Sexual Violence and Male Victims/Survivors

Written by Keith Goslant

Our culture’s belief is that a man should be able to defend himself against all odds, or that he should be willing to risk his life or severe injury to protect himself, his pride and his self-respect. These are deeply ingrained beliefs about what constitutes masculinity and can lead to intense feelings of shame, guilt, and inadequacy for male victims/survivors of sexual violence.

Cultural stereotypes fail to recognize men as potential targets of sexual violence and therefore minimize the immediate and long-term effects of sexual violence male victims/survivors may experience. Stereotypes such as: men cannot be raped; sexual violence (rape) against men is only committed in prisons; male sexual violence victims/survivors must be gay; heterosexual men doe not commit sexual violence against other men; men are less affected by sexual violence then women.

Recent studies done by the Veterans Administration of Gulf Veterans applying for disability benefits based on a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis (Murdoch et al., 2004) indicated as many as 13.3% were victims/survivors of in-service sexual violence. Throughout the military, 4.2% of men report being the victim/survivor of in-service sexual violence.


Reactions to Sexual Violence:

  • Male victims/survivors may feel they will not be believed.
  • Male victims/survivors often feel isolated. He may wonder if he is the only one to have experienced this type of violence.
  • Male victims/survivors may have a lack of information to define their experience as sexual violence.
  • Male victims/survivors may have an unwillingness to think of themselves as victims/survivors of sexual assault while at the same time fearing all the potential changes in themselves that might ensue.
  • Male victims/survivors may fear reprisal by the perpetrator/s if they come forward.
  • Male victims/survivors may fear they will be seen as gay if they come forward. (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell)
  • Male victims/survivors may confuse consent or desire if erection or ejaculation occurred during the sexual violence.
  • Male victims/survivors may question their sexual orientation and their beliefs/notions of masculinity.
  • Male victims/survivors may feel they should have been able to stop the violence.
  • Male victims/survivors may fear they will one day become a perpetrator because of what has happened to them.
  • Male victims/survivors may have difficulty asking for or accessing crisis-based and long-term services that are perceived as being women’s services.
  • Male victims/survivors may have difficulty expressing the intense emotions that follow sexual violence.
  • Crisis responses:
    – Disorientation
    – Flashbacks
    – Fear
    – Anxiety
    – Anger
    – Physical Stress
  • Long term:
    – Alienation from body
    – Eating disorder
    – Substance abuse
    – Compulsive behaviors
    – Suicidal ideation or attempt
    – Depression
    – Inability to express anger
    – Depersonalization
    – Trust issues
    – Boundary issues
    – Guilt, shame, and low self-esteem
    – Belief no one will listen
    – Sexual issues