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Male Survivors

Sexual assault is vastly underreported, and this may be especially true for assaults committed against boys, men and male-identified transgender people. The data we do have says that:

In recent years, there has been an increase in the public's awareness of the sexual violence perpetrated against these groups. Unfortunately, we know that this is not a new issue but rather one that has long remained invisible as a result of the societal myths about the sexual abuse of men and the cultural norms around masculinity. These influences have served to silence many male survivors and may also impact one's response to and healing from his abuse. Some examples are:

  • Boys and men are taught that they should be dominant and able to protect themselves and thus cannot be victims
  • Boys and men always want sex
  • Boys who are sexually abused become perpetrators or become gay
  • If a male experiences physical arousal during an assault, they are a willing participant
  • Females cannot perpetrate sexual assault. If a woman seduces a child or adolescent male, it is a rite of passage, not abuse
  • Boys are less traumatized by sexual assault than girls

Addressing the misconceptions and stereotypes that have served to silence male survivors, both within our organizations and among the system partners we work with, is critical to our ability to validate their experiences, provide accurate information and referrals, and advocate on their behalf.

In a groundbreaking episode of Oprah in 2010, 200 male survivors gathered to share their stories and raise awareness of the sexual abuse of males. An informal survey of these men found that:

  • 81% had felt afraid that if other people knew they were a male survivor, it would be wrongly assumed that they were or would become a perpetrator
  • 31% told someone about the abuse and were not believed
  • 75% had experienced sexual confusion as a result of their abuse
  • 72% believed at the time of the abuse that there was something wrong with them that led to their victimization

Because of the increased shame and stigma that male survivors face, many do not disclose childhood sexual abuse until they are adults. However, we also know that men experience sexual violence as adults and rates of assault may be higher for men who do not adhere to strict gender norms or who identify as gay, bisexual, or transgender. In our advocacy with all male survivors, we must remember that "any effective healing process must both honor and occur within the multiple contexts of each man's life. Those influences, both positive and challenging, combined together in varying degrees, are the foundation for the richly complex and healthy men we strive to be." [from the 1 in 6 website]


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Reviewed: October 26th, 2016