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Breaking the Silence - Why sexual assault tends to be under-reported

Surviving Sexual Violece
Surviving Sexual Violece

As a rule of thumb, many people tend to believe that only women can be victims of sexual assault. This myth is very common among males and females. There is also another disbelief that all sexual assaults, are rapes. I have people who ask me why I often use the words 'sexual assaults' in the same sentence with the word 'rape' whenever I talk about victimization related to sexual violence? Anyone who has been raped has been sexually assaulted but someone; male or female who has been sexually assault does not necessarily mean that they have engaged in sexual intercourse.

Both males and females can be victims of sexual assault and both males and females can be perpetrators of sexual violence.

Victims --- Perpetrator (sexual violence)

  1. Females --- Males
  2. Females --- Females
  3. Males --- Females
  4. Males --- Males

Although, it is more common for rape or sexual assaults to involve female victims with male perpetrators, the statistics for male victimization is skewed at best because it is more common for male victims with either male or female perpetrators to go under-reported than it is by female victims. Why?

Typically, when a heterosexual male has been sexually assaulted or raped by another male, the victim tends to question his sexuality. There is a stigma in our society that suggests that any man who is sexually assaulted by another man must be gay. This stigma is just as common among the victims as it is by others. In the event where a male child is sexually assaulted by an adult male, it is unlikely that someone will question the victim's sexual orientation or accuse them of 'liking' it. Now, in the event that a man has been sexually assaulted by a woman, the victim is likely to question his masculinity. This presents yet another stigma in our society in which people tend to view men as the brawn and the gender who should never show emotions or cry. Whereas, society tends to view women as fragile and who are allowed to show emotions. This by no means is true by everyone's standards but as a rule of thumb this is the backlash that male victims tend to experience according to social norms and one of the main reasons why male victimization of sexual violence tends to be under-reported.

Wait a minute, how can a man be raped?

This very question is yet another reason why a vast majority of male victims deny their victimization and refuse to report the crime. People tend to believe that if a woman has consensual sex with a man, then there is no rape; especially if he has an erection and/or ejaculates. The assumption is that if he had an erection and/or ejaculated, then he must have liked it. Of course, there is the common comradery by other males (more so by ages 16-29); "what guy would pass up sex, given the chance?" The truth of the matter is very similar to a female victim in that, a man could be drugged with a date rape drug for example, or they could have been intoxicated at the time -- which means they would be unable to consent to sexual relations with anyone. There is no double standard here when it comes to 'the incapacity to consent' because it is the same for women who are under the influences of drugs or alcohol. Whether male or female, if they are incapable of consenting to sexual relations, then their partner has sexually assaulted them.

Now, going back to the question about how could it be rape if the man ejaculated during intercourse? This question is very similar for female victims who climax during a sexual assault. In both cases, both male and female victims tend to question whether or not it was sexual assault (oral sex, sodomy) or rape (vaginal or anal). The part that most people tend to overlook is that the body does not always react as the mind is thinking. Our bodies tend to react when aroused - whether we enjoy it or not. If a man has an erection and/or ejaculates, this is a normal response for the body. If a woman has an orgasm and/or climaxes during a sexual assault, then it is a natural response by the body. This does not suggest that they enjoyed the sexual activity, nor is it sex. It is rape (when engaged in vaginal or anal) and it is sexual assault whether oral or intercourse takes place.

My hope is that victims and survivors of sexual violence will learn that they are not alone and if they choose not to report the crime, it does not suggest that victimization never occurred, nor does it suggest that one's sexuality or masculinity or even femininity needs to be questioned. If you are you know someone; male or female who has been sexual assaulted, I would strongly encourage that you share this information with them so that they can get the help and closure they need. If you have been sexually assaulted (including fondled) or raped, or you know someone who has, it is never too late to report the crime to the police. Many states (U.S.) are continuously updating their statues of limitations on sexual assaults and rapes. Some states and other countries do not have any statues of limitations on sexual assaults and rapes.

If you or someone you know is is need of support groups or help finding a therapist who specializes in sexual assault and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or needs help determining local laws on sexual violence, please feel free to email me directly at I am a strong believer of confidentiality.

It is time to break the silence and the stigmas of society surrounding sexual assaults for both male and female victims.

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