
Take off your headphones.
How To Handle Being Pressured:
Try to think of an escape route.
Be true to yourself and don’t do anything you don’t want to do.
Remember that it’s NOT your fault.
Use excuses or lies to get away rather than stay and feel uncomfortable.
How Do I Keep My Child Safe?
Discuss sexuality directly and openly.
Teach your child the names of their body parts.
Explain that some body parts are private.
ALL children need to be taught that it’s NOT okay if someone’s touching them in an uncomfortable way.
Be involved in your child’s activities, talk about current events with your child.
Make sure your child knows they can talk to you if they have questions.
How Do I Support A Loved One Who Has Been Raped?
There are a number of ways to help a friend or loved one who has been the victim of sexual violence. It may be hard for you, the loved one, to handle your own emotions, so if you need help, do not hesitate to talk to a counselor yourself.
Here are some tips to support a loved one who has been sexually assaulted:
Listen to your loved one. Be there for them. Don’t be judgmental.
Be patient. It takes a long time to deal with and recover from a sexual assault.
Help empower your friend or loved one. Rape is a crime that takes away the power of the victim – it’s important not to put pressure on your loved one to do things he or she is not ready to do.
If your loved one is considering suicide, take extra care to love them and follow up with them.
Encourage your loved one to report the rape to law enforcement. If they do not wish to, respect their wishes.
Additional Rape Resources:
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN): Provides information on how to get help for both victims and loved ones, links to local agencies and international resources, and on reporting sexual crimes to the police.
Joyful Heart Foundation: Created by Law and Order’s Mariska Hargitay for survivors of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse. The organization’s mission is to educate, empower and shed light onto these terrible crimes and help the survivors heal.
End the Backlog: A charity organization seeking justice for survivors by working in partnership with government, non-profits, advocates, and survivors to bring attention, funding and new legislation to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits across the country.
I’m just really tired of it all. It’s been eating away at me for some time now. I can’t count all the times I’ve been harassed by boys and grown men. I don’t know one girl that hasn’t been sexually harassed at least once in her life. That’s pretty sad.
Sophomore year was one of the worst years of this. Two boys harassed me all year long saying disgusting things to me, touching me, poking me. One day one of them even stuck his hand up my skirt and pinched my ass! That was super fun. Later that year a different boy pushed me on the ground and stood over me jokingly saying “give me a blowjob.”
Junior year I didn’t have classes with the two boys anymore. But then the boy who had said “give me a blow job” later took it even further. I was at a party at his house, most everyone was already gone. It was me, him and his brother and my other friend who is a boy. The boy twisted my arm forcing me to the ground, next thing I know him and his brother start to dry hump me. His brother on my boobs, and him on my lower stomach. I was yelling stop. They didn’t care. And my friend didn’t do anything, he just stood there. And that really hurt.
They have finally stopped. It amazes me that boys think these things they do are okay. I just want it to stop. But the really sad thing is, I feel like I deserve it.
My brother-in-law (I’ll call him Tom) has always been flirty with me, but not in a gross way – just normal guy stuff. I knew him before he knew my sister (who I’ll call Heather), I’m 37 and he’s about 5 years older, she is 2 years younger than me.
I own a multi-family home with Heather, I live in my apartment and she rents out her apartment because she and Tom and their son have a single family house about a half mile away.
I recently moved back to this house because I got out of a tumultuous relationship. I had also just had a miscarriage (with the ex’s baby, so nature made the right decision for me) literally about 4 days before moving.
I was happy to be home with my son. I felt safe. I felt calm. I felt like I could heal there.
One day about a week after I had moved, Tom texted me to tell me he was going to be at the house to cut the lawn and to clean out the basement a bit. When I got home with my son, Tom was there and had definitely been drinking. He’s not a big drinker so it was a little strange that it was a weekday afternoon when he started on the beers. But I attributed it to a rough day and he wanted to relax.
