Male Survivors of Sexual Violence
Sexual violence is not limited to female-identified individuals. While 1-in-5 women experience sexual violence, data also shows that 1-in-6 males have similar experiences, mostly occurring during their youth. Research also suggests males are less likely to report instances of sexual violence or believe what they experienced qualifies as sexual assault. This number can be hard to believe—understandably so—however, this number comes from the Center for Disease Control (which labels sexual assault as an epidemic), as well as various other sources. Please visit 1in6, an organization that has compiled various articles of research and resources, for more information. Also visit our page on Sexual Violence.
Who are the perpetrators?
As with many cases of sexual violence, most perpetrators have a prior relationship with the survivor. This could include a significant other, classmate, neighbor, friend, or other acquaintance. Both female and male perpetrators exist, as well as those who identify outside the gender binary. Past instances of intimacy, or other acts (like kissing), do not give someone consent for continued or increased sexual contact. Instances of stranger assault occur at a slightly increased rate for male victims, but the vast majority of cases involve an acquaintance.
Why is there a need to highlight male survivors of violence?
The hope is to help people think of violence prevention as an inclusive issue; one that affects men, women, and all who identify outside the gender binary. Historically, instances of sexual assault are under-reported—this only increases when we look at instances of male victimization. By uniting our efforts, we can best address the needs of all survivors.
- Sexual abuse and assault harms boys/men and girls/women in ways that are similar and different, but equally harmful.
- Abuse and assault have nothing to do with how masculine a survivor is.
- There is a myth that most men who sexually abuse other males are gay—the truth is most male perpetrators identify as heterosexual and may have adult heterosexual relationships at the time of abuse. For the perpetrator, the act is less about a homosexual relationship, and more about other factors (power, fantasies involving children, etc.). It is for these same reasons gay men have sexually assaulted women and lesbian women have sexually assaulted men (not to mention all other aspects of sexual orientation).
- Men who have female abusers did not get “lucky,” nor did they “actually want it.” This reinforces the notion that “real men” must have sex with women and be proud of the occurrence afterwards, regardless of the situation through which it took place. Like all instances of sexual violence, assuming the person actually wanted the assault to occur is victim blaming and further decreases the likelihood of reporting and recovery.
- Survivors of violence have an increased rate of abusing others, but the vast majority of survivors still do not engage in perpetration themselves. Many male survivors report fearing those they confide in will become afraid of them, thinking they may become an abuser. This further isolates survivors and makes them question their own morality. Instead, we should offer them aid and support. In fact, even among perpetrators, those who receive help when they are still young never go on to abuse others when they are an adult.
Sexual violence is a problem that affects us all. By working together and truly listening to the stories and experiences of survivors, we can begin to make a difference.