When the topic of sexual assault is brought up in conversations that involve men and women, it becomes a battle between genders because the point of view is different.
During these particular discussions, some men truly believe that women put themselves in situations that result in them being sexually assaulted or harassed.
Some women believe that they should be able to express themselves freely without being targeted or attacked. As the conversation settles, both genders realize that they view sexual assault differently, and the agreements outweigh the disagreements.
So, the question boils back down to what is sexual assault? And do men experience it?
The answer is yes. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, no matter your age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Men who have been sexually assaulted or abused may carry the same feelings and reactions as other female survivors of sexual assault, but they may also face additional disputes because of society’s attitude and stereotypes about men and masculinity.
According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, at least 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused or assaulted. Sexual assault is not just physical aggression plus sexuality. Rather, it is defined as a violation of meaningful consent to sex. The victim has to often reflect back on their experience before becoming aware that consent was violated. People often don’t immediately know that they’re being sexually assaulted because it is something that is normalized, and they can’t distinguish the difference between assault and a simple complimentary gesture.
Some adult male survivors who experienced sexual assault feel ashamed, and they believe that they should have been “strong enough” to fight off the violator. Those who were sexually abused during their childhood may respond differently than others who were assaulted in their adulthood. Men who became aroused during the assault may be confused by their arousal and wonder what this means, and these involuntary physiological responses do not in any way imply that they wanted or enjoyed the incursion. If something happened to them, they should know that it is not their fault and they are not alone.
The following list is from the RAINN organization and it includes some of the common experiences shared by men and boys who have survived sexual assault: anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks, and eating disorders. Also, like female victims, male victims of sexual assault actively avoid people or places that remind them of their assault or abuse to avoid concerns or questions about sexual orientation. In those spaces, they feel the fear of the worst happening and having a sense of a shortened future. They feel like “less of a man” or that they no longer have control over their own bodies. Further, they feel on-edge, unable to relax, and experience difficulty with sleeping. Lastly, they withdraw from relationships or friendships and an increased sense of isolation, out of fear of judgment or disbelief. The list is not complete, but it may help to know that other assault victims are having the same issues.
If you are a fellow male and you’re experiencing some of these symptoms, there are multiple hotlines that are open to victims who feel as though they need someone to talk to. Also, please consider speaking with someone who is deemed trustworthy because, as stated before, you are not alone.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7: Telephone: 800-656-HOPE (4673) There is also an online chat: online.rainn.org. Safe Horizon is another organization that helps with crisis events that involve assault and other issues. There contact information is 212-227-3000.