Let's Talk About Male Victims of Sexual Assault

What is it about sexual assault that has people grasping at straws to find some sort of excuse to dismiss the victim? After an assault, there’s always someone who comments on what the victim was wearing, or whether or not they had a drink that night, or some other excuse to dismiss them. And when women and non-binary people point out the high rates of sexual assault they face, someone inevitably will counter with “well what about men who get assaulted?”

Yes, what about them? Recent social movements, such as #MeToo, have made it clear that men are also victims of sexual assault and that it is something that also needs to be addressed. There has been no shortage of support toward male victims from those involved with the #MeToo movement. And yet, time after time, someone will bring up how men can also be sexually assaulted in an effort to derail the movement as a whole. But when a man who has been assaulted, such as actor Terry Crews, steps forward, those who were previously so vocal about male sexual assault are suddenly silent.

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Crews stepped forward and talked about his own assault via Twitter. Looking at the comments on the thread display an outpouring of support from other users, who are mostly women and non-binary people. There is a noticeable lack of male users voicing support. Instead, people like 50-Cent mock Crews’ assault and imply that he should have reacted with violence towards the perpetrator.

Toxic masculinity is one of the things that contributed to many of the responses following Crews’ detailing of his assault. For him to come out and talk about a traumatic experience and have people approach him with the idea that he should have resorted to violence is a prime example of this. And, due to the rampant racism in America, he, as a black man, would not have been portrayed as someone defending himself, which he realized. “‘240 lbs. Black Man stomps out Hollywood Honcho’ would be the headline the next day,” he said in his Twitter thread when he mentioned why he didn’t retaliate in the moment.

There are other comments that imply that he, and other male victims of sexual assault, are somehow weak and less of a man for being assaulted, or that the assault itself was only horseplay and that it’s being blown out of proportion. Or, when a woman is behind the assault, they say he should have “enjoyed it”, and that it’s not a big deal.  Saying these things is just like blaming a woman’s sexual assault on her clothes and only pushes the blame onto the victim. Responses like these are part of what silences victims and allows the perpetrators to get away with assault.

And yet, the next time a woman steps forward about her assault, there will be someone who cries “what about male victims!” Yes, but where were you when male victims actually stepped forward? What was your reaction? Did you express support and sympathize with them and believe them? Or did you mock and belittle them, not believing that they would “allow” this to happen to them? Those who do the latter don’t actually care about male sexual assault victims. They’re only using male victims as a tool to silence women and non-binary individuals. They completely ignore said male victims when they do come forward, showing that they don’t actually care about sexual assault victims, regardless of the victims’ gender.