From When Men are Raped by the Ohio State University Rape Education and Prevention Program
Because our society expects men to be physically strong and capable of defending themselves, many male rape survivors suffer a severe blow to their manhood, having been taught to believe that men should not be weak enough to be forced into a sexually submissive situation. Fred Pelka, a rape survivor writes, “To see rape as a women’s issue is a form of male privilege most men would prefer not to surrender” (Pelka 1992). In reality, anyone, man or woman, can be raped. Very often, men will rape other men as a means of humiliation and degradation by intentionally feminizing them, including the use of verbally abusive language that is derogatory to women.
A word about female offenders
Sex offences are generally thought to be committed by men against women or children and to date, most investigators believe that males make up the majority of sex offenders. Estimates of the prevalence of female sex offending find that females may account for up to 13% of the abuse of females and 24% of the abuse of males, either acting alone or with a partner. See: Correctional Services Canada
There are unique challenges when women are the offenders. One victim writes; "After being sexually assaulted by a female, I felt I had no place to go. I felt like I couldn’t go to a sexual assault centre and say 'I’ve been raped by a women'. I didn’t think I would receive respect or attention or if I would be told that just wasn’t so. It’s harder to have your story believed if the perpetrator was a woman. It made me feel very alone."
From: When Men are Raped
The rape of adult males has been so largely neglected and collectively denied that its invisibility has given rise to the notion that it just does not occur in our society. While some acknowledgement of male rape in prisons and jails has emerged in recent years, most people do not consider the sexual violation of adult males to be within the realm of possibility in non-institutional communities. When are men are raped, they are usually assaulted by other men. Although it is possible for women to rape men, this crime has been documented and researched to an even lesser extent than same-sex rape.
The vast majority of male rapes are never reported, and although men constitute 5 to 10 percent of all victims who were raped as adults, they tend to report their assaults to authorities even less than women who have been raped (Scarce 1997). One study involving more than 3,000 adults in the Los Angeles area found that 7% of males in their sample had been raped in their adult lives (Sorenson et al. 1987). In one study on college students, researchers found that 16% of male respondents had been forced to have sex at some point in their adult lives (Struckman and Johnson 1992).
Very little research has been conducted on the rape of men, and service providers like rape crisis centers and hospitals often lack the in-depth knowledge and skill to adequately assist male survivors of sexual violence. Survivors often struggle alone, dealing with their trauma in isolation. More often than not, they are silenced by the fear that loved ones and service providers will fail to support them in their time of crisis.
Unlike women, most men are never taught to live with the fear of their own vulnerabilities to sexual assault. When they are raped, therefore, they may experience a heightened degree of pure shock and surprise, finding it more difficult to understand what they have gone through.
On average, somewhere between 5-10% of rapes reported to service providers like rape crisis centers and police departments are male-on-male sexual assaults. However, approximately 90- 95% of men who are raped do not report it (Forman 1982). In a study on male rape survivors he had counseled, one therapist found an unusually high incidence of denial and repression after the assault (Myers 1989). The stigma of apparent weakness in having been raped often prevents a survivor from coming forward.
In addition, many male survivors find it difficult to identify their experience as rape because they have been taught to believe that men cannot be victims of sexual assault (Garnets, Herek, and Levy 1993). Some men will treat sexual assault as just another physical assault and fail to seek further emotional support or psychological assistance once the initial physical injuries heal.
Other researchers have noted that a fear of having their sexual identity questioned often prevents male survivors from coming forward to share their experiences with others (Burgess and Groth 1980). Gay men who have been raped, already stigmatized by societal stereotypes of “sexual deviance,” often attempt to make sense of their rape experiences by rationalizing the assault and blaming themselves. In one study of male survivors, a gay man stated, “these things happen all the time in gay life . . . that’s what you get for taking chances . . . I should have known better” (Myers 1989).
Gay men are more likely to rationalize their assault as a bad sexual experience, especially if they have been raped by an acquaintance. In addition to this self-blame, fear of hostility and moral judgment from law enforcement, medical providers, and counselors also impede gay men’s ability to seek assistance from traditional support systems.
Finally, describing his rape can be highly distressing to the survivor, for this entails reliving the nightmare again (Groth and Burgess 1980). Submitting to hospital exams and police interrogations can be a form of secondary violation to a person’s body and privacy. Rape survivors will feel more comfortable reporting their experience and seeking help if they view service providers as responsive to their needs. In fact, agencies that are viewed as supportive to male rape survivors often see a large number of them on a regular basis. One study reported that male survivors constituted fully 22.7% of rapes reported to agencies that have well developed services for male-on-male rape survivors (Hillman et al. 1991).
It is imperative to understand that men do not have widespread access to resources like self-help books and support groups as do women survivors of rape. Given the extreme stigma surrounding adult male rape, a survivor usually deals with his issues in total isolation. You may well be the first person he has talked with and might be the only source of information, support and understanding for him.
