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When Men Are Raped

  • About 3% of American men – a total of 2.78 million men – have experienced a rape at some point in their lifetime (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2006).
  • In Indiana One in Twelve Men will be raped in their adult lifetime. (One in Seven report, 2007).
  • 71% of male victims were first raped before their 18th birthday; 16.6% were 18-24 years old, and 12.3% were 25 or older (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2006).
  • 22% of male inmates have been raped at least once during their incarceration; roughly 420,000 prisoners each year (Human Rights Watch, 2001).
  • Males are the least likely to report a sexual assault, though it is estimated that they make up 10% of all victims (RAINN, 2006).

Victims’ Response

It is common for a male rape victim to blame himself for the rape, believing that he in some way consented to being raped (Brochman, 1991). Male rape victims suffer a similar fear that female rape victims face:  people will believe the myth that they may have asked for it in some way or enjoyed being raped. Some men may believe they were not raped or that they consented because they became sexually aroused, had an erection, or ejaculated during the sexual assault. These are normal, involuntary physiological reactions. It does not mean that consent was given or that the victim wanted to be raped or sodomized.  Sexual arousal does not mean consent was given.

According to researcher Groth, some assailants may try to get their victim to ejaculate because for the rapist, it symbolizes their complete sexual control over their victim’s body. Since ejaculation is not always within conscious control but rather an involuntary physiological reaction, rapists frequently succeed at getting male victims to ejaculate. As Groth and Burgess have found in their research, this aspect of the attack is extremely stressful and confusing to the victim. In misidentifying ejaculation with orgasm, the victim may be bewildered by his physiological response during the sexual assault and, therefore, may be discouraged from reporting the assault for fear his sexuality may become suspect (Groth & Burgess, 1980).

Another major concern facing male rape victims is society’s belief that men should be able to protect themselves and, therefore, it is somehow their fault that they were raped. The experience of a rape may affect gay and heterosexual men differently. Most rape counselors point out that gay men have difficulties in their sexual and emotional relationships with other men and think that the assault occurred because they are gay, whereas straight men often begin to question their sexual identity and are more disturbed by the sexual aspect of the assault than the violence involved (Brochman, 1991).

If You Are Raped

Rape and sexual assault include any unwanted sexual acts. Even if you agree to have sex with someone, you have the right to say “no” at any time, and to say “no” to any sexual acts, whole or in part. If you are sexually assaulted, sodomized or raped, it is never your fault — you are not responsible for the actions of others.

Richie J. McMullen, author of Male Rape: Breaking the Silence on the Last Taboo, encourages seeking immediate medical attention whether or not the incident is reported to police. Even if you do not seem injured, it is important to get medical attention. Sometimes injuries that seem minor at first can get worse. Survivors can sometimes contract a sexually transmitted disease during the sexual assault, but not suffer immediate symptoms. Even if the symptoms of that disease take weeks or months to appear, it might be easily treated with an early diagnosis. (If you are concerned about HIV exposure, it is important to talk to a counselor about the possibility of exposure and the need for testing. For more information about HIV transmission and testing, contact the Centers for Disease Control National HIV/AIDS Hotline. Check the contact list at the end of this bulletin for the phone number and address information.)

Medical considerations making immediate medical attention imperative include:

  • Rectal and anal tearing and abrasions which may require attention and put you at risk for bacterial infections;
  • Potential HIV exposure; and
  • Exposure to other sexually transmitted diseases.

If you plan to report the rape to the police, an immediate medical examination is important to the investigation and prosecution.

Remember:  Try not to shower, use the bathroom, brush your teeth, or change your clothes. Critical trace evidence may be lost.

You have the right to have evidence collected and receive medical treatment without reporting to law enforcement.  You have the right to decide at a later date about reporting to law enforcement.

There is no charge for evidence collection.  Hospitals and licensed medical treatment centers in Indiana should never bill a victim of a sex crime for forensic evidence collection.

Reactions

Some of the physical reactions a survivor may experience in response to the trauma of a sexual assault or rape include:

  • Loss of appetite;
  • Nausea and/or stomachaches;
  • Headaches;
  • Loss of memory and/or concentration; and/or
  • Changes in sleep patterns.

Some of the psychological and emotional reactions a sexual assault survivor may experience include:

  • Denial and/or guilt;
  • Shame or humiliation;
  • Fear and a feeling of loss of control;
  • Loss of self-respect;
  • Flashbacks to the attack;
  • Anger and anxiety;
  • Retaliation fantasies (sometimes shocking the survivor with their graphic violence);
  • Nervous or compulsive behavior;
  • Depression and mood swings;
  • Withdrawal from relationships; and
  • Changes in sexual activity.

Survivors of rape, and often of attempted rape, usually manifest some elements of what has come to be called Rape-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD), a form of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) . Apart from a small number of therapists and counselors specializing in sexual assault cases, few psychotherapists are familiar with the symptoms and treatment of RR-PTSD. For this reason, a rape survivor is usually well-advised to consult with a rape crisis center or someone knowledgeable in this area rather than relying on general counseling resources. The same applies to those close to a rape victim, such as a partner, spouse or parent; these persons become secondary victims of the sexual assault and have special issues and concerns that they may need assistance in dealing with effectively.

Local rape crisis centers offer male sexual assault victims direct services or referrals for services, including: counseling, crisis services and support services. Victims may contact their local rape crisis center, no matter how long it has been since the rape occurred. Counselors on staff can either provide support, or help direct the victim to trained professionals who can provide support. Most rape programs are staffed by women; however, some programs have male and female counselors. If you prefer one or the other, make that preference known when you initially contact the program. Whether or not they have male staff on call, almost all rape crisis centers can make referrals to male counselors sensitive to the needs of male sexual assault survivors. In addition, many communities across the country have support groups for victims of anti-gay violence.

Counseling can help you cope with the physical and emotional reactions to the sexual assault or rape, as well as provide you with necessary information about medical and criminal justice system procedures. Seeking counseling is an important way to regain a sense of control over your life after surviving a sexual assault. Contact your local rape crisis program even if services are not expressly advertised for male rape survivors. The number can be found in your local phone book listed under “Community Services Numbers,” “Emergency Assistance Numbers,” “Survival Numbers” or “Rape.”

Sexual assault and rape are serious crimes. As a sexual assault survivor, you have the right to report the crime to the police. This decision is one only you can make. But because authorities are not always sensitive to male sexual assault victims, it is important to have a friend or advocate go with you to report the crime for support and assistance.

Part 1 of the Oprah Winfrey Show in which she has 200 male survivors of sexual abuse in her audience.