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.

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.

Twisted Truth

It seems to never fail that when the media gets a hold of a story of rape that facts and details are muddled. No, they aren’t outright lies but an image is painted in the viewer’s imagination to believe a picture very different from the facts.  The picture that is painted is often one where the viewer feels a sense of security as long they don’t behave a certain way or are careful.

I’ll never forget reading an article in the paper one day about a rape that happened in the local community. The media made it sound like the victim was walking alone in the middle night in the alleys of the town. After a little digging I discovered that the truth was very different. Was the victim walking alone at night? Yes, but at 7pm in the summer when the sun is still out. Was the victim walking around by herself? Yes, but  in the main streets of the town. It wasn’t till after the perpetrator came after did she ran off the main street. Hmmm…sounds very different then the first story. I believe that the purpose of twisting of the story is a kind of denial. People don’t want to believe that they can get raped and be doing “all the right things” (which are what by the way?). The truth is the most safety conscious person can become a victim of rape.

One of the main reasons for that is because the idea that most rapes are committed by strangers is a myth!!! Most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows well and usually trusts. Think about it who is the easier victim; the one who is cautious and safety conscious, or a close friend where trust and a sense of security is already built.  There are even many cases of perpetrators grooming a victim, because their ultimate goal is to gain trust and then assault. Another fact; it is more likely for a victim of stranger rape to report then compared to acquaintance rape. There are definitely barriers to reporting for both categories, but many victims of acquaintance rape don’t know what to think or feel about the situation. The shock of a violent act from a person of trust may delay reporting.

So what does this mean? Do we walk around terrified and  grow inability to trust? No. Unfortunately any one of us can become a victim. If it happens to you KNOW it is not your fault and don’t rely on society to tell you if qualified as rape or not. Trust your instincts.  If you know someone or hear of a rape; start by believing them. Don’t question the circumstances surrounding it; that isn’t your role. Victims often blame themselves for things that are completely out of their control. Our role is to support them and reaffirm that it is not their fault.

Triggers and Seasons

Apple pie, a fire burning, a snowy breeze, and raindrops pitter patter….things we associate with the Fall and Winter season.
The change in seasons usually brings with it certain smells or imagery we may associate with a variety of memories. The sense of smell has a strong connection to memories. The smell of apple pie may invoke wonderful memories of a grandmother’s cooking at a Holiday gathering, but sometimes the sense of smell can be a source of betrayal for those who have been victimized.

Unfortunately the brain is very sensory based when it comes to trauma. ” All it took for the air to smell just right, or a foggy cold morning, or a smell and the memories come flooding in. I let myself reflect on some of it for a while, to process it, and I began to remember details”

The words of this survivor reflects on what so many may experience. Many times one may not even know what a trigger is until it happens and even then it may be difficult to pinpoint the source. The trigger may start a flood of emotions and panic; this is where good mindfulness and grounding techniques come in handy. The DoD Safehelpline App has a great resource for Guided Imagery. If that doesn’t work try this link to find an app that suits your needs ( http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/top-meditation-iphone-android-apps#2 ) . With triggers being unknown or sudden it is important to have resources available when it happens and you can plug in and become grounded again.

Aside from triggers the Holidays itself can be a source of stress or anxiety for anyone and these exercises will help one be able to better cope with daily challenges.

The other advice I leave is the importance of developing boundaries. As a survivor copes with the assault the demands of life may become increasing loud. It will take time and work, but it okay to say no and to take care of yourself. Getting involved in counseling may assist you in making the small sustainable steps to create boundaries with those involved in your life.

If the Holidays begin to become too much I want to offer an additional support service. The Veterans Crisis Line. It is for active or inactive duty military and their family. They assist with many different issues or concerns.
They can be reached online at: http://www.veteranscrisisline.net or reached at 1-800-273-8255

Fight or Flight….or Freeze?

When traumatic things happen our bodies react, it’s biological. We’ve all heard the term fight or flight……but that isn’t always what happens. There is one more response that isn’t known as well. Freeze. Now I could get into all the nitty gritty of the science behind that, but I will leave the link by Dr. David Lisak to do that. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=py0mVt2Z7nc)
When the body reacts to trauma it goes into a primal mode and hormones and the adrenal system are activated. There is no way to predict how one will respond or whether it will be the same for each circumstance. A particular cocktail of hormones create the “freeze response”. Scientists compare the response to that of animals that protect themselves by playing dead. Maybe the response is determined by how grievous the situation. So with that logic that must mean that freezing only happens in violent or stranger rape situations. Wrong. According to research the brain reacts the same way. The body doesn’t make the distinction, but society does. There is something innately wired that views rape as extremely distressing and may trigger the response.
Unfortunately those who may experience tonic immobility have no idea what is happening, which may lead to blaming themselves. It often leads to the “would have” “could have” or “should have”. I should have left. Why didn’t I get up? I wasn’t afraid for my life so why did I just lie there? I could have fought them. All these thoughts are a result of thinking that there may be a control over these responses, but often there is not.
The response reminds me of that bad dream that most of us have; of something awful happening to us but we are unable to move. The dream might just be an indicator that our body has a third response to danger.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, it is not your fault! It excites me to know that there is more and more science that show how most responses aren’t crazy….but 100% normal and a biological response.

For 24 hour help go to: rainn.org or Safehelpline.org