Many stereotypes and stigmas about men and sexual assault can keep men from speaking out, seeking support and reporting the crime.
Examples of myths that keep men from speaking out:
- Men are physically strong and aggressive and should be able to fight off an attack.
- Men enjoy sex and therefore must have enjoyed the assault.
- Rape only happens to women.
- Being sexually assaulted by another man must make them gay.
- Males that have been sexually abused will become offenders.
These stigmas and stereotypes can lead to increased isolation and feelings that they are alone in their suffering.
Some common reactions that male victims experience include:
Fear: many fear they will be laughed at, judged, blamed for the crime or not believed.
Shame: some may feel that they are “weak,” “not a real man,” or their masculinity has been compromised.
Denial or disbelief that the assault occurred.
Guilt: like female victims, some male victims blame themselves for the crime. This is compounded by societal beliefs that men should be able to fight off an attack. GLBTQ males may blame themselves for the assault if they were targeted because of their sexuality or gender identity.
Self destructive behavior: abusing drugs, alcohol and other forms of reckless behavior may be a victim’s way of coping.
Questioning sexuality: If sexually assaulted by another male, heterosexual males may fear that the assault made them gay, especially if they ejaculated or had an erection. This is a completely normal response our bodies are wired to respond physiologically to certain stimulation, no matter how we feel emotionally about what is happening. Rape does not change a person’s sexual orientation.
Self-loathing: GLBTQ males may believe they were assaulted because of their sexuality or gender identity which may lead to feelings of self-hatred toward their sexual orientation. They may also experience difficulty being intimate with other men. Note: GLBTQ individuals are often targeted for sexual violence because of their sexuality, but rape is not the fault of the victim for being GLBTQ. The only person(s) responsible is the rapist(s).
If you are a male that has experienced sexual violence, support is available. All of the organizations that serve victims of sexual assault provide services to males. Please see our Referrals page for more information.