UI seeks support for male sexual assault survivors

By Claire Hettinger

The crime is the same. The horror is the same. The shame doesn’t hurt any less. But still, something is different.

“People don’t understand how men get raped,” said Rachel Storm, assistant director of the Women’s Resources Center.

The Women’s Resources Center and the Counseling Center’s Trauma Treatment Team held a workshop Wednesday to teach students how to better understand the unique issues faced by male survivors of sexual violence. The workshop was part of a series of events hosted during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Blake Bullock, senior in LAS, facilitated the event and presented the challenges men face after they’ve survived a sexual assault.

He said men are viewed to be the stronger sex and are often considered to be the perpetrators of rape, not the survivors; consequently, they are less likely to be believed when they share their assault experiences.

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Bullock said male survivors of sexual assault are not given the same support and opportunities to heal that female survivors are typically given, and people also have a hard time believing that women rape men.

When men are raped by other men, Bullock said many face an orientation crisis. He said many of them feel their masculinity has been threatened after they feel power has been taken away from them.

“We equate rape with sex, so we think they would be sexually attracted to each other, but it is more an obsession with control and perpetrators wanting to overpower another person than due to their orientation,” Bullock said.

He said one problem is that because people don’t believe that men are raped at all, or very often, means the resources to support men are not as available as they are for women. This is another reason men may not be reporting assaults or seeking professional support.

However, there have been strides toward change and equality for male survivors. In 2012, the FBI changed the definition of rape to include any gender of victim or perpetrator. Previously, the 1927 definition of rape only addressed women being raped by men.

According to a report from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in 16 men is raped while in college and one in 71 men is raped during their lifetime.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 survey, 1.4 percent of the male population experience rape in their lifetime.

Men who are forced to penetrate women are not considered rape victims. This is classified as “other sexual violence” which is experienced at 23.4 percent of men in their lifetime and not reflected in the 1.4 percent of men who experience rape.

Involuntary reactions often imply that men who are assaulted actually enjoyed the experience, which makes it difficult for male survivors to confront being assaulted.

“Sexual pleasure is more associated with men,” said Emilie Iannarelli, senior in LAS. “They are thought to want sex all the time.”

Storm explained that impacts of popular culture affect many aspects of male survivor culture. Popular culture depicts victims singularly as women and men as excessively sexual beings that want sex all the time whenever available, she said.

The result is people begin to think a man is lying if he is forced to penetrate a woman against his will because he wouldn’t have an erection, a requirement for sex, if he wasn’t aroused.

Iannarelli said there is less information about male survivors because issues like this are difficult to talk about.

Bullock said it is especially important to tell men people believe them and they are not alone. Because of the lack of knowledge surrounding male sexual assault, male survivors sometimes feel as if resources are exclusively for women.

The Counseling Center, the Women’s Resources Center and McKinley Mental Health clinic’s services and support are available for people of all genders. Men can also have a rape kit done by any hospital in the area.

Bullock said it is important for supporters to remember that they should empower “the individual to make these choices of what to do next for themselves.”

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