Rego: We need to accept men as victims of sexual violence too

Shay Rego

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in the following column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the views of The Collegian or its editorial board.

As Sexual Assault Awareness Month comes to an end, we can’t forget the important purpose of this month moving forward. We can’t leave anyone behind, no matter gender identity.

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Attending a university puts everyone at a higher risk than the non-college population of sexual assault. We all have fathers, brothers or best friends who are male, and we cannot forget that the male population can be sexual assault victims too.

Corrupt rape culture is the driving force of the argument. When thinking of sexual assault, it’s easy to only think about women. Women are the easier target and hold the highest percentage for this crime. Because of this, sexual assault against men is often not talked about. 

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, one out of 33 American men are victims of sexual assault. Specifically, male college students are 78% more likely to experience sexual violence, which is five times higher than non-students.

To further break this down, this includes 21% of heterosexual men, 40% of homosexual men, 47% of bisexual men and close to 59% of transgender men and non-binary people.

Men are often silenced because of fear of being perceived as a homosexual, fear of not being believed since society perpetuates men as sexually driven or fear of being considered weak, since rape is historically used to subjugate and suppress power in a victim. 

Transgender men specifically may fear speaking out in order to protect their identity. Some people fetishize the transgender community, and it comes down to a matter of their long-term safety. A transgender individual may also feel less likely to be believed solely because of their sexual identity being viewed as undesirable or socially unacceptable.

According to the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, fear of being perceived as homosexual is the leading cause as to why males do not report their sexual assault. If the perpetrator is a male, the victim may begin to question their sexuality. Fear of society’s perception of their attacker being male keeps men silent.

Another reason men are less likely to be vocal about their sexual assault is that it’s often misunderstood that all men want sex, therefore men can’t be raped. Male survivors may be less likely to identify what happened to them as assault because of this notion.

Society expects men to be testosterone sex-machines and to be sexually aggressive by nature. Due to these views, a man may feel invalidated or not believed if they speak out.

Similar to the thought process behind the female victim-blaming ideology — including that revealing clothing insinuates sexual desire — men may feel that society may be less inclined to believe them if the perpetrator was a woman. 

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male college students are 78% more likely to experience sexual violence  than non-College Students, according to rainn

A common misconception is that it is usually only men who are the perpetrators. Although male sexual assault cases can be male-on-male crime, women can be sexual assault perpetrators too. 

A recent study by Karen Weiss suggests that 46% of male rape victims said their perpetrator was female. However, that does still leave a majority of attacks to be male-on-male.

Embarrassment may be another cause for male silence. Sexual assault is perpetuated as a women’s issue, because patriarchy and stereotypes cause society to be more comfortable with the image of a woman being deprived power than a man.

The idea of being weak is viewed as stereotypically incorrect for a male figure, and a male victim may want to avoid the possible attacks of being deemed weak. Fear of rejection and the embarrassment of being overpowered leads many to stay silent.

Male-identifying individuals are often silenced by this continual fear and prejudice that is perpetuated against them. We must recognize the barriers men face when choosing to speak out on sexual assault and stop viewing sexual assault as solely a female issue.

Shay Rego can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter at @shay_rego.