male victims of abuse

#Me(n) Too: Why Sexual Abuse is a Men’s Issue Not Just a Women’s Issue

More and more men are being recognized as sexual abusers and more and more women are coming out telling the truth about having been abused. We have gotten used to seeing rich and famous men including Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, and Donald Trump being held to account for their abusive behavior. More recently we have learned about the abusive behavior of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Roy Moore. The #MeToo movement has encouraged more and more women to confront their fears and tell the truth about what happened to them.

Ten years before the allegations against Harvey Weinstein became public knowledge, Tarana Burke was already helping young women talk about sexual assault. Working with girls at an organization she co-founded called Just Be Inc., she heard a lot of reports of sexual violence, and she wanted to offer young survivors what she needed in the aftermath of her own assault: empathy. So, she started the Me Too campaign “to spread a message for survivors: You’re heard, you’re understood.”

Now, the You Too movement has gone viral as it has spread through the web. There is a Facebook group with more than 8,000 members and Twitter shares women’s experiences widely. One Twitter post which caught my eye says, “Multiple men call a woman a slut or a whore, you believe it. Multiple women call a man a rapist, you question it. Enough is enough. #metoo.”

But sexual harassment and abuse happen to men as well. I still remember my mother deciding I needed enemas when I was 6 years old because they thought I was constipated. I remember being held down by her and a neighbor woman while they forced the tube up my rectum and I had to hold in the water that was filling me up until they said I could get on the toilet. I thought I was going to burst. I can still hear the neighbors voice as she screamed at me. “And you better not shit on me or I’m going to kill you.”

I never thought that was a form of abuse and never told anyone until I was in a therapy group as an adult. If this was done by a father and his friend to a 6-year-old girl, we would recognize it as a form of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. We are opening our eyes to the abuse females experience, but male sexual abuse is still mostly hidden.

When I was in junior high there was the usual joking about sexual things, but I also remember being cornered in the bathroom by some older boys. I was a small kid and was often picked on. One boy laughed while he put his arm on my shoulder. “You want a blow job?” he whispered. “No,” I said and pulled away. “Well, I’m going to give you a blow job,” he said menacingly. “I’m going to stick my dick in your mouth and blow out your brains.” The other boys grabbed me and I tried to pull away. Luckily the bell rang and the boys left. I was terrified for weeks thereafter and had nightmares for months.

We hear a lot about women being raped and I’m glad more and more people are being heard and are willing to say, “me too. Rape must end.” But most people don’t think about males that are raped, or if they do, they assume it’s a problem for gay men only. But here’s a reality that needs to be spoken. Rape is a men’s issue, not just a women’s issue.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. They say: “Millions of men in the United States have been victims of rape.”

“As of 1998, 2.78 million men in the U.S. had been victims of attempted or completed rape. About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. 1 out of every 10 rape victims are male.”

These aren’t insignificant numbers but they may greatly under report the rate of male victims of sexual assault. Like women, men often feel ashamed when they are victims of sexual violence. Many fewer men than women are willing to report a rape and even fewer are willing to come out publicly and say, “Me Too.”

But the true statistics are well hidden. Most rapes occur in prisons and other detention facilities and there are many more men than women in prisons. According to statistics from the Department of Justice and reported by the Daily Mail, a UK newspaper, “More men are raped in the U.S. than women.”

The study concluded: “More men are raped in the U.S. than woman, according to figures that include sexual abuse in prisons. In 2008, it was estimated 216,000 inmates were sexually assaulted while serving time, according to the Department of Justice figures. That is compared to 90,479 rape cases outside of prison.” As we continue to lock up more and more young men, I expect the true number of males raped in prison is even higher now.

My purpose in sharing this information is not to create a competition of whether men or women are more subject to rape or abuse, but to recognize that sexual harassment and rape are men’s problems as well as women’s problems. And men’s failure to join in and say, “Me, too, sexual assault needs to end,” helps keep the problem hidden.

Men can learn from women in coming out and acknowledging sexual harassment and assault. But women can learn from men by taking more responsibility for the things they do that put themselves at risk. To take responsibility for our own actions, does not mean we’re blaming the victim as Lexa Frankl points out in her article, “Why I’m Uneasy With the #MeToo Movement.”

This article is my own statement of solidarity. I hope there are other men who are willing to share their own stories. Please leave a comment at the end of the article.

Photo by Claudia Soraya on Unsplash

This article first appeared on Jed’s blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top