Regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, or gender, anyone can be a victim of sexual assault. Along with the trauma and feelings as other victims following a sexual assault, men and boys face added obstacles due to society’s ideals and stereotypes of masculinity.
Common Difficulties After A Sexual Assault
Male victims who were assaulted as men or male victims who were assaulted when they were boys or teenagers will respond differently but either way they will have more trouble than female victims with people believing them and in receiving the support they require. A common feeling is shame and anger in themselves because as a man they feel they should have been strong enough to fight off the offender, regardless of the offender’s gender.
Also it can be common for men to get an erection or even ejaculate when they are being sexually assaulted and this can leave the victim feeling confused and a sense of shame. This is a normal physical response to sexual stimulation and does not in any way mean that you enjoyed the assault or make it any less of a serious crime.
Males’ Emotional and Physical Problems After a Sexual Assault
Here is a list of some of the feelings male victims might have following a sexual assault. This is in no way a comprehensive list.
- Inability to confide in others due to worry about judgement
- Disordered Eating
- Feeling “unmanly” or not in control of your own body
- Avoiding things that remind you of the sexual assault, whether people, places, or things.
- Feeling constantly on edge
- A sense of doom
- Isolating yourself from friends and family and becoming withdrawn
- A sense of shame
- Blaming yourself for the events leading up to the sexual assault
- Anger both at the offender and at yourself for being unable to stop it.
Are The Perpetrators of Sexual Assault Against Male Victims Different To Other Sexual Assault Perpetrators?
In short, no. The perpetrators can be any age, race, gender, and sexual orientation, the same as in sexual assaults against female victims. They might know the victim, or be complete strangers, and they might use coercion or physical force, the same as female sexual assaults.
Will Being Sexually Assaulted Affect My Sexual Orientation?
Your sexual orientation is something you are born with and therefore cannot be changed through sexual assault, even if it is over a long period of time. Offender’s may say things like “You know you like it” in an effort to shame victims into silence, especially in the cases of sexual assaults against boys or teenagers.
However even if a man gets an erection or ejaculates during a sexual assault it does not mean that he enjoys it and certainly doesn’t say anything about his sexual orientation. This is simply a natural physical response to sexual stimulation and nothing more. It certainly does not say anything about your sexual orientation or your consent to the sexual contact.
If you are questioning your sexual orientation after a sexual assault, know you are not alone and many men and boys who have been sexually assaulted go through the same feelings and thoughts. However be comforted knowing that sexual identity is something you are born with and not something that can be changed through one or more sexually abusive encounters.
I Know A Male Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted, How Do I Support Them?
No matter the victim’s circumstances it is extremely hard to open up to people about your sexual assault. For many, they fear that they will be judged or that people simply won’t believe them and will accuse them of seeking attention or being dramatic. But due to cultural stereotypes, men find it even harder still to tell people about their experience.
Unfortunately a lot of people incorrectly believe that it isn’t possible for men to be a victim of sexual assault, especially not if the perpetrator is female. If a male confides in you about their sexual assault, here are some ways you can support them:
It is hard for any sexual assault survivor to discuss their experience with someone so you must listen and not dismiss them so they feel comfortable talking to other people about it. Many survivors will feel that they are not taken seriously, that people don’t care, or that they are being judged so it is important to make their experience telling someone about it positive. Make sure anything you say makes them feel like you are on their side. Phrases like “I’m here for you,” “That sounds like it was a horrible experience,” or “You are not alone” are helpful. Avoid saying things like “You’ll forget all about it soon,” or “Stop feeling sorry for yourself”. Try and put yourself in their shoes and think what you would want to hear after you had been through something so traumatic.
Don’t ask for details:
No matter how curious you are it is important not to ask about the actual assault. The survivor might be trying to heal and forcing them to relive it will cause pain and embarrassment. If a survivor chooses to tell you about some of the details then make sure you listen in a supportive way and don’t minimize their trauma by expressing that you don’t think it was that serious.
Encourage them to seek help:
Due to the stigma surrounding male sexual abuse, many survivors don’t seek the help required to recover. On top of that some men might foresee obstacles in seeking medical help or reporting the sexual abuse to law enforcement for example if they are trans men or men of color they might avoid adding additional trauma to the experience. It is important not to force the survivor to do anything they do not want to but gently encourage them to seek medical help, report the crime if they feel comfortable, and seek out helplines, counseling, or support groups where appropriate. This must be done in a supportive and non-pushy way because it is important not to ruin the trust they have placed in you.
Experiencing Sexual Assault As An Adult
As a man who has survived sexual assault, the main feeling is generally shame. Men often feel like they should have been able to fight off their attacker. Another common feeling is that they are no longer confident within themselves and their abilities, and feel like they are no longer in control of their own bodies. They will also feel like no one will understand them and therefore they might withdraw from family and friends.
Experiencing Sexual Assault As A Minor
When the sexual assault happens when the victim is a minor it can manifest in different ways through different stages of their life. They might react one way while they are a teenager, and then have other reactions as they mature and grow up.
Will My Relationships Be Affected If I Open Up About The Assault?
Some people will unfortunately not be able to understand and will judge or express disbelief of a sexual assault victim. This can put strain on some of your relationships with family or friends when you confide in them. Be prepared for not everyone to be supportive and understanding.
Where To Find Support for Male Who was Sexual Assaulted
National Sexual Assault Hotline:
Call the hotline to speak to a trained staff member. The people on the other end of the phone are from local sexual assault assistance services in your ear.
Therapy or Counseling:
Find a therapist in your area who specializes in people dealing with sexual assault or sexual abuse. Sometimes therapists might even be covered in your insurance plan so it might be worth speaking your insurance company to see what your options are.