When Men Are Rape Victims

Unwanted or abusive sexual experiences happen to men. It’s not always called rape, but its effects can be devastating.

Sexual victimization of anyone leaves the person feeling vulnerable, ashamed, guilty and fearful with the abuse often going unreported for those very reasons.

Boys and men can be sexually abused by straight or gay men or by women who take advantage of vulnerability. A common myth is that sexual abuse of a boy can contribute to his sexual orientation later in life. However, studies show that a man’s own sexual orientation is neither the cause nor the result of sexual abuse. By focusing on the abusive nature of the interaction rather than the sexual aspects, it becomes easier to understand that sexual abuse has nothing to do with a victim’s own sexual orientation.

Because society views males as protectors, the myth persists that males can’t be victims. Regardless of our individual definitions of masculinity, boys and men are vulnerable to those who use greater size, strength, knowledge and authority to coerce or force them into unwanted sexual experiences and then to remain silent.

Authority figures and admired family members, athletes or social leaders who are predators often use special attention and privileges, money or other gifts, promises, bribes or even threats to reduce resistance. The fact that the victim experiences arousal during the interaction does not make it alright if the experience is not wanted. And, sexual predators are known to seek out lonely and isolated young people to exploit.

Sexual abuse is no less harmful to men than it is to women. And, the harm increases if adults who could help them are reluctant or refuse to acknowledge what happened. This leads many survivors to believe they are at fault and on their own, and they stay silent and suffer shame for years instead of being able to get help and heal.

Another myth is that bo