By Kori Hennessy, MA, LAMFT
Statistics tell us that 1 in 6 men and boys will experience sexual assault or abuse. The number is likely much higher. The messages boys and men receive about what it means to be a man, including that there is no such thing as unwanted sexual contact for their gender, make it difficult to obtain accurate numbers.
The same messages that support sexual assault against women, *trans and gender non-conforming people, support sexual assault against men. Messages and images that support Rape Culture are just as damaging to men as they are to other genders. One of the defining messages of rape culture is that violence is sex, sex is violence and men are the consumers of both. In such a culture, the idea that men can be victims of sex and violence does not fit. This can lead to confusion when men or boys are faced with unwanted sexual experiences.
In the aftermath of any unwanted sexual experience there are some common reactions. Avoidance of the place and people where it happened, emotional numbing, an increase in anxiety or depressive symptoms, self blame or shame, isolation from friends and family, concerns or questions about sexual orientation and feelings of extreme anger, sadness or helplessness are all common and normal reactions. This is only a short list of possible reactions. It is important to remember that whatever you or a loved one feels after an assault is perfectly normal.
Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim/survivor, regardless of gender. For men, erection or ejaculation may occur during the assault. When this happens the victim/survivor might experience increased feelings of self blame, or it might spur questions about their sexual orientation. Sexual assault or abuse does not influence or reflect the sexual orientation of a victim. Erection and ejaculation are physiological responses and do not in any way indicate consent or enjoyment. Perpetrators of sexual violence may use these physical responses as a way to shame and blame their victims. Consent is in no way indicated by an erection or ejaculation.
More and more men are choosing to share their experiences of sexual violence and healing. The organization 1in6 has resources specific to men including informational resources, live chat and video testimonies from men who are surviving, thriving and healing after sexual assault and abuse.
If you or a man you love has had an unwanted sexual experience, there are places and people who will believe you and support you in healing. I work with individuals and couples to heal from sexual violence. I have advanced training in therapy methods for treating trauma, including EMDR. If you are ready to find a therapist to work with you as you heal, I would be happy to let you get to know me to see if I'm a good fit. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, call me at 651-802-8302 or make and appointment here to get started.
-Kori Hennessy, MA, LAMFT