"I never thought it could happen to me!"
Let's take a look at some mistaken beliefs about male sexual assault and uncover the realities behind the myths...
Myth: Men can't be sexually assaulted. Reality: Men are sexually assaulted. Any man can be sexually assaulted regardless of size, strength, appearance or sexual orientation.
Myth: Only gay men are sexually assaulted. Reality: Heterosexual, gay and bisexual men are equally likely to be sexually assaulted. Being sexually assaulted has nothing to do with your current or future sexual orientation. Your sexuality has no more to do with being raped than being robbed.
Myth: Only gay men sexually assault other men. Reality: Most men who sexually assault other men identify themselves as heterosexual. This fact helps to highlight another reality - sexual assault is about violence, anger, and control over another person, not lust or sexual attraction.
Myth: Men cannot be sexually assaulted by women. Reality: Although a majority of perpetuators are male, women can also sexually assault men.
Myth: Erection or ejaculation during a sexual assault means you "really wanted it" or consented to it. Reality: Erection and ejaculation are physiological responses that may result from mere physical contact or even extreme stress. These responses do not imply that you wanted or enjoyed the assault and do not indicate anything about your sexual orientation. Some rapists are aware how erection and ejaculation can confuse a victim of sexual assault - this motivates them to manipulate their victims to the point of erection or ejaculation to increase their feelings of control and to discourage reporting of the crime.
In legal terms, sexual assault is any sexual contact that is against a person's will or without consent. This includes situations where force, violence, or weapons are used as well as situations where the victim is too intoxicated or scared to give consent. Sexual assault happens to men as well as women. In fact, by most estimations, 5-10% of sexual assaults committed in the US involve male victims. Some experts say that as many as 1 in 10 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. These numbers may sound startling because the problem of sexual assault against men isn't talked about very much.
Sexual assault against men happens in lots of different ways. Some men are assaulted by a stranger, or a group of strangers, while others may be assaulted by someone they know. Men are sometimes sexually assaulted by women but most often they are assaulted by other men. Some attackers use weapons, physical force, or the threat of force to gain the upper hand. Others may use blackmail or a position of authority to threaten someone into submission. Still others use alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both, to prevent victims from fighting back. No matter how it occurs, it is a violation of a man's body, his free will and it can have lasting emotional consequences.
The purpose of this brochure is to provide information about sexual assault and recovery for the male survivor.
By now, many college students have heard of the drug, Rohypnol, otherwise known as the "date rape drug." Street terms for this drug includes "roofies" and "ropes." Although this drug is often associated with sexual assaults on females, it is being used increasingly on males, especially around college campuses. Many perpetrators use this drug because it dissolves easily in drinks and creates a drunk-like effect that makes people more susceptible to control by others even if they remain conscious. Survivors of this type of assault often report no memories, or only very sketchy memories, of their assaults.
If you think this kind of sexual assault may have happened to you, get some medical attention. It's very important to get tested for sexually transmitted dieseases and to check for hidden injuries that may have occurred during the assault. You also have the same legal rights as any other crime victim. You might want to call the CSU Campus Police or the Bakersfield Police Department to talk over the legal options.
Whether you are a man or woman, sexual assault is a trauma. The trauma of sexual assault involves losing control of your own body and possibly fearing death of injury. There are certain ways that human beings react to trauma that are the same for men and women. "Rape trauma syndrome" is a term that mental health professionals use to describe the common reactions that occur for both men and women after sexual assault. "Rape trauma syndrome" is not an illness or abnormal reaction - it is a normal reaction to an abnormal, traumatic event.
Below is a checklist of common reactions to sexual assault. Though each person and situation is unique, this checklist will help you to know the range of reactions that are normal to expect. Of course, there are also ways that men are affected differently than women by sexual assault. Following the list of universal reactions to sexual assault, we will delve into some of the reactions to sexual assault that are more unique to men.
There is great social denial of the fact that men get sexually assaulted. Chances are - except for the occasional bad prison joke - most of us don't ever hear about the topic of male sexual assault. The need to deny the existence of male sexual assault is partly rooted in the mistaken belief that men are immune to being victimized, that they should be able to fight off any attacker if they are truly a "real man." A closely related belief is that men can't be forced into sex - either they want it or they don't.
These mistaken beliefs allow lots of men to feel safe and invulnerable, and to think of sexual assault as something that only happens to women. Unfortunately, these beliefs can also increase the pain that is felt by a male survivor of sexual assault. These beliefs leave the male survivor feeling isolated, ashamed, and "less of a man."
No wonder so few men actually get help after being sexually assaulted. The fact is that only 5 to 20% of all victims of sexual assault actually report the crime - the percentage for male victims is even lower. Feelings of shame, confusion and self-blame leave many men suffering in silence after being sexually assaulted.
