Content Warning: Discussions about sexual assault.
A few weekends ago I hosted a workshop that focused on male victimization, particularly in cases of sexual assault. I thought that discussing it would behoove potential readers on here, as well. Male victimization is a horrendously underrepresented field of study, and thus there is very little contemporary data on the subject. Additionally, men face stigma and legal double standards when they report their assault. This prevents men from reporting, and has left rates of under-reporting among male victims incredibly high.
A RAINN study showed that 1-in-6 men have been sexually assaulted before the age of 18. While sexual assault doesn’t particularly mean rape, this figure is still quite alarming. Is it possible that societal pressures and ideas about masculinity keep men from feeling comfortable with reporting? Homophobia has certainly played a part in under-reporting, as men who are assaulted by other men face even worse stigma. Keeping this in mind, a Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 46% of sexual assault cases against men were carried out by women.
So how can we work to increase awareness about sexual assault against men, and increase reporting rates? It is essential that we validate a survivor’s experience. This doesn’t mean we must throw “innocent until proven guilty” out the window, but it does mean that we should respect a survivor enough to validate their claims and work to find out the truth. Respecting a survivor also means respecting their decisions and autonomy. We shouldn’t force people to report or to remain silent. Instead we should serve as a support system for those who confide in us. We should be patient, kind and understanding when supporting a survivor of trauma. Last, we should urge activists and political leaders to discuss sexual assault carried out against men (especially in prisons), and we should engage in these conversations (at our own comfort levels, of course).