At the time, I was still smoking, and I was outside on the porch having one and he came up to me from behind and pushed himself against me. I could feel it. I moved away, laughing nervously and said “OMG stop!!!” Like I said, he had always flirted and he’s very sarcastic and jokes a lot. He came up to me again and talked into my ear about how bad he wanted me and just wanted me to let him touch my butt. I again said “no” and moved away, the ‘whispery’ type voice in my ear was creeping me out.
My son was inside the house playing in his room, so when I went in shortly after that, Tom came in to say hi to his nephew. I was in the kitchen when Tom grabbed my hand and pulled me into the bathroom. I said “What are you doing? Stop”. He closed the door behind us. He continued with that creepy voice, reached up under my dress, yanked my underwear down and put his hand on me, rubbing it around. I was in shock. I said “Stop it! No, this isn’t right, come on!”
At that moment I felt like I was outside of my body. My brain was going “Is this really happening”? and simultaneously thinking “I’m probably still bleeding from the miscarriage, is he going to hurt me?” The only thing I remember next is him pushing my head down towards the sink and saying “Come ON!”, he took my hand and made me touch him. I held it for a few seconds in fear but then let go. I was mortified. This is my SISTER’S husband. I said no, I said stop, I did NOT ask for this.
Because I had been in a physically abusive relationship before, I automatically start to panic when the tone of voice changes, and his “Come ON!” scared me. Would I have been able to physically push him away from me? Probably. Why didn’t I? I HAVE NO IDEA and it is killing me. I remember thinking “Oh my god, he’s going to rape me!” WHY didn’t I fight back? I’ve never physically hurt anyone nor have I ever had to fight anyone off me.
I also knew my 5 year old son was in the next room. I didn’t want to scare him. I heard him yell to me “Mama! Where are you?” I took advantage of this moment, knowing that Tom wouldn’t want my son to know he was in the bathroom with me – and that my son could easily open the bathroom door (it doesn’t lock). I said “I’m in the bathroom, just peeing – I’ll be out in a second!”
I was able to get Tom’s hand out from my underwear, but he held me against the sink until he finished on my back. I cleaned myself off and got out of the bathroom. Tom kept saying “obviously we can’t tell anyone about this” and it’s as if he thought the only “wrongdoing” was that he cheated on his wife with her sister.
He went into the basement and I locked my door.
I got texts a few days later asking how I was and he asked if I liked it. I wrote back telling him that I will NOT talk about this anymore. I told him I felt extremely violated and ashamed, and that I felt like he took advantage of my vulnerability from my breakup, and from the miscarriage.
He still didn’t seem to understand. He thinks “we” just had a little affair. I think he sexually assaulted me. I have not told my sister. I am struggling with this. I want her to know because I would want to know of my husband of 9 years did this. But I also don’t want to be the cause of her family breaking apart and uprooting EVERYTHING. I also believe that Tom will vehemently deny this, or at least deny it was forced.
I’m terrified of the effect this would have on Heather, her son, my entire family, and everyone that knows us. I’m terrified that Tom would be enraged with me. I’m terrified that people would blame me for not fighting back harder. I said no, stop, no, stop – over and over. I never once invited this. I froze in the moment and just let him do his thing as I closed my eyes to keep the tears from coming out. I didn’t push him away physically. Why? WHY didn’t I fight back????
I plan to see a therapist about this, just haven’t made the call yet. This happened in July. It’s the end of September. I struggle with guilt and “why didn’t I fight back?” every single day.
I struggle with whether or not to tell my sister.
This has caused me to avoid family gatherings. My parents do a lot with Heather and Tom. (Vacations, day trips, etc.) I don’t have as much in common so it’s not unusual that I’m not with them. But it’s going to be harder around the holidays. I have a hard time even looking Heather in the eyes, never mind being around Tom. The guilt is horrible. Why do I feel guilty when I did nothing wrong? Could I have physically fought him off? I don’t know. But I didn’t try – and that’s why I feel so guilty.