Can men be sexually assaulted?
Men and boys are often the victims of the crimes of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and rape. In fact, in the U.S., about 10% of all victims are male.1
The term sexual assault refers to a number of different crimes, ranging from unwanted sexual touching to forced penetration.
Male survivors and others affected by sexual violence can receive free, confidential, live help through RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline, 24/7. Call 1.800.656.HOPE to be connected to a local rape crisis center in your area, or visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline to get live help in an instant-messaging format.
Although it can be difficult for male survivors to seek help for fear of how others will react, there are support resources available. Survivors can receive live help through RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline, 24/7.
Sometimes male survivors find it easier to first tell an anonymous hotline staffer rather than a loved one. This allows the survivor to speak to someone who is impartial and trained to listen and help. Many male survivors find that talking to the hotline first makes it easier to tell friends and family later.
What concerns do male survivors have when seeking support for a sexual assault?
Often, perpetrators use force or threats to prevent a survivor from seeking help. RAINN has tips and resources to help survivors stay safe. In addition, survivors can find local sexual assault service providers here on RAINN’s website. These organizations may be able to offer additional safety options and support in their local communities. The hotlines are also available to educate survivors about the resources available (1-800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org).
Sexual assault is a very personal crime. Many survivors do not wish to share what happened to them publicly and fear that disclosing or reporting the attack may require them to talk publicly about their assault. There are several ways to learn more about recovery and resources anonymously by using the National Sexual Assault Hotlines (1-800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org), which are free and confidential.
Male survivors may blame themselves for the assault, believing they were not ‘strong enough’ to fight off the perpetrator. Many are confused by the fact that they became physically aroused during the attack, despite the assault or abuse they endured. However, these normal physiological responses do not in any way imply that the victim ‘wanted’ or ‘liked’ the assault.
Is it normal to feel this way?
While not every male survivor of sexual assault reacts in the same way, many reactions are quite common. If left untreated, these effects can have a long-term impact on a survivor’s well-being.
What are some possible effects of sexual assault on a male survivor?
- Sense of self and concept of “reality” are disrupted.
- Profound anxiety, depression, fearfulness.
- Concern about sexual orientation.
- Development of phobias related to the assault setting.
- Fear of the worst happening and having a sense of a shortened future.
- Withdrawal from interpersonal contact and a heightened sense of alienation.
- Stress-induced reactions (problems sleeping, increased startle response, being unable to relax).
- Psychological outcomes can be severe for men because men are socialized to believe that they are immune to sexual assault and because societal reactions to these assaults can be more isolating.
Heterosexual Male Survivors
- May experience a fear that the assault will make them gay.
- May feel that they are “less of a man.”
Homosexual Male Survivors
- May feel the crime is “punishment” for their sexual orientation.
- May worry that the assault affected their sexual orientation.
- May fear they were targeted because they are gay. This fear may lead to withdrawal from the community.
- May develop self-loathing related to their sexual orientation.
Relationships / Intimacy
- Relationships may be disrupted by the assault.
- Relationships may be disrupted by others’ reactions to the assault, such as a lack of belief/support.
- Relationships may be disrupted by the survivor’s reaction to or coping with the assault.
- Anger about the assault, leading to outward- and inward-focused hostility.
- Avoidance of emotions or emotional situations, stemming from the overwhelming feelings that come with surviving a sexual assault.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing any of the thoughts or feelings listed above, please contact The National Sexual Assault Hotline, either online or by phone at 1-800-656-HOPE to speak with a trained staffer.
Survivors of military sexual assault can receive help via the Department of Defense(DoD) Safe Helpline, a groundbreaking crisis support service for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. The service is anonymous, secure, and available 24/7 to the worldwide DoD community — providing victims with the help they need, anytime, anywhere.
Learn more about the laws in your state through RAINN’s state database.
- This section was adapted from materials provided by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.