Real men don’t cry: Mixed messages and myths about male sexual assault

Lakeidra Chavis/Sun Star Editor-in-Chief
Oct. 15, 2013

When I was in seventh grade, we discussed sexual assault in class and my teacher gave statistics of sexual assault prevalence by gender. My male friend laughed and told me that they included the statistics about men to make women feel better.

His assertion clearly outlines a common held assumption that the majority of our culture accepts and sometimes blindly perpetuates: only women can be victims.

Ten percent of sexual assault victims are male, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

One in 71 men are victims of sexual assault in the United States, according to a 2010 Center for Disease Control’s Division of Violence national study on American adults. Male victims are less likely to report the crime, especially when it is female-on-male rape, according to the CDC.

The U.S. Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.”

In 1990, 19-year-old James Landrith was raped by a pregnant woman after driving her home and getting a hotel room, according to a CNN article published last Thursday. Landrith was intoxicated and never consent.

Since his assault almost two decades ago, Landrith has spoken about crimes committed by women against men.

“I want people to understand that it’s not about how physically strong you are,” Landrith told CNN. “We [men] are conditioned to believe that we cannot be victimized in such a way.”

Landrith is right. We currently live in a culture in which discussions about gender ethnic violence issues, are automatically assumed to be female, minority violence issue. This completely excludes men from the discussion. If our current cultural model only presents men as perpetrators and women as victims, who benefits?

It wasn’t until last year that the FBI changed the definition of rape to include all genders. The past definition, which hadn’t been updated since 1927, defined sexual assault as,”the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” The psychological and physical effects sexual assault can have on victims is tremendous, and they can last for decades.

Victims who experience sexual trauma can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, depression and other serious disorders.

There are a lot of places in Fairbanks that help victims regardless of gender.

The Student Health and Counseling Center offers six free counseling sessions each academic year for students are taking at least six credits. The Women’s Center offers support to all victims by providing pamphlets and information about reporting the crime.

If a victim decides to report the crime to the police, the University Police Department, located right next to the counseling center, is available and trained to handle the crimes. The Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living is also available, providing a safe space for victims.

Sexual assault isn’t a women’s issue or a men’s issue. It’s a cultural issue that can only be fixed if we take collective efforts to end it.

It doesn’t matter what the victim is wearing, who they were with, who they’ve been with, where they were or what they drank.

It is never the victim’s fault.

Ever.

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3 Responses

  1. Thank you for your excellent commentary. You are correct, it is never the victim’s fault. And it is important that we ensure that ALL survivors regardless of age, gender, faith, wealth, and sexual orientation are provided with the support they need to heal.

    The statistics on male sexual abuse you quote are not authoritative and can be somewhat misleading. There are also credible studies that show that the number of males who are sexually abused before the age of 16 could be as high as 1 in 6. Sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape, bullying, and hazing all represent forms of violence that can involve sexual violation.

    Regardless of the numbers, one victim of sexual violence is one too many. Historically male victims have been ignored and/or told that no resources are available to them. Housing sexual violence resources in Women’s Centers actually presents a major obstacle for many males who believe that they will not be welcome in such facilities (sadly, for many male survivors this belief is not unfounded).

    Organizations like MaleSurvivor provide support to male survivors, their loved ones, and any professionals who work with male victims. If you are a survivor, please know that you are not alone, it was not your fault, and that healing is possible. You can visit our website for more information.

    Sincerely,
    Christopher M. Anderson
    Executive Director, MaleSurvivor

  2. Tamen says:

    The quote:
    “One in 71 men are victims of sexual assault in the United States, according to a 2010 Center for Disease Control’s Division of Violence national study on American adults.”
    is a misrepresentation of the findings of CDC’s NISVS 2010 Report.

    1 in 71 men are victims of rape (where the victim was penetrated), 1 in 20 men (4.8%) are victims of rape where the victim was made to penetrate, e.g. a woman forcing a man to vaginal sex.

    CDC did not define what happened to James Landrith as rape – they defined it as “being made to penetrate”.

  3. Me says:

    I applaud you for writing this article. I have thought about this for a while, especially knowing people who can relate. It makes me so mad that men are not considered. Anyone can be raped and we forget that there are times in life or people who are not as physically strong no matter the age. We also rarely discuss man-to-man rape, but it happens! Also, what man would visit the “women’s” center to report a rape? I am a woman (you know who I am), so I appreciate the school trying to comfort us by naming it the women’s center, but it bothers me because a man wanting/needing to report a rape should feel just as comforted, not emasculated. I also remember hearing about a state or federal law that only considers women and children as being victims of rape but not men. This was a while back, but if it is still true, it NEEDS to change! ANYone can become a rape victim and male rape is often a laughing matter in our culture, which is sad because the victims have to sit through those type of scenes shown on TV too often. Men should feel just as welcome at rape centers and in discussing such matters, as it will probably affect their viewpoint for the rest of their lives. Men are expected to be strong and they feel weak at the thought of their inability to do anything. Most of them never even tell, but they should feel that they can at the very least. We should give them the power to feel strong again.

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