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Sexual assault can happen to anyone, no matter your age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted or abused may have many of the same feelings and reactions as other survivors of sexual assault, but they may also face some additional challenges because of social attitudes and stereotypes about men and masculinity.
Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted may experience the same effects of sexual assault as other survivors, and they may face other challenges that are more unique to their experience.
Some men who have survived sexual assault as adults feel shame or self-doubt, believing that they should have been “strong enough” to fight off the perpetrator. Many men who experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault may be confused and wonder what this means. These normal physiological responses do not in any way imply that you wanted, invited, or enjoyed the assault. If something happened to you, know that it is not your fault and you are not alone.
Men who were sexually abused as boys or teens may also respond differently than men who were sexually assaulted as adults. The following list includes some of the common experiences shared by men and boys who have survived sexual assault. It is not a complete list, but it may help you to know that other people are having similar experiences:
- Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks, and eating disorders
- Avoiding people or places that remind you of the assault or abuse
- Concerns or questions about sexual orientation
- Fear of the worst happening and having a sense of a shortened future
- Feeling like “less of a man” or that you no longer have control over your own body
- Feeling on-edge, being unable to relax, and having difficulty sleeping
- Sense of blame or shame over not being able to stop the assault or abuse, especially if you experienced an erection or ejaculation
- Withdrawal from relationships or friendships and an increased sense of isolation
- Worrying about disclosing for fear of judgment or disbelief
Who are the perpetrators of sexual assault against men and boys?
Perpetrators can be any gender identity, sexual orientation, or age, and they can have any relationship to the victim. Like all perpetrators, they might use physical force or psychological and emotional coercion tactics.
Can being assaulted affect sexual orientation?
Sexual assault is in no way related to the sexual orientation of the perpetrator or the survivor, and a person’s sexual orientation cannot be caused by sexual abuse or assault. Some men and boys have questions about their sexuality after surviving an assault or abuse—and that’s understandable. This can be especially true if you experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault. Physiological responses like an erection are involuntary, meaning you have no control over them.
Sometimes perpetrators, especially adults who sexually abuse boys, will use these physiological responses to maintain secrecy by using phrases such as, “You know you liked it.” If you have been sexually abused or assaulted, it is not your fault. In no way does an erection invite unwanted sexual activity, and ejaculation in no way condones an assault.
How to support male survivors
It can be hard to tell someone that you have experienced sexual assault or abuse. You may fear that you will face judgment or not be believed. For many male survivors, stereotypes about masculinity can also make it hard to disclose to friends, family, or the community. Men and boys also may face challenges believing that it is possible for them to be victims of sexual violence, especially if it is perpetrated by a woman. Below are a few suggestions on how you can support a man or boy who discloses to you that he has experienced sexual assault or abuse.
- Listen. Many people in crisis feel as though no one understands them and that they are not taken seriously. Show them they matter by giving your undivided attention. It is hard for many survivors to disclose assault or abuse, especially if they fear not being believed because of stereotypes about masculinity.
- Validate their feelings. Avoid making overly positive statements like “It will get better” or trying to manage their emotions, like “Snap out of it” or “You shouldn’t feel so bad.” Make statements like “I believe you” or “That sounds like a really hard thing to go through.”
- Express concern. Tell them in a direct way that you care about them by saying something like “I care about you” or “I am here for you.”
- Do not ask about details of the assault. Even if you are curious about what happened and feel that you want to fully understand it, avoid asking for details of how the assault occurred. However, if a survivor chooses to share those details with you, try your best to listen in a supportive and non-judgmental way.
- Provide appropriate resources. There may be other aspects in men’s lives that could limit their ability to access resources and services after experiencing sexual assault or abuse. For example, trans men may face barriers when navigating medical care or black men may have concerns about reaching out to law enforcement. Be sensitive to these worries, and when supporting a survivor try your best to suggest resources you feel will be most helpful.
What if I experienced sexual assault as an adult?
Some men who have survived sexual assault as adults feel shame or self-doubt, believing that they should have been “strong enough” to fight off the perpetrator. Many men who experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault may be confused and wonder what this means. These normal physiological responses do not in any way imply that you wanted, invited, or enjoyed the assault. If you were sexually assaulted, it was not your fault. You can find help at 1in6, an organization RAINN partners with that is dedicated to helping men who have survived unwanted or abusive sexual experiences.
What if the abuse happened when I was a minor?
If you were sexually abused when you were a child or a teenager, you may have different feelings and reactions at different times in your life. The 1in6 website has answers to many of the questions or concerns you might have as an adult survivor of child or teen sexual abuse.
How could this affect my relationships?
Coming forward about surviving sexual assault or sexual abuse can be difficult. It requires a lot of trust and understanding both for you and the person you choose to tell. You can find answers to some of the questions you might have about telling a partner at 1in6.
If something happened to you, know that you are not alone.
- Visit the helpline. 1in6 has partnered with RAINN to offer the 24/7 helpline for men, their loved ones, and service providers who are seeking immediate information and resources related to sexual assault or abuse.
- Visit online.rainn.org. Chat anonymously and confidentially with a RAINN support specialist who is trained to help.
- Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline. Call 800.656.HOPE (4763) to be connected to a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider in your area.
- Consider therapy or other mental health support. Some therapists specialize in issues you may be facing as a result of the abuse or assault. You may want to speak on the phone or meet with a few therapists before deciding which one is the best fit for you. You can ask your insurance company which providers are covered by your insurance plan. You can also visit use the Mental Health Treatment Locator function from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Find the center that is closest to you and best fits your needs.
- Read more at Jimhopper.com: The articles on this website provide information about the effects of child sexual abuse on adult men and their loved ones.
- Read more at Malesurvivor.org: This resource contains general information as well as a therapist search specifically designed for male survivors of sexual violence.
Being able to share your story with other male survivors may be important in feeling less alone and connecting with others in your healing process. Read survivor stories of men who have experienced sexual assault or abuse as children, teens, and adults.
- Adam’s story: “Do not internalize the abuse, because that will make it seem that the abuse is happening all over again.”
- Brad’s story: “I think for me and possibly other men, it’s a huge pride thing—feeling like you have to be the man and face your problems and get over it.”
- Brian’s story: “Showing emotion about being abused? It’s not well-accepted. As a Black man, you’ve been broken down so much that you have to put on a face of being strong. We have a lot of pain that is unattended to.”
- Danyol’s story: “Talking about it really does take back power from the trauma.”
- Keith’s story: “I was afraid of what people would think. I was ashamed that a man sexually assaulted me…that I didn’t fight hard enough.”
- Scott’s story: “Reading stories from other men and hearing what they’ve become and accomplished after the abuse has uplifted me.”