Dear Alice,

Is male rape possible? Where can I find more information on male rape?

— Floor question

Dear Floor question,

Yes, male rape does happen. Most research suggests that 10 to 20 percent of all males will be sexually violated at some point in their lives and that one in every ten rape victims is male. Recent studies by the Department of Justice and other governmental agencies found that victimized men accounted for six percent (9,040 men) of completed rapes, nine percent (10,270 men) of attempted rapes, and eleven percent (17,130 men) of completed and attempted sexual assaults reported. Additionally, studies sponsored by gay and lesbian studies programs at various universities suggest that 12 to 30 percent of gay and bisexual men surveyed had indicated that they engaged in sexual intercourse when they did not want to because they felt coerced to do so. Recent studies show that more than 86 percent of male survivors are sexually abused by another male.

Experts believe that current male rape statistics vastly under-represent the actual number of men who are raped each year both because crime statistics often do not actually include men as potential victims of rape and because men are less likely to report rape. Research suggests that the rates of under-reporting among men are even higher than those of women.

While male rape occurs, it's often not considered an acceptable topic for discussion because of the commonly held beliefs that men are "too big," "too strong," or "too much into sex" to be sexually assaulted.  The adverse effects of commonly held gender stereotypes of males contribute to the stigma, shame, and embarrassment a male survivor goes through as they begin to cope with what has happened to them. 

Rape affects men in many ways similar to women. Anxiety, anger, sadness, confusion, fear, numbness, self-blame, helplessness, hopelessness, suicidal feelings and shame are common reactions of both male and female survivors. There is no single, typical, emotional response that a man will exhibit after he has been sexually assaulted.   

Many pressing questions regarding this issue remain, including:

  • How many men who have been victimized are living in "silence"?
  • What are the circumstances under which male rape occurs?
  • How do we reduce the stigma of being a male survivor of sexual assault?
  • How do we continue to develop research methods to include information about men potentially raped by women? (While this does happen, it is not nearly as common as male-on-male assault. That is not to say, however, that we should overlook boys or men who are victimized by females.  It may be tempting to dismiss such experiences as wanted sexual initiation-especially in the case of an older female assaulting a younger male.  The reality is that the impact of female-on-male assault can be just as damaging, but it shouldn't be over sensationalized.)

 More information about male rape is also available from the organization MaleSurvivor


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