Myths about Male Rape

From The House of Ruth

Myths and Facts about Male Rape

In the past ten years, reports of men being raped have been on the increase. As more male survivors come forward and speak of their experiences, and more articles are published in newspapers and journals, public recognition of male rape has begun to increase and more crisis centers have begun to offer services for male survivors.

Because of the way men are trained/socialized not to ask for help, expect themselves to be in control at all times, and be active in sexual encounters, male survivors are often reluctant to talk to anyone about their victimization, much less report it to the police. A man who openly acknowledges being raped is violating everything we are taught to expect men to be.

The reluctance to report male report is reinforced by the scanty public awareness of the crimes and scarcity of services for male survivors. Emergency room doctors don’t question the source of injuries to male patients. Police don’t look for behavioral signs of sexual assault in men reporting muggings or robberies. This combination of personal and collective denial creates a circle of silence. Because male rape survivors aren’t finding the emotional resources to make their victimization known, people assume they don’t exist.

There is the mistaken belief that men and women have different needs after being assaulted. Although it is true that outreach programs specifically tailored to men are needed to reach male survivors, there is a common human response to rape. Shame, guilt, self-hatred, fear, problems with physical intimacy, and anger are common responses of both male and female survivors. All survivors need to know that they are not alone with their pain, that healing is possible, and that whatever the circumstances the rape was not their fault. Survivors need someone who will care enough to listen without judging them. As is the case with female survivors, there are many commonly held misconceptions about male rape and its survivors that add to the trauma survivors suffer and that encourage silence.

Myth: Men can defend themselves.

Fact: Men are often attacked by gangs, assaulted with weapons, and taken by surprise. Drugs and alcohol are sometimes used to incapacitate victims. Physical strength is not always sufficient protection when faced with what is experienced as a life-threatening situation.

Myth: Male rape is homosexual rape.

Fact: Rape is about power and control, not about sex. Male rape says nothing of the sexual orientation of either the survivor or the perpetrator. Perpetrators of male rape usually identify themselves as heterosexual in their consensual sexual activities.

Myth: Male rape only happens in prison.

Fact: Most male survivors were raped as children or as adults who were never incarcerated.


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