Can men be victims of sexual violence?
YES – many people believe that sexual violence is only perpetrated by men against women. This is not the case. 1 in 20 men is a victim of sexual violence, which can occur, as a child or as an adult.
What is sexual violence against men?
Sexual violence is exactly the same whether it is perpetrated against a male or a female. Sexual violence and abuse can be defined as any behaviour perceived to be of a sexual nature, which is unwanted and takes place without consent or understanding. Rape is when a man has penetrative sex with another person against their will. This includes vaginal, anal and oral penetration. Sexual assault covers any other sort of sexual contact and behaviour that is unwanted, ranging from touching to any other activity if it is sexual.
Anyone can be a victim of rape or sexual assault, regardless of age, sex, ability, race, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Who can be a perpetrator of male sexual assault?
The short answer is anyone. Rape and sexual assault can be committed by someone the victim knows or by strangers. You can also be raped or sexually assaulted by a partner – someone you are in a relationship with.
What are typical reactions during or after a sexual violence?
Sexual assault can be a traumatic experience. Men usually share many of the same feelings of female victims such as denial, fear of being blamed, judged or not believed, guilt, shame, anger, sadness and withdrawal. However, male victims often experience these same feelings in a different way. For example, the male survivor may feel guilty (believing he is at fault for not preventing the assault) or shame (as though being assaulted makes him “dirty”, “weak” or less of a “real man”).
Men can also be concerned about what the assault means in terms of their sexuality and/or masculinity. If a male victim became sexually aroused, had an erection or ejaculated during the sexual assault, he may not believe that he was raped. These are involuntary physical reactions. They do not mean that the victim wanted to be sexually assaulted, or that the survivor enjoyed the traumatic experience. Just as with women, a sexual response does not mean there was consent.
The experience of sexual assault may affect gay and heterosexual men differently. Gay men may have difficulties in their sexual and emotional relationships with other men and think that the assault occurred because they are gay. Heterosexual men often begin to question their sexual identify and are more disturbed by the sexual aspect of the assault than any violence involved.
The important thing to remember is that there is support for you, through many different pathways – you can call the The Rowan Helpline on 0800 389 4424 or look at the Contacts section of the site to get in touch with one of the many organisations that you can talk to in confidence
People adapt to difficult and traumatic experiences in different ways. You may wonder if you will ever recover from a sexual assault. People do, in the same way that they recover from other forms of loss. But it may change the way you see the world, and it may take time to come to terms with it. You may need help at different times to cope with practical, health or emotional issues.
Some people tell no one and find a way of carrying on with their lives as if nothing happened. But many people say that talking to someone helped them. Talking to someone early on can prevent longer-term problems.
You may have other questions, about support available or who you will see when you arrive at The Rowan. Our information leaflet provides answers to some of these more general questions.
If you think you might harm yourself, seek help immediately. You should:
- Call 999
- Call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. For Deaf and hard of hearing, dial 18001 0808 808 8000
- Get someone to take you to your local emergency department
- Discuss your suicidal thoughts with your doctor – talk about ways to keep yourself safe. Ask your GP or Lifeline about help for suicidal thoughts
- Call the Samaritans Helpline on 08457 90 90 90