Men & Boys and Prevention
Rape Affects Men
It is reported that 9 out of 10 rape victims are female. However, rape affects men as well. From 1995-2010, 9% of rapes and sexual assaults involved male victims.1 Over the course of a lifetime, 1.7% of men will be victims of rape, 23.4% of men will be victims of sexual violence other than rape, and 5.7% of men will be victims of stalking.2 Unfortunately, the prevalence of sexual abuse towards men is a taboo subject in many communities, which makes it harder for men come forward about their own experiences.
Perpetrators of sexual violence against men can be of any gender identity, sexual orientation, or age. Perpetrators may use emotional or psychological manipulation, physical force, or coercion when attempting to assault an individuals.
Men who experience sexual assault may experience many of the same effects as other survivors but may face additional, unique obstacles due to social perceptions of sexual assault and masculinity. Men who have been sexually assaulted may experience the following reactions:
- Anxiety, depression, fearfulness, or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Concerns or questions about sexual orientation
- Sense of blame or shame over not being able to stop the assault or abuse, especially if you experienced an erection or ejaculation
- Feeling on-edge, being unable to relax, and having difficulty sleeping
- Feel like “less of a man” or that you no longer have control over your own body
- Avoiding people or places that are related to the assault or abuse
- Fear of the worst happening and having a sense of a shortened future
- Withdrawal from relationships or friendships and an increased sense of isolation3
If you are a man who has experienced sexual violence, you are not alone. There are many organizations that provide a male centered approach to survivor services. Please note the resources below:
1. United States Department of Justice. Female Victims of Sexual Violence, 1994-2010. 2013.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization — National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011. 2014.
3. RAINN. Sexual Assault of Men and Boys – https://www.rainn.org/articles/sexual-assault-men-and-boys
Men and Prevention
Men are a critically important partner in preventing sexual violence. Ending rape begins with combating and putting an end to rape culture. Rape culture refers to the ways in which society normalizes and perpetuates sexual violence. Rape culture is created and maintained every day through words and actions that condone, normalize, or trivialize sexual violence. Objectifying comments, demeaning jokes, and victim blaming are just some of the ways that rape culture can be spread, whether it’s in a conversation, on social media, or through text messages. Taking a stand against this pervasive language and behavior is one way that anyone can stand up against rape culture.
Men and boys must understand the seriousness and prevalence of rape as it effects their community and people they know. The effects of sexual assault do not end after an assault. The effects of sexual assault can last a lifetime. Understanding the effects of sexual assault can help men to support survivors and combat rape culture.
Victims of sexual assault are:
- 3 times more likely to suffer from depression
- 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder
- 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol
- 26 times more likely to abuse drugs
- 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide
World Health Organization. 2002.
Toxic Masculinity and Violence
Conversations about toxic masculinity have been popping up on Twitter, in news stories and even within the United Nations. But what are people really talking about when they use terms such as toxic masculinity or #MasculinitySoFragile? “Toxic masculinity” refers to the social construction of masculinity which restricts men within certain standards of behavior. Toxic masculinity defines men in contrast to women, perpetrating ideas about “real men” and manhood in relation to abusive and violent behavior. Author, educator and activist Tony Porter suggests that while not all men are responsible for perpetrating violence, they ARE responsible for creating, maintaining and benefiting from a culture that is required in order to normalize the perpetration of violence.*
Beginning at a young age boys are socialized into a culture which polices their masculinity, demonizing feminized objects and behaviors. Boys are told to hide their emotions, be protectors and “man up.” As boys grow up they are taught that masculinity is showcased through the pursuit of power, dominating women, controlling others, becoming wealthy, etc. Emotions, with the exception of anger, are equated with femininity and considered unmanly. This results in an inability in men to articulate and express one’s feelings which in turn prevents men from empathizing with others. Toxic masculinity is not only painful for men who are limited by the standards of cultural masculinity norms but others whom are likely to be victimized by the violence and abuse associated with masculinity.
Many organizations are working to alleviate the pressures of toxic masculinity and engage men in efforts to challenge masculine perceptions of violence against women. Many of the workshops and educational materials designed to address toxic masculinity look to provide positive alternatives, redefining manhood in relation to women. They look to challenge male stereotypes and equip men with the tools they need to challenge oppressive forms of masculinity in their daily lives. Many of the listed organizations work to empower men with bystander intervention skills to combat manifestations of toxic masculinity and violence against women. You can find a list of relevant organizations below:
- Futures Without Violence
- Coaching Boys Into Men
- Engaging Men & Youth Program
- Men Can Stop Rape
- A Call to Men
- One in Four: The Men’s Program
- The White Ribbon Campaign
- Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
Become part of the solution:
Ask yourself: what kind of man are you?
