Shift Your Perspective: Men Are Sexually Assaulted Too

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and as we express our desires to put an end to sexual violence, it is important that we do not neglect any segment of the sexual assault spectrum, including those who make up 1 out of every 10 sexual assault survivors; men. Male victims are often forgotten when we talk about sexual assault, but we must remember that all victims deserve our respect and support.

1 in 33, or about 3% of American heterosexual men have experienced an attempted or completed sexual assault encounter, and college-aged men (18-24 years old) are 5 times more likely than non-students of the same age to be a victim of sexual assault.

Sexual assault against men in the LGBTQ community is often pushed into the shadows or outright dismissed when we hear about sexual violence. Per the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men have reported experiencing rape and sexual violence compared to the 3% of heterosexual men. Transgender men are also at a high risk of experiencing sexual assault, with 21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students reporting experiences of sexual violence at some point in their lives.

It was only in 2012 that the FBI finally included men as potential victims in the definition of sexual assault. Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project, and 90 other organizations that support victims of sexual assault pushed for the change for over a decade, saying that the public has long been “misled” about the victims of rape. When our society trivializes the experiences of male rape victims, they are less likely to report the crime, and if they do come forward, they can face a huge lack of support from the criminal justice system and their peers.

In our current society, there are plenty of myths about sexual assault against men, each one harmful and wrapped in toxic, hyper-masculinity standards. When female rape victims come forward they’re often met with victim blaming, and male rape victims can face the same mistreatment. Below is a list of some of the ways that rape culture affects men:

1. Telling men that it’s impossible for a woman to rape a man because they should be glad they’re having sex at all.

2. Telling men that they’re “gay” in the derogatory sense if they reject sexual advances from women.

3. Telling jokes about female teachers taking advantage of younger, male students, calling the victim “lucky” and saying he “definitely wanted it”.

4. The myth that “real men” can defend themselves against rape and that they didn’t fight back hard enough.

5. The myth that men don’t need counseling after sexual assault because they “can’t be traumatized by sex”.

In our world, men are not only wrongfully stereotyped as hypersexual, but also pressured to not show their true emotions. In times of trauma men are told to “man up” and not get so emotional, but men should know that they have every right to feel what they feel, and that their experiences and emotions are valid and justified. Sexual assault and abuse is far too often swept under the rug, and for men, it is mostly treated as a taboo topic. Victims of all genders, races, and sexual identities deserve our commitment to fighting for a change in how our society views sexual assault and its victims.

Currently a junior studying marketing at California University of Pennsylvania.

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