One of the most common myths surrounding sexual assault cases is that men never experience this type of abuse, and if male sexual assault does occur, it only happens in prisons. However, research shows that approximately 1 in 6 men have suffered from sexual abuse or sexual assault — and the actual number may be higher due to under reporting and rampant stigma surrounding this violence. Because of the perceptions surrounding male survivors of sexual assault, many survivors may not receive the help they need to heal.
Male Sexual Assault Statistics
Although the majority of victims of sexual assault are women and girls, boys and men suffer from sexual violence at much higher rates than we may realize. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), approximately 3% of American men have experienced a completed or attempted rape.
However, many researchers believe that the actual number of men who experience all forms of sexual assault, not just rape, is much higher than 3%. Sexual assault can include all forms of unwanted sexual contact, including rape, inappropriate touching or fondling, and forced oral sex.
The organization 1 in 6, which aims to raise awareness on the prevalence of male sexual assault in the United States, provides the following statistics on men and sexual violence.
- A 2005 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 16% of men suffered sexual abuse by the time they were 18 years old.
- Only 16% of men with serious histories of sexual abuse documented by social service agencies consider themselves to be victims of sexual violence. On the other hand, 64% of women with the same histories considered themselves to have experienced sexual violence.
- A 2003 survey of United States adults found that 14.2% of men suffered from sexual abuse before the age of 18, and another 1990 study found that 16% of men were sexually abused as minors.
Why Sexual Assault Among Men Goes Unreported
The statistics reflected above help us gain an understanding of the prevalence of sexual assault among men in the United States, but these numbers may be much lower than reality. According to 1in6.org, men are much less likely to report instances of sexual assault than women or to consider themselves victims, often due to the stigma surrounding male victims of sexual assault.
The University of Michigan provides the following reasons as to why male survivors of sexual assault refrain from speaking out or seeking justice.
- Our society often expects men to behave in a certain way, especially when it comes to sex and sexuality. Many survivors physically freeze during an assault, a common response that may lead to shame and self-blame afterwards. If a man experiences an act of sexual assault, he may feel like he is not a “real man” due to an inability to fight against the attacker.
- Homophobia also plays a role in stigmatizing male sexual assault. If a man is assaulted by another man, he may feel afraid to share his story due to being afraid of others questioning his own sexuality, being blamed for the assault, or having his sexuality weaponized against him.
- Women are disproportionately affected by sexual assault, so many people view sexual violence as a women’s issue rather than a human rights issue. Because of this, male survivors may feel as if they are alone in their experience and do not have access to the same resources to seek help.
Supporting Male Survivors
Male survivors of sexual assault, like all survivors, deserve support, justice, and healing. However, with societal pressures harming their ability to seek help, it is important for all of us to listen to and believe male survivors, and to break the cycle of stigma.
If you suffered from an act of sexual assault and you are struggling to find help due to stigma, societal pressure, or any other barrier, contact a sexual assault attorney as soon as possible. An attorney with experience in survivor advocacy can help you understand the resources available to you and will work with you to strategize your next steps.