There is no clear indication as to whether the majority of men are raped by acquaintances or strangers. Some studies demonstrate that gay men and men of color are at a higher risk for sexual victimization, probably due to sexual assault that occurs as part of a hate crime, meaning these men became the target of violence because of their race or perceived sexual orientation.
Studies on perpetrators of male-on-male rape found that they tended to identify as heterosexual, were 26 years old on average, and were all involved in consensual sexual relationships with others at the time (Groth and Burgess 1980). Many of the rapists stated that the gender of the victim was inconsequential to them. Thus, rape for these men is an act of violence and control. Nearly half of them had tried to get their victims to ejaculate, their explanation being that they had wanted the victim to enjoy himself. These men buy into the notion that their victims enjoy being raped, and probably that they asked for it. In addition, they know that a man who has ejaculated will be discouraged from reporting his experience as non-consensual. These same researchers also found that the primary motivations of these perpetrators was to a) conquer and control, b) act out feelings of revenge, c) resolve conflict with their own sexuality and, d) gain status among fellow men for being an aggressor.
Very often, men will rape other men as a means of humiliation and degradation by intentionally feminizing them, including the use of verbally abusive language that is derogatory to women.
Men who are raped usually struggle with some severe psychological after-effects of the assault. Confusion regarding their sexual orientation is a common result. One survivor says, “I really wonder about my sexuality—gay, straight, bi, I still don’t know. I went through a period when I became very promiscuous, both with men and women” (Scarce 1997). Some men may become very homophobic, blaming gay men for subjecting them to a rape experience. Survivors may feel humiliated and angry at being forced to participate in such a sexual act and start blaming the “gay lifestyle” for what they had to go through. It is important to know, however, that most men who rape other men identify as heterosexual and are involved in consensual sexual relationships with women at the time they rape. It is not a need for sex with other men that drives them to rape. For them, rape is an act of violence and control, not of sexual gratification.
Because our society expects men to be physically strong and capable of defending themselves, many male rape survivors suffer a severe blow to their manhood, having been taught to believe that men should not be weak enough to be forced into a sexually submissive situation. Fred Pelka, a rape survivor writes, “To see rape as a women’s issue is a form of male privilege most men would prefer not to surrender” (Pelka 1992). In reality, anyone, man or woman, can be raped. Very often, men will rape other men as a means of humiliation and degradation by intentionally feminizing them, including the use of verbally abusive language that is derogatory to women. Gay men who have been raped by an acquaintance might be silenced for fear of having their sexual identity revealed to others. They might not be prepared to answer questions such as “Are you gay?” and “What were you doing with him in the first place?”
Repressing the rape experience is sometimes accompanied by a retreat into the closet and attempts by these men to distance themselves from their gay identities. Other gay men report becoming totally asexual, retreating from sexuality as a means of coping with the confusion over their seeming lack of ability to figure out when acquaintances pose a danger of sexual assault. Since many men have erections or ejaculate during their rape as a response to extreme pain or fear, they might feel guilty of even attempting to describe their experience as rape, fearing others will believe they enjoyed the assault.
For other gay men, accusing acquaintances of being rapists is akin to airing the gay community’s dirty laundry to the broader public, so they choose to hide their experiences. Myers (1989) reports that a gay psychiatrist who sees numerous rape survivors a month labels acquaintance rape in the gay world as “our dirty secret.” When one is a member of a stigmatized community, there is a hesitancy to shed light on any problem that would fuel the stigma and justify prejudice in the minds of others. Many survivors display signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, reporting episodes of panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, physical pain, loss of appetite, flashbacks of the rape, and more.
Survivors have talked about being scared of looking at men’s crotches, being alone with, or in relationships with men, and being startled easily because they are hyper-alert (Myers 1989). In his book Male on Male Rape, Michael Scarce describes the situation of one survivor who sought encounters with other men that replicated his own past sexual victimization. He could not recall such episodes afterwards and only knew about them because of pain and blood in the rectal area when he regained his senses. “I ask myself why I do that and I’m not sure,” he said. “I really feel like it’s the only thing I’m good for, that I deserve it” (Scarce 1997). In the days and weeks after a rape, thoughts and emotions associated with the assault can be all-consuming, but most survivors find that gradually a sense of normalcy returns. It should also be noted that once a person survives rape, he or she will be a rape survivor for life.
Although the most intense feelings that result from the assault will recede, it is common for rape survivors to experience difficulties near the anniversary of their assaults or in circumstances that trigger memories of the experience. Some rape survivors find that it helps to confide in a friend, family member, or counselor for support in dealing with their feelings of trauma.
From: When Men are Raped
This article is excerpted from the publication “When Men Are Raped”, which was written by the Ohio State University Rape Education and Prevention Program with funding through a grant from the Ohio Department of Health. A complete copy of the text is available from ODH, or contact: Ohio State University Rape Education and Prevention Program Student Gender and Sexuality Services 464 Ohio Union, 1739 N. High Street Columbus, OH 43210 Phone: (614) 292-0479.
For more information about sexual abuse of boys and men go to: 1 in 6
See also: Stop it Now