It’s Time to Empower Male Sexual Assault Victims to Speak Out

A new campaign called “1in6″ highlights that one of every six victims of sexual assault are male, yet few feel empowered to speak up. That has to change.

The campaign, by advocacy group “1in6“, presents a powerful video to mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April. In the video, a number of women are asked to read the stories of victims they have never met. The stories are all distressing and many of the women struggle to hold back tears.

It is then revealed that the victims of assault and sexual violence were male. Those men then get the opportunity to sit down with the women who read their stories and talk about their experiences.

You can watch this moving video below, but I would reiterate that for sufferers of abuse, this video may be particularly challenging, as it does contain real accounts of abuse.

Produced in conjunction with the domestic violence and sexual assault action organization No More, another organization for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, this first-of-its kind PSA tells male victims of sexual assault that they are not alone and that they are worthy of help and support.

“We hope to dispel the myth that men are invulnerable, encouraging viewers of the PSA to have compassion for all survivors of sexual abuse and assault, regardless of their gender identity or expression,” Andy Langdon, who directed the PSA said in a press release. “And if you’re a survivor who identifies as male, we encourage you to have compassion for yourself—it wasn’t your fault.”

It’s estimated that at least three percent of American men have experienced an attempted or actual rape. To put this into some kind of perspective, while women are undoubtedly more likely to be victims of sexual assault and rape, one of every ten cases of rape has a male victim.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that because of the stigma surrounding men admitting to being victimized, this figure may be somewhat higher than official numbers suggest. In addition, trans people account for a high proportion of sexual violence victims, and data on their experiences is only now being added.

If as a society we only recognize women as victims of sexual assault and only provide care and support to them, we miss a huge group of people in crisis. Fortunately, there are many campaigns that are providing just that support.

Creating Spaces for Male Sexual Assault Victims to Speak Out

This year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month’s theme is “Embrace Your Voice“.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center explains that our perceptions of sexual assault victims, what they look like and how they should behave, are often shaped by portrayals in the media but not be the victims themselves. This can lead to inaccurate perceptions that stifle people and stop them speaking out.

For example, the common belief that sexual assault is only valid if the person reported the offense to the police is a pervasive and harmful problem. There are many reasons why victims may stay silent.

The “Embrace Your Voice” theme challenges us to think about our words and actions, so we are not inadvertently or even purposefully policing victims and how they should do or behave.

To give a concrete example, what struck me about the above 1in6 campaign was how we got to observe in real time as the men watched the women recount their stories and then react as the women talked about how they would want to “hug her” and take care of a victim they immediately assumed must be female.

This, of course, was not intended to be harmful in any way. But it speaks to how pervasive the assumption over sexual assault is and how it can reinforce toxic masculinity’s demands that men keep silent. If not, they might be perceived as not manly enough.

What was also incredibly positive in this video was how the men’s stories were echoed by some of the women who then touched on their own assault experiences. This shows how this kind of dialog can create a space for further discussion and make it okay to share deeply personal and traumatic things that, in turn, can lead to healing and recovery.

Owning our voice, both for victims and for allies, is critical to create change, and the 1in6 campaign’s work to highlight male sexual assault is absolutely vital.

Not only does it help victims to get the support they need, but it helps to also break the often seen pattern of men becoming emotionally unstable as a result of not being able to process or recover from emotional or physical trauma, something that impacts everyone around them.

Giving men those tools by creating safe spaces for them, particularly off the back of the #MeToo movement, is vital.

Resources

If you have been a victim of sexual assault or would like further information on how you can be an ally, here are some resources.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

112 comments

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson3 months ago

Thank you!

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Ingrid A
Ingrid A3 months ago

thanks for posting this

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Gino C
Gino C3 months ago

Thank you

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John P
Past Member 3 months ago

Thanks for posting.

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Carole R
Carole R4 months ago

Thanks for posting.

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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O4 months ago

Karen H you have covered and answered all very well and I agree wholeheartedly. Thank you for this 1in6 as it is much needed. Excellent article Steve.

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Lisa M
Lisa M4 months ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M4 months ago

Noted.

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Megan S
Megan S4 months ago

powerful video

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Janis K
Janis K4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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