In society, there are a lot of myths about sexual assault. These myths are what ties into the stigma surrounding sexual assault and can often cause survivors to feel shame and can prevent them from reporting their assault.
A common myth that gender norms in society have shaped is that men and boys can’t be sexually assaulted or abused. According to 1in6.org, researchers have found that at least one in six men have been sexually abused or assaulted. However, men often underreport their abuse according to the Libertarian Institute because they can be socialized against as being “weak.”
“Many men have gotten the message that ‘real’ men are tough, impervious to hurt and unemotional,” Rachel Gronbach, an advocate with the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center (RACC), said, “These are not ideas that support men in acknowledging sexual assault and seeking help for it.”
Statistics from The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted in 2015 shows that 24.8% of 27.6 million men in the U.S. experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.
The survey also found that 48.7% of male victims were sexually assaulted for the first time as adults while 51.3% of male victims experienced their first victimization prior to the age of 18.
Though sexual assault has remained a stigmatized topic, throughout the years Gronbach has noticed more people having conversations about sexual assault. Gronbach said movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp can help bring awareness to the topic. “Bringing the topic of sexual assault into the light in a normalizing, compassionate way is essential to dismantling the shame and stigma of assault.”
While Gronbach sees more awareness about sexual assault, there is still more work to be done to eliminate the stigma men face. “People of all genders are sexually assaulted, but much of society continues to think sexual assault as strictly a ‘women’s issue.'”
Another common myth within society is that women can’t sexually assault men since men are often portrayed as being the only perpetrators of sexual violence. This can make men feel like they won’t be believed when reporting sexual violence and lead to them remaining silent.
Sexual assault can also impact men’s mental health as the Department of Justice found that almost 40% of adult males who experienced sexual violence from an intimate partner had long term impacts such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Despite the stigma surrounding male sexual assault survivors, there are many national resources offered to men providing help and support. Malesurvivor.org is a site that provides information and a therapist search for male survivors of sexual violence. The site also offers support groups and conversations so men feel heard.
For local resources, the RACC provides a variety of services free of charge for anyone who’s experienced domestic violence, childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault in adulthood, human trafficking and elder abuse. Services include crisis intervention, counseling and community education. “Whether the violence happed to you last night or 25 years ago, we can help,” Gronbach added.
When educating the community about sexual assault, the Prevention Education department gives sexual violence prevention presentations and training to schools, businesses, agencies, medical professionals, law enforcement and other groups throughout the community.
Suzie Kramer-Brenna, a Prevention Education Supervisor, detailed the Green Dot bystander intervention program. As Kramer-Brenna explained, this helps when “engaging and mobilizing community members in their role in preventing interpersonal and sexual violence.”
There are a variety of education and awareness programs that are geared towards decreasing sexual violence and child sexual abuse in the community.
The RACC also partners with local emergency rooms at Sandford and Essentia Health to provide advocacy services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
For more information about the services the RACC provides, go to Services | Rape and Abuse Crisis Center (raccfm.com)