Male victims of sexual assault and rape are often more reluctant to talk about their experiences due to societal pressures.
It may be surprising to know that at least 4% of men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. In the 2020 Crime Survey for England & Wales, they estimated that 155,000 men aged 10 to 74 experienced sexual assault.
In 2021, Mankind UK found that 1 in 7 men had been coerced into sex and 1 in 10 had experienced rape or non-consensual penetration. While research commissioned by Rape Crisis England & Wales, showed that 4 in 5 men said they did not report. Reasons given include:
- didn’t think the police could help
- thought it would be humiliating
Barriers to disclosing
For anyone who has been a victim of rape or sexual assault, telling another person is hard. That’s because it’s an intimate violation and is shrouded with shame and disbelief. It’s no wonder it’s so hard to tell another person.
For men, there are issues with socially perceived ‘masculinity’ and its association with strength and dominance. And this this can lead to feelings of shame and worthlessness. While for others, a physical reaction that may include an erection during a sexual assault may lead to a person being uncomfortable about their own response. This can lead to feeling guilty and can be used by a perpetrator to confuse a victim by saying they must have enjoyed it.
There are many other reasons why men may not disclose, including:
- societal understanding of male sexual assault and rape
- toxic masculinity and the negative impact of social stereotypes
- threat of outing if in same sex relationship
- questioning oneself about why they did not put up a fight
- perceptions of females not being able to abuse
- confusion/gaslighting caused by an ex-partner/partner saying it can’t be rape if they are/were in a relationship
- fear of not being believed
- men identifying as heterosexual being raped by another man and feeling embarrassed, humiliated or shame
- men believe and fear others will believe the myth that men can’t get raped
- being coerced by drug use and fear of getting into trouble if reported
Identity and Gender
Whilst some men may report immediately, we know that many don’t seek help for decades. Some may question their own sexual identity and aren’t ready to disclose their orientation. Whilst some men may question whether the organisation/person they are disclosing to would understand their identity. For example of being Black, Asian or of minority ethnic heritage.
Men and boys are raped everyday in England and Wales and it has a lasting and serious impact. But men are less likely to share their experience than women. And it remains one of the most under-reported crimes.
Another barrier to disclosure is having the right people to talk to, who will understand male responses to trauma.
Gender can be an important part of identity. The intersecting of communities, age, culture and roles held by each of us make identities complex and individual. This may mean men accessing services can encounter blocks and barriers. And their identify may impact negatively when disclosing sexual assault or rape. Think, for instance, of a member of a faith community that doesn’t accept same sex relationships trying to disclose rape or sexual assault.
Sexual orientation isn’t a predictor of rape. Anyone can be a victim or survivor of rape or sexual assault. Rape is about power and control, and gender and their own sexual orientation is not a factor for some perpetrators.
YOU Counselling Centres are a gender inclusive team. We have both male and female counsellors and support staff. Members of our team identify under the LGBTQ+ umbrella and use their experiences to support and inform their work. Where possible we will offer a choice of gender of counsellor.
Our Space to Share team are aware that men may not wish to disclose and find accessing services difficult. We offer counselling sessions at times that maintain privacy. These may include lunch times, after work or early evening. We also have a range of male only groups, which may be virtual as well as face-to-face.
Male victims are welcome
Our services have been informed by male clients and we understand that reaching our can be difficult. Please contact us; we’re here to help and listen.
For information on all our counselling, download our welcome pack
The purpose of this strategy is to ensure there is understanding and a consistent approach to engage with men, and especially those from disadvantaged or marginalised communities.