June 15-21 is Men's Health Week. This week We Will wishes to highlight sexual assault challenges faced by males. Links to articles and sources contain materials which may be triggering for some readers.
Sexual assault is often viewed as a women's issue, but perpetrators of sexual assault do not only target women. Even though it may not be discussed often, the reality is that many men and boys are survivors of sexual assault.
Sexual assault can happen to anyone. Perpetrators do not discriminate based off of age, gender, orientation, race, or otherwise. It is critical that every survivor feels heard, validated, and like they have a community. We Will aims to be that community for all survivors and stands for our male survivors.
Men who have been sexually assaulted may feel many of the same effects of sexual assault as other survivors. This can include PTSD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, loss of sleep, flashbacks, STDs, and more. However, just as women survivors may experience effects specific to their gender, men may face unique challenges as well. Because of societal expectations or gender norms, men may feel embarrassed for if they didn't fight back or if they fought back and were physically incapable of stopping the assault. Because of these norms, men may feel especially concerned or uncomfortable with expressing their emotions following an assault. Further, men may experience physiological responses during an assault such as ejaculation which may heighten feelings of self-blame.
Male #MeToo is often not discussed, but reports state that avoiding conversations about masculinity and sexual assault makes it challenging for male survivors to get necessary aid. Fortunately, our culture has become more accepting of those who report sexual abuse. Now, we need only allow men to feel more comfortable reporting.
The history of male reporting is not only derived in society's view of masculinity, but also because for a significant period of time, the FBI's definition of rape was gendered, only allowing for a woman report rape under the legal definition of the word. In other words, there was no legal recourse for a man who was raped because legally-speaking, there was no such thing as the rape of a man. Now that this definition has changed, males reporting sexual assault and rape has increased, even though it is likely still significantly underreported.
According to statistics, one in four men will experience an unwanted sexual encounter in their lifetime. Some studies state that one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Others suggest numbers closer to one in seventy-one. No matter what the true number is regarding rate of sexual assault among men, the number is far too high. We Will seeks to prevent sexual assault against all and to support all survivors, men included. Male survivors, you are not alone.
No man, woman, or non-binary person should endure assault. We must prevent sexual assault from happening to all persons. We must support sexual assault survivors. In order to support survivors, we must be willing to see them and hear them and therefore must recognize that survivors come from all walks of life.