The hidden epidemic of men who are raped by women

According to dominant stereotypes, men can’t be sexually assaulted by women. But according to a new, wide-ranging study, around two-thirds of men who report sexual victimization say their assailant was female.  UCLA law professor Lara Stemple is one of the people working with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to shed more light on this issue. Although there is still much work to be done in order to understand the effects of sexual assault on male victims, Stemple’s new research focuses on the perpetrators themselves. In a new study released yesterday, she and two other researchers examined four large-scale surveys from the CDC and the Bureau of Justice Statistics to better understand female sexual predator behavior, analyzing both male and female victims. The findings contradict widely held stereotypes about women being unlikely abusers.

Stemple has long focused her research on how sexual violence against men goes under-reported. In 2014, she released a paper on male victims of sexual violence which analyzed several national surveys and found that, when taking into account cases where men were “made to penetrate” someone else, the rates of non-consensual sexual contact between men and women were basically equal: 1.267 million men said they had been victims of sexual violence, compared with 1.270 million women.The “made to penetrate” category is not the type of violation we imagine when we think of sexual assault, as Slate’s Hanna Rosin wrote in a piece on Stemple’s research in 2014. But it can result in similar psychological and physical effects, including sexual dysfunction, depression, loss of self-esteem, and long-term relationship difficulties. Click here for the full article.

Chris Anderson is one such example. He was sexually abused by his neighbor when he was a child. Confused about exactly what happened and what it meant, he shut out the trauma of the experience for almost 25 years before finally realizing it was the source of his depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. He went to a retreat for male survivors of sexual assault and finally told his story. “On average, there is a delay of 20 years between the abuse and first disclosure,” Anderson, now 39, said. Many survivors never say anything about their abuse — ever. Although sexual violence is generally perceived as predominantly a woman’s issue, there is, unfortunately, nothing unusual about Anderson’s’ experience or how long it took for him to disclose it.

In fact, according to some estimates, around 17% of boys will be sexually assaulted during their childhood or adolescence. Over a lifespan, about 22% of men will experience sexual violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And now, new research conducted by the National Crime Victimization Survey suggests that 38% of rape and sexual violence incidents were against men.

By most standards, this would qualify as a problem of epidemic proportions — so why is barely anyone talking about it? But even when we do talk about male sexual assault, harmful stereotypes and inaccurate myths too often cloud our understanding of the problem. It’s time to change the conversation by debunking these misconceptions and allowing male victims the dignity of their own stories. Click here for the full list of myths surrounding male sexual assault victims. 

Our Free Yourself Global Domestic Violence project recognizes the fact that man can be, and often are also victims of abuse. Learn more about our project at FreeYourselfGlobal.com and share your story with us today.

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