Below are some of the unique problems and concerns that male survivors may experience:
For most men the idea of being a victim is very hard to handle. We're raised to believe that a man should be able to defend himself against all odds, or that he should be willing to risk his life or severe injury to protect his pride and self-respect. How many movies of TV shows have you see in which the "manly" hero is prepared to fight a group of huge guys over an insult or name-calling? Surely, you're supposed to fight to the death over something like unwanted sexual advances...right? These beliefs about "manliness" and "masculinity" are deeply ingrained in most of us and can lead to intense feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy for the male survivor of sexual assault.
Many male survivors may even question whether they deserved or somehow wanted to be sexually assaulted because, in their minds, they failed to defend themselves. Male survivors frequently see their assault as a loss of manhood and get disgusted with themselves for not "fighting back." These feelings are normal but the thought attached to them isn't necessarily true. Remind yourself that you did what seemed best at the time to survive - there's nothing un-masculine about that.
As a result of their guilt, shame and anger some men punish themselves by getting into self- destructive behavior after being sexually assaulted. For lots of men, this means increased alcohol or drug use. For others, it means increased aggressiveness, like arguing with friends or co-workers or even picking fights with strangers. Many men pull back from relationships and wind up feeling more and more isolated. It's easy to see why male survivors of sexual assault are at increased risk for getting depressed, getting into trouble at work, getting physically hurt, or developing alcohol and drug problems.
Many male survivors also develop sexual difficulties after being sexually assaulted. It may be difficult to resume sexual relationships or start new ones because sexual contact may trigger flashbacks, memories of the assault, or just plain bad feelings. It can take time to get back to normal so don't pressure yourself to be sexual before you are ready.
For heterosexual men, sexual assault almost always causes some confusion or questioning about their sexuality. Since many people believe that only gay men are sexually assaulted, a heterosexual survivor may begin to believe that he must be gay or that he will become gay. Furthermore, perpetrators often accuse their victims of enjoying the sexual assault, leading some survivors to question their own experiences. In fact, being sexually assaulted has nothing to do with sexual orientation, past, present, or future. People do not "become gay" as a result of being sexually assaulted.
For gay men, sexual assault can lead to feelings of self-blame and self-loathing attached to their sexuality. There is already enough homophobic sentiment in society to make many gay men suffer from internal conflicts about their sexuality. Being sexually assaulted may lead a gay man to believe he somehow "deserved it" that he was "paying the price" for his sexual orientation. Unfortunately, this self-blame can be reinforced by the ignorance or intolerance of others who blame the victim by suggesting that a gay victim somehow provoked the assault or was less harmed by it because he was gay. Gay men 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 men may be deprived of legal protections and necessary medical care following an assault.
Some sexual assaults of men 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.
It is important for you to know that your reactions are normal and temporary to an abnormal event.
The fear and confusion will lessen with time, but the trauma may disrupt your life for awhile. You may experience any or all of the reactions on the last few pages. People, places or things connected to the assault may trigger some reactions, while other reactions may seem to come from "out of the blue." Remember that no matter how much difficulty you're having dealing with the assault, it does not mean that you're "going crazy' or becoming "mentally ill."
Talking about the assault will help you feel better, but may also be really hard to do. In fact, it is common to want to avoid conversations and situations that may remind you of the assault. You may have a sense of wanting to "get on with life" and "let the past be the past." This is a normal part of the recovery process and may last for weeks or months.
Eventually you will need to deal with your feelings in order to heal and regain a sense of control over your life. Talking with someone who can listen and understand - whether it's a friend, family member, hotline counselor or therapist - is a key part of this process. It is important to understand that you may not be able to function at 100% capacity for a while following a major trauma like sexual assault. You may have problems concentrating or remembering things and may feel tired or edgy. You may also take longer to recover from everyday stresses, kind of like when you go back to work or school too early after having the flu. Don't be too hard on yourself - you need time to recover emotionally and that may detract form your energy for a while.
After a sexual assault, the victim needs to:
Things you can do to help:
CSU Bakersfield Public Safety (24 hrs) - 654-2111
CSU Bakersfield Health Center - 654-2394
CSU Bakersfield Counseling Center - 654-3366
BPD (Bakersfield Police Department) - 327-7111
Sex Crimes Division - 326-3850
Kern County Mental Health
Crisis Stabilization Unit - 868-8000
Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assualt - 322-0931For emergencies call 911 immediately
If you are in need of assistance, please don't hesitate to call the Counseling Center at 661-654-3366.
This information was prepared by the Counseling and Information Center at the University of Texas at Austin to assist students with sexual assault. Information contained herein was gleaned from on-line publications.