Male Sexual Assault

Many people believe that sexual assault is only committed by men against women. The majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by men, but the fact is that 1 out of every 10 men is a victim of sexual assault. Victimization can also include childhood sexual abuse.  Because our society fails to see that men can be victims, men often have a difficult time accepting their own victimization and delay seeking help and support. This page offers information about male sexual assault, talks about the barriers male survivors often face, and what you can do if you are a victim of male sexual assault.

What is male sexual assault?
Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact. It can be committed by the use of threats or force or when someone takes advantage of circumstances that render a person incapable of giving consent, such as intoxication. Male sexual assault can 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.

Many people don't take male sexual assault seriously. This is one of the reasons why male victims have a difficult time reporting what happened and why the rates of male sexual assault are thought to be significantly underreported. If a male survivor's friends think that male sexual assault is a joke, he will feel isolated and afraid to tell anyone. Sexual assault is a painful, traumatic experience for any victim.

Who can be a perpetrator of male sexual assault?
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's 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's about violence, control, and humiliation.

What are some of the feelings a male survivor may experience?
Any survivor of sexual assault may experience the following feelings, but male survivors may experience these feelings in a different way:

Guilt -- as though he is somehow at fault for not preventing the assault because our society promotes the misconception that men should be able to protect themselves at
  all times.
· Shame -- as though being assaulted makes him "dirty," "weak," or less of a "real man."
· Fear -- that he may be blamed, judged, laughed at, or not believed.
· Denial -- because it is upsetting, he may try not to think about it or talk about it; he may try to hide from his feelings behind alcohol, drugs, and other self-destructive
· Anger -- about what happened; this anger may sometimes be misdirected and generalized to target people who remind him of the perpetrator.
· Sadness -- feeling depressed, worthless, powerless; withdrawing from friends, family, and usual activities; some victims even consider suicide.

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 physiological 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. Rape counselors have found that gay men 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 identity and are more disturbed by the sexual aspect of the assault than any violence involved.

What should I do if I was assaulted?
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 one of these sexual assault resources. You can ask to speak with a male or female counselor. Even if they don't have male staff on call, almost all rape crisis centers can make referrals to male counselors who are sensitive to the needs of male sexual assault survivors.

Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-494-8100
If you or someone you know needs help because of a sexual assault or an abusive relationship; call this hotline 24 hours a day. Counselor-advocates provide confidential support and are available to accompany victims of sexual assault to the hospital and police station. Ongoing counseling and support groups are available. (This hotline is specific to Rhode Island.  Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE if you need help in another state.)

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) 1-800-656-HOPE
Call this national hotline to be automatically connected to the nearest rape crisis center. It is available 24 hours a day and is confidential.

Seek medical attention.
Even if you think that you do not have any physical injuries, you should still have a medical examination. Medical providers will, with your permission, collect physical evidence to be used if you decide to prosecute. They will also discuss the possibility of sexually transmitted infections and encourage you to get tested.

Report it to the authorities.
Reporting the crime can help you regain a sense of personal power and control and can also help to ensure the safety of other potential victims.

How can I help a male friend who has been sexually assaulted?

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.
· Find out about resources that are sensitive to male victims and let him know his options.
· Tell him that help is available and encourage him to call a rape crisis hotline.
· Don't pressure him to do certain things. He needs to know that he has choices and that you support him.

(Adapted from Planned Parenthood's Teenwire, "He Didn't Ask for it Either," and National Center for Victims of Crime Infoline, "Male Rape.")