The Trauma Within a Trauma

Identifying as a Male Sexual Assault Survivor

About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

(National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)

There is a sick stigma that only women can be raped, that only female-identified folk can only have their sexual boundaries crossed. These statements cannot be farther from the truth. 1 in every 33 male-identified folks have their sexual boundaries crossed in their lifetime.

Every 92 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in America. Think about those numbers. Sit back and look at the people around you. We are currently living in a rape culture society. This not only affects women, but it affects men as well. While the stories of male sexual assaults are becoming more shared among the masses, there have not been safe spaces for men that have been sexually assaulted. And while it is still not safe, there are some hard push backs that will hopefully kick open more doors.

Within the past 3 years, there have been more conversations around sexual assault survivors that were not just about “female-identified” folks. But, due to the Me Too Movement and the Times Up movement, the conversation about sexual assault is becoming somewhat more normalized, and that conversation that is well overdue. I am elated that this is happening, that we are finally talking about something that affects a lot of us.

16% of men experienced sexual abuse by the age of 18.

In fact, in between 9-10% of all rape survivors outside of criminal institutions are male (U.S. Department of Justice, 1994; TAAS, 2014). Furthermore, estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (2005) reported that 16% of men experienced sexual abuse by the age of 18. These reports are also thought to be underestimates due to the barriers male survivors face in the reporting process: the U.S. Department of Justice records an average of greater than 12,000 reported sexual assaults of men annually and predicts that if unreported assaults are included, the actual number of men who are sexually assaulted in the United States each year is approximately 60,000.

What still makes me tilt my neck about 90 degrees to the left or right is the fact that people still question “male-identified” folks that say, them too. That they too have been sexually assaulted. Why is it so hard to believe that anyone can be assaulted? All bodies, all genders, all ages can be sexually assaulted. Aggressive reminder: Unfortunately any of us can be on the receiving end of assault.

...We are doing such a disservice to our male-identified folks in this world as if being human, having emotions and or experiencing trauma makes them less than.

This is where the conversation takes a turn, and we chat about the way that masculinity is looked at within society. We have always lived in a world that promotes men as the stronger sex; individuals that who dominate, and cannot be dominated. This, in my opinion, is one of the more prominent issues with men feeling safe enough to report these crimes. It really is unfortunate that we are doing such a disservice to our male-identified folks in this world as if being human, having emotions and or experiencing trauma makes them less than.

I have an update on that actually: IT DOES NOT! It makes them human just like any other survivor. Emotions are seen as being weak or feminine, as opposed to just being someone responding to their body and their feelings. There is a lot of internal struggle that is pressed upon male-identified folks to be someone that does not deal with feelings and or emotions and just pushes through. They are supposed to be the stronger gender (GENDER IS A SPECTRUM) and take care of everyone. They are taught that there is no time for male-identified folks to get tired, to deal with or show anything other than perseverance. Why are we so hard on these humans? After all, we are all just humans trying to navigate this thing called life, one day at a time. It is May 13, 2019, and I am not sure when you will read this, BUT SHIT IS A MESS!

Several of the legends in Greek mythology involved abductions and sexual assaults of males by other males or gods.

Listen and check in with them. Some examples of how you can handle this are as follows: “Thank you so much for trusting me with this information, how can I support you?” Although, they may not know what they need at that moment, knowing that they have someone there for them may be all that they need in that moment.

They may not know what to do. They may have attempted to go to someone else already and been retraumatized and or further traumatized. Unfortunately, this happens a lot to male identified survivors, and survivors in general. They are met with shame, questioning, blame and even laughter.

THE VERY LEAST we can do is acknowledge that they exist: see them, support them, and believe them.

If you are upset right now, ME TOO! We all should be more upset about this.

There is a lot of continued work that needs to be done around supporting survivors in general. For the male-identified folks, THE VERY LEAST we can do is acknowledge that they exist: see them, support them, and believe them.

Here are a few things to think about, as well as resources that you can share with your friends, family, coworkers or utilize for yourself. These resources specliaize in supporting male identified sexual assault surviviors.

If someone trusts you with their trauma, you should:

  • Avoid digging for any additional details.
    Thank them for trusting you with this information.
  • Ask what they need. A lot of times they may not know what specific support they may need at the time.
  • Know that just showing up and being present for them can be very helpful.
  • Let them know they have options and choices, such as going to the hospital for a SART exam. (You can find out more about what a SART exam is HERE) Note that this is only an option if the assault took place within the last 72 hours. There are psychological services as well.
  • Resources for male-identified people are unfortunately few and far between. But a few resources you can share include 1in6, RAINN, Jim Hopper, MaleSurvivor.Org. There is also a more extended list of support HERE.
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