Sexual Assault: Male Survivor Myths and Alarming Numbers
By Mark Bond, professor of Criminal Justice at American Military University
*This article originally appeared on E-Roll Call Magazine*
Sexual assault is a crime of violence whether the victim is male or female. There are many myths associated with male sexual assault.
Myths about Male Sexual Assault
- Only homosexual males are victims of sexual assault. This simply is not true. Sexual assault is an act of personal violence where a victim’s personal choice is ignored.
- If a male sexual assault victim has an erection or ejaculation during the sexual assault, it means the male victim wanted and enjoyed the sexual assault. The fact that the male body has an erection or ejaculation are physiological responses through pressure on the prostate and do not indicate that he wanted or invited a sexual assault. This is also not an indication of the victim’s sexual preference.
- Male rape only happens in prison. Male rape does occur in prison and some studies say as many as 25 percent of young male prisoners will be sexually assaulted during their incarceration; however, male sexual assault occurs outside of prison and in the community. In a National Crime Victimization Survey, 38 percent of the victims reporting sexual assault were male victims who were not incarcerated at the time of the assault.
The trouble with myths about male sexual assault is that it makes it difficult for men to report the crime, which means that offenders are not always prosecuted.
Research Shows Male Sexual Assault Occurs At Alarming Rates
A research study by Lara Stemple and Ilan Meyer published in the American Journal of Public Health indicated that male sexual assault occurs at higher rates than previously believed. Here are some of the research findings:
Based on the analysis of large-scale federal agency surveys, men experience a high prevalence of sexual victimization, in many circumstances similar to the prevalence found among women. In one of the studies included in the analysis, the CDC found that an estimated 1.3 million women experienced nonconsensual sex, or rape, in the previous year. Notably, nearly the same number of men also reported nonconsensual sex. In comparison to the large number of women who were raped, nearly 1.3 million men were “made to penetrate” someone else. Despite the use of these two different categories, the CDC data reveal that both women and men experienced nonconsensual sex in alarming numbers.
The study also included the 2012 National Crime Victimization Survey, which found that 38 percent of all rape and sexual assault incidents were committed against males. This is an increase over past years, which challenges the common belief that males are rarely victims of this crime.
Among men in prisons and jails, gay and bisexual men and other men who identify as non-heterosexual, are at greatest risk of sexual victimization. For example, the Justice Department’s National Inmate Survey of 2011-2012 found that among non-heterosexual prison inmates, 12.2 percent reported being sexually victimized by another inmate, and 5.4 percent reported being sexually victimized by staff. Both inside and outside of prison, male victims are overlooked due to the stigma they face.
The study assessed 12-month prevalence of sexual victimization from five federal surveys conducted, independently, by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2010 through 2012. The review of these surveys provides an unprecedented wealth of new data about male victimization, challenging long-held stereotypes about the sex of victims.
Possible Effects on Male Sexual Assault Survivors
- Psychological (e.g. PTSD)
- Fear for heterosexual males that they will become homosexual
- Homosexual sexual assault victims sometimes believe they are being punished for their sexual orientation.
- Future relationship issues with intimacy
- Emotional problems (e.g. anger issues)
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Let us support the survivors of sexual assault through education, respectful dialog, and compassion so we can reduce this crime and hold predators accountable for their behavior in our criminal justice system.
About the Author: Mark Bond worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms trainer for more than 29 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state, and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in Criminal Justice, and M.Ed in Educational Leadership with Summa Cum Laude Honors. As a lifelong learner, he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education with a concentration in distance education. Mark is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at American Military University & American Public University and is one of the faculty directors in the School of Public Service & Health. You can contact him at Mark.Bond@mycampus.apus.edu.