Sexual violence happens to people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, religions, abilities, professions, incomes, races and ethnicities. Although females have a much higher risk of sexual assault during their lives, males are also victims, particularly as boys and adolescents.
As in sexual assaults against females, against boys and men it is also an act of power and control using sexual assault as the weapon and includes rape, incest, child sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, unwanted sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure and voyeurism.
According to studies, approximately one in six boys are sexually assaulted before they turn 18 (nearly 28 percent were age 10 or younger at the time); one in 33 men are sexually assaulted as adults. Additionally, one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college; 90 percent of which are never reported. Because the reporting rate for male victims, especially for those who were victimized by other males, is low, actual rates are thought to be higher.
And the male rape epidemic in prisons: the Department of Justice found 4 percent of state and federal prisoners and 3.2 percent of jail inmates reported being a victim of sexual abuse. Male sexual assault is also common in our military; in 2013, males were the victim in 53 percent of 26,000 military sexual assaults.
Men are the perpetrators of sexual assaults against boys and men far more commonly than women. The majority of perpetrators of sexual violence against men are white, heterosexual men – and many of the perpetrators are married or in long-term relationships with women. While females do sexually assault boys and men, a 2010 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study found males perpetrated 93.3 percent of rapes against males. Another study put the number of male perpetrators of male sexual assault at 86 percent.
Survivors of sexual assault often experience guilt, shame, fear, numbness, shock and feelings of isolation. They may also experience long-term health risks and behaviors, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, depression and sexually transmitted infections. There is also a very high rate of substance abuse among male survivors. About 80 percent of men who were sexually abused become problem drinkers versus 11 percent for male non-victims.
The website 1in6.org is a helpful resource for male survivors and their families. The site provides information and myths, including:
• Boys and men can be sexually used or abused, and it has nothing to do with how masculine they are.
• If a victim liked the attention he was getting or got sexually aroused during abuse or even sometimes wanted the attention or sexual contact, this does not mean he wanted or liked being manipulated or abused. It also does not mean that any part of what happened was his responsibility or fault in any way.
• Sexual abuse harms boys and girls in ways that are similar and different, but equally harmful.
• The sexual abuse of boys has nothing to do with an abuser’s sexual orientation.
• A boy abused by a male is not necessarily gay, nor was he abused because he is gay, nor can the abuse make him gay.
• Girls and women can sexually abuse boys. The boys are not “lucky.” They are exploited and harmed.
• Most boys who are sexually abused will not go on to sexually abuse others.
CAV provides free services for all survivors of sexual and domestic violence, including both men and women of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV). To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV’s 24-hour crisis line at (575) 758-9888. www.TaosCAV.org.