• Wed, Apr 6 2011

Sexual Assault Awareness Isn’t Just for Women: 8 Famous Men Who’ve Been Sexually Abused

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and everyone’s talking about rape prevention and how to support survivors β€” all more than worthy topics of discussion, especially given the somewhat disparaging statistics on rape: One in four women is sexually assaulted before the age of 18, and rape is the least reported and convicted violent crime in the U.S. Clearly, huge progress is needed. But I don’t think we can really raise awareness or start changing those facts with the discussion in its current state: As long as we keep framing sexual violence as a “women’s issue” and depict all survivors as women, we’re only doing half the work that needs to be done.

Where are the men? In conversation and media representations of rape, they typically assume the role of rapist (or innocent bystanders who don’t know what to say). But in reality, boys and men are sexually abused far more than most people assume. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in six men is sexually abused by the age of 16, and at some point in their lives, 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape. And as advocacy group 1in6.org reminds us, “this is probably a low estimate, since it doesn’t include noncontact experiences, which can also have lasting negative effects.” Not only do our conversations tend to ignore these statistics; our cultural norms tend to silence those men arguably more than they do women. Popular culture says men should be stoic, silent, and unemotional; it’s far from supportive of the emotions and aftermath of sexual assault for men. In fact, young men are given a pat on the back for acquiring sexual experience (even if it’s with a woman much older than appropriate for his age) without much emotional support.

I’m not saying that our culture is perfectly supportive of women, either (like I said, the statistics show that we have way too much room for improvement on all fronts in this debate), but if we really want to raise awareness and work towards prevention, we need to include men instead of relegating them to the fringe and further encouraging a cycle of silence and abuse. Rape isn’t just a women’s issue; it’s a social and cultural issue that affects us all.

Don’t think you know men who’ve been sexually assaulted? Statistics say otherwise, but even if you don’t know anyone who’s willing to come forward and talk about their experiences, these eight men have, and we bet you know who at least some of them are:

 

If you or anyone you know is the victim of sexual violence, you can get free help from the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or by calling 1.800.656.HOPE.

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