- By respecting women, speaking out against sexual violence and the mistreatment of women, you demonstrate positive manifestations of masculinity.
- Define yourself through your actions. Spread the word by starting a men’s club at your school, or volunteer as a mentor or role model for younger men. It all starts with YOU!
Learn how to be an effective bystander
- Learn more about bystander intervention and how you can actively prevent sexual violence. The principles of bystander intervention are simple, but the impact can be profound. Learning ways to identify risky behavior and intervene are essential to preventing sexual assault.
- Learn the “3 Ds” of bystander intervention: be Direct, Distract, Delegate.
- If you observe a potentially risky situation, feel empowered to intervene. An intervention doesn’t have to be big. Even a small intervention can derail the script and redirect the entire situation.
- The first approach within bystander intervention is to be DIRECT. This could mean directly calling out the behavior of an individual acting inappropriately. It could also mean asking the individual at risk if they are ok and ensuring that they are capable of responding. The second approach is to DISTRACT. This could mean spilling a drink to shift the focus of an ongoing situation. It could mean asking the individual at risk to go for a walk. Think creatively to shift the focus and intervene in the script. The third approach is to DELEGATE. Ask a friend to assist you in diffusing a situation or call your local authorities to get involved in a situation if you do not feel comfortable intervening yourself.
- Interested in learning more? Visit the Power of One page!
Engage in conversation about sexual violence with other men and boys
- Sure, sex can be one of those topics that we all joke and laugh about, but it’s important that we all understand sexual violence is unacceptable. When we joke about rape and sexual assault, it trivializes a serious issue. Initiate a conversation with your friends. Starting a conversation is the first step. Discuss the value and damage of making jokes about sexual violence. As a man, you may be more able to initiate these conversations with your male peers so take these responsibility seriously!
- Start a conversation in your community, and make sure people keep talking. There are a variety of ways that you can get involved–so you can find something that will fit your skills and interests. Programs like Coaching Boys Into Men give high school athletics coaches and other community members an opportunity to start a dialogue with youth about sexual violence. Or, organize a White Ribbon Campaign to raise awareness, and encourage your male friends to participate.
Listen and be an ally.
- Listen to women in your life. Take seriously when women feel unsafe in social situations. Believe women who come forward about sexual assault and harassment. Ask your female friends if they have ever feared sexual assault. Ask her what it feels like to be whistled at or touched inappropriately. With her consent, share her experience with your friends or at your men’s group. You can be an ally.
- Learn how to support survivors. It’s important to educate yourself about how best to support survivors, including what to say and what not to say when someone turns to you for help. It’s also helpful to be familiar with these resources so that you can direct your friends and loved ones to organizations that can provide support services.
- If you want to get more involved, volunteer with your local rape crisis and recovery center. Male allies have an important role to play as advocates and hotline responders.
If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, you can contact your local Rape Crisis and Recovery Center.
Men in College
Sexual assault in college is a huge issue. As many as 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted during their time at college or university. For this reason, men in these settings should be particularly aware and vigilant of assault within their communities. Understanding the issue and knowing when and how to prevent sexual assault is imperative. There are many ways men can support the movement to end sexual assault on college campuses. Below are just a few examples:
- Listen to women and survivors of sexual assault on your campus to better understand their experiences. Ask what you can do to be part of the solution.
- Join or start an organization that works to engage men on the issue of sexual assault. If you are in an existing men’s organization like a fraternity or a sports team, work with your peers to initiate conversation.
- Take part in or organize a bystander intervention training
- Take the Its on US pledge and encourage others to do so
- Confront your peers when they use language that contributes to rape culture or misogyny. While it might be intimidating to stand up to your friends it is important to intervene as standing by silently validates rape culture. Silence is violence.
- If a friend tells you that they have been assaulted, believe them. Help them to find supportive resources on and off campus
- If a friend tells you about a sexual experience that sounds inappropriate or problematic, say something. Do not condone violence against others. Know when to report to the police or your college title IX office.
- Pressure your college/university to provide trainings and informational sessions surrounding their policies and practices.
This article from the summer 2014 issue of Frontline discusses the role of college men in the prevention of sexual violence, as well as MCASA’s work to engage men in prevention work on campus. For more information, visit www.speakup-speakout.org.