What is rape?
According to the anti-sexual violence organisation RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) “rape is a form of sexual assault […] The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent.” Additionally, the FBI defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Anyone can be subject to this horrendous violation of human rights, regardless of factors such as gender, age, background, or class. Rape can be a one-time offence or it can occur more than once. Rape is a criminal offence irrespective of the circumstance in which the rape took place (relationship between the offender and the subject, whether or not alcohol was involved). The most important thing to remember is that it is never the victim’s fault.
Does rape affect men as well as women?
In 2017 the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated that 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16, equivalent to 3.4 million female and 651,000 male victims. In the media, discourse around sexual assault tends to predominantly focus on the vulnerability of women; while statistics have shown that women experience sexual assault more than men, the CSEW has highlighted that men are also at risk of experiencing rape. According to further research, 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse at some point in their lives, including childhood. Perpetrators of male rape can also be of any gender, age, or background and may use physical force or psychological or emotional coercion tactics. In short, the answer is yes; men can also experience rape.
How does rape affect men in comparison to women?
Whilst both male and female victims will encounter similar challenges following the rape taking place, some male rape victims may face other challenges that are more unique to the male experience. For example, a common feeling for men who have survived rape is to feel embarrassment afterward. They may believe that they should have been “strong enough” to defend themselves from the abuser. Additionally, a lot of male rape victims doubt themselves. There is a lot of misinformation surrounding male abuse such as the false view that men cannot be raped which is tied into the damaging stereotypes of masculinity. These physiological responses are common, but everyone reacts to trauma in their own complex way. Some male rape victims may experience these challenges and others may not. If something happened to you, you are not alone, and it is not your fault.
Men who experienced rape as boys or teens tend to respond differently than men who were sexually assaulted as adults. The following list includes some of the common experiences shared by male rape victims:
- Anxiety, depression, PTSD, and eating disorders
- Avoiding people or places that remind you of the assault or abuse
- Concerns and confusion about sexual orientation
- Feeling emasculated
- Feeling a loss of control over your own body
- Being unable to relax, and having difficulty sleeping
- Feeling shame over not being able to stop the assault or abuse
- Isolating yourself from relationships or friendships
- Worrying about talking to anyone about the abuse in fear of being judged or ridiculed
How to support male rape victims
Due to societal expectations of men of masculinity, it can be extremely difficult for men and teens to reach out and disclose about being raped. Men may be scared to speak to family, friends, and the community in fear of being judged or not believed. The trauma of rape will stay with survivors for the rest of their lives; it helps to have a non-judgmental person to talk to about what they have gone through. If male rape victims disclose what happened to you, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. Here are a few suggestions of how you can offer your support:
It is extremely difficult for many survivors of rape to disclose what has happened to them. As a result, having someone there to listen is important; give your full undivided attention.
Validate their feelings and express concern.
If someone reaches out to you for support, you should avoid making insensitive comments such as telling them to “snap out of it”. Instead, reassure them with statements such as “I believe you” or “you have made the right decision by speaking out.” You can also tell them that you care about them by letting them know that you are there for them.
Provide appropriate resources.
Other aspects in men’s lives could affect how they navigate resources and services after experiencing sexual assault or rape. For example, trans men and black men may face barriers that cis men will not experience (especially with regards to health care and law enforcement). When supporting a survivor try your best to come up with resources you feel will be most helpful.
External support for male rape victims
Sometimes the support of loved ones isn’t enough to help you deal with the trauma of what has happened. One way to receive professional support following rape is through sexual assault referral centres (SARCs). SARCs offer medical, practical, and emotional support. They have specially trained doctors, nurses, and support workers to care for you. SARCs are available to anyone of any gender, age, race, or class. If you decide to report the assault to the police, they can arrange for you to attend a SARC for medical care and, if you wish, a forensic medical examination. If you refer yourself to a SARC and are considering reporting the assault to the police, the centre can arrange for you to have an informal chat with a specially trained police officer, who can explain what is involved.
There are also specially trained advisers available in some SARCs or voluntary organizations to help people who have been sexually assaulted. These independent sexual violence advisers (ISVA) help victims to gain access to the other support services they might need. ISVA will also support you through the criminal justice system if you decide to report the assault to the police, including supporting you through the trial, should the case go to court.
SARC services and ISVA support are free to all, whether a resident of the UK or not.
How we can help
If you are a male rape victim and want to talk to somebody about your experience, there are various charities including RAINN and safeline that support men and boys following sexual assault.
Additionally, if you have experienced rape then you may be eligible for compensation. Although this money can never make up for the physical and mental damage caused by this heinous crime, rape compensation can provide you with significant financial help if you wish to enroll in counselling or therapy. Anyone who has been involved in penetrative sexual activity where prior consent wasn’t given can claim rape compensation. Regardless of your factors such as gender, age, profession, or the circumstances the crime took place in, you could be eligible to receive financial aid. It doesn’t matter if the act of rape happened once or multiple times, if you have ever experienced non-consensual sex then you can be awarded compensation. To find out more, please call +0151 242 5111 for free confidential advice from an experienced and empathetic solicitor today.