Myths and Realities:

  • MYTH: Men can't be victims of rape or sexual assault
  • REALITY: Males are victims in about 10% of reported rapes/assaults. This number may actually be higher, because many men don't report their assaults out of shame or embarrassment. Because many assume this can't happen, the shock, fear, and isolation of male victims are often increased when it does.
  • MYTH: A woman can't rape/assault a man.
  • REALITY: A man can be raped or sexually assaulted by a female perpetrator. If sexual contact is initiated by a woman without the man's consent or while the man is incapacitated, this legally constitutes sexual assault. Despite common beliefs, a man doesn't always want sex and can experience unwanted sexual advances from a woman. While women can perpetrate assaults on males, the reported incidence of this is relatively low, as the majority of perpetrators in reported assaults are male.
  • MYTH: Men who rape other men are gay.
  • REALITY: Rape is not a crime about sexual orientation, sexuality, or sexual attraction. It is a crime about power, domination, humiliation and control. In fact, in the majority of male-male assaults, the perpetrator is a heterosexual male. A common scenario of male rape is that of a straight man raping a male who is or who is perceived to be gay. Other scenarios can include hazing or initiation rituals that involve sexual degradation, gang rapes by groups of men in order to dominate/humiliate the victim, and assaults in prison, hospital, or military settings.
  • MYTH: No man would let another man do that to him; he could take care of himself.
  • REALITY: In most cases of male-male rape, the victim is somehow incapacitated or overpowered by the rapist. Weapons and physical force are often used, or the victim is incapacitated by drugs/alcohol, or is unconscious or asleep. Regardless of size, strength, or physical condition, a man can be rendered powerless depending on the circumstances even if no weapon was used or if the victim was not physically assaulted.

Men experience many of the same effects as female victims: fear, anger, sadness, shame, embarrassment, mistrust, and symptoms associated with post-trauma. For men, there are added components of shame and embarrassment due to the myths discussed above. In addition, men who are raped often question their manhood, masculinity, and sexuality. It is important for male victims to know that the assault was not their fault, and that rape, regardless of gender, is a crime about power, control, and humiliation, not about sexual orientation or masculinity. Many don't report or seek support, which furthers their isolation and trauma.

What to Do

The same law enforcement, counseling, medical, and advocacy resources that are available for female victims are available for male victims. Despite the shame involved with male victims, it is just as important for males to utilize these resources in order to protect their physical and emotional health and work towards recovery. Male rape is more common than many people think, and the professionals working in these settings are prepared to work with male victims. Friends and family can also utilize these resources in order to help the victim and get support.

Additional Resources:

  • "Male on Male Rape," by Michael Scarce
  • "If he is Raped: A Guidebook for Parents, Partners, Spouses & Friends," by McEvoy, Rollo & Brookings
  • "Male Victims of Sexual Assault," by Mezey & King