Glad You Asked: Can Men be Sexually Assaulted?

Figure 11: The image shows two people sitting at a table. One of the people has their hand raised to ask a question. The image is by rawpixel.
Figure 11: The image shows two people sitting at a table. One of the people has their hand raised to ask a question. The image is by rawpixel.

Data from the 2015 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey Data Brief indicates that “Nearly a quarter of men (24.8% or 27.6 million) in the U.S. experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.” Of course, as in all questions regarding the prevalence of sexual violence- exact numbers are impossible to capture, and sexual violence is underreported. While male victims often face the same barriers as their female and non-binary counterparts when disclosing abuse (which might include fear of not being believed, feelings of guilt or shame, fear of how disclosure might impact their ongoing safety, a desire to move on with their lives, and more), they also face unique challenges tied specifically to their identity.

Boys begin learning societal expectations around masculinity from an early age. These expectations are reinforced both explicitly and implicitly and tend to be rather narrow in scope. Think about how we often praise boys when they act “tough,” show strength, or take charge. Consider the flood of messages boys and men receive that it’s not okay to cry, to express emotions other than anger, to show weakness, to be afraid, to ask for help- or perhaps worst of all, to do anything that might make one seem “like a girl.”

As Dr. Jim Hopper points out, “Having unwanted or abusive sexual experiences means being sexually used or dominated, vulnerable, overwhelmed, [and] flooded by intense emotions. All of that is the opposite of how males are supposed to be.”

And yet, sexual violence against men and boys is not rare. It has permeated many of our institutions. Some of these acts of violence (although not all) are part of bullying, hazing, or other initiations. A 2007 study found that one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. The Department of Defense estimates that 7,500 men in the military “experienced some kind of contact or penetrative sexual assault in 2018”. That same year, 6.1% of male youth in juvenile correctional facilities reported staff sexual misconduct. Men in adult correctional facilities are also vulnerable to assault and harassment. Of course, a great deal of sexual violence also takes place in homes and communities.

If you are a male survivor of sexual assault or abuse, please know that you are not alone, what happened is not your fault, and that surviving sexual violence takes strength. Male survivors and survivors of all genders can find support through any of KCSDV’s coalition member programs, which are in cities and communities across the state. Services are free and confidential and are available whether the violence occurred recently or happened many years ago. Other resources include 1in6, a national organization with a mission “to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences live healthier, happier lives.” 1in6 offers extensive information about sexual violence against men and boys as well as chat-based support groups. Wherever and however you choose to do so, please do not hesitate to reach out for whatever help you may need.

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This project was supported by Grant No. 2019-MU-AX-0021 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.


Last Updated on Oct 26, 2020