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The Chief Speaks: Men as rape victims considered taboo

By Nicolette Clark
On February 4, 2014


I almost decided to retire my column on sexual assault this semester. 


But when I was searching for something new that I felt strongly enough to write about each week, I was stuck. Not much came to mind except my strong opinions regarding sexual assault. 

In the beginning of the fall semester, I unconsciously picked up the torch for women's issues concerning sexual assault, and in doing so I wasn't disputing the fact that men can be victims as well. 

In the U.S., 1 in 33 men are victims of sexual assault, while it happens to 1 in 6 women, according to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN).

There have been 17.7 million American women who have been victims of attempted or completed rape, while there are 2.78 million American men who have been victims. 

I'm not saying these numbers don't matter or that sexual assault against men isn't as important as when it happens to women.

Regardless of the gap between those numbers, both are astronomical.  

I'm curious though: Why doesn't the media sensationalize male rape the way they do with women? If you type 'Rape' in the Google search bar, almost all of the stories that pop up regard women.

 If you click on the news section of Google with that search, there is not a single story about a man being sexually assaulted. 

Why are men not coming forward and speaking up? We've already come to the conclusion that it happens, so why aren't there any news stories?

"Males have the added burden of facing a society that doesn't believe rape can happen to them ... at all," said psychotherapist Elizabeth Donovan in an interview with CNN.

It's hard to stomach the fact that the men you look up to or love like your father, brother, best friend or boyfriend can be raped. It happens. 

As much as we try to act like we are invincible, we're not, regardless of our gender. Men can be victims too. 

"Often, male survivors may be less likely to identify what happened to them as abuse or assault because of the general notion that men always want sex," Jennifer Marsh, the vice president for Victim Services at RAINN said in an interview with CNN.  

Curtis St. John, a representative for MaleSurvivor, a national support group for male sexual victimization, said, "'Were you aroused?' is a question posed to male victims. You don't hear it with female rape victims. It's an interesting question that men get asked."

Then there's the whole other argument where men have to prove that they were preyed upon or sexually assaulted. 

CNN posed the question in an October article, "Experts say the general disparity in physical strength comes into play - can't a man fight off a woman?"

That's not just a blow to masculinity, but to someone's very manhood. 

"I want people to understand that it's not about how physically strong you are," James Landrith, 19, who was a victim of rape himself said, in an interview with CNN. "We [men] are conditioned to believe that we cannot be victimized in such a way."

Unfortunately, while women are painted as victims, men have the complete opposite problem. 

It is hard for society to see them in any light as a victim and even harder for them to see themselves as victims. 

Men are raised with the notion that they are supposed to be strong and be the protectors. 

Being a victim of sexual assault challenges the very basis of that notion. 

"It's a tough call; people think men can't be raped and they don't understand that in the confusion no still means no," St. John said, according to CNN.

Regardless if you're a man or a woman, it comes down to the same basic principle, "No means no." 

"Whenever you talk about male survivors, women have it statistically worse, but it's not a competition - and we each need our time to talk about it," Landrith said.

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