Sexual Assault of Men and Boys
Sexual assault can happen to anyone, no matter your age, your sexual orientation, or your gender identity. Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted or abused may have many of the same feelings and reactions as other survivors of sexual assault, but they may also face some additional challenges because of social attitudes and stereotypes about men and masculinity.
Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted may experience the same effects of sexual assault as other survivors, and they may face other challenges that are more unique to their experience. Men who were sexually abused as boys or teens may respond differently than men who were sexually assaulted as an adult. Many men who have been sexually assaulted feel alone, but researchers have found that 1 in 6 men have been through abusive sexual experiences before even reaching adulthood.
If something happened to you, know that you are not alone. The following list includes some of the common experiences shared by men and boys who have survived sexual assault. It is not a complete list, but it may help you to know that other people are having similar experiences:
- Anxiety, depression, fearfulness, or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Concerns or questions about sexual orientation
- Sense of blame or shame over not being able to stop the assault or abuse, especially if you experienced an erection or ejaculation
- Feeling on-edge, being unable to relax, and having difficulty sleeping
- Feel like "less of a man" or that you no longer have control over your own body
- Avoiding people or places that are related to the assault or abuse
- Fear of the worst happening and having a sense of a shortened future
- Withdrawal from relationships or friendships and an increased sense of isolation
Who are the perpetrators of sexual assault against men and boys?
Perpetrators can be any gender identity, sexual orientation, or age, and they can have any relationship to the victim. Like all perpetrators, they might use physical force or psychological and emotional coercion tactics.
How does being assaulted affect sexual orientation?
Sexual assault is in no way related to the sexual orientation of the perpetrator or the survivor, and a person’s sexual orientation cannot be caused by sexual abuse or assault. Some men and boys have questions about their sexuality after surviving an assault or abuse—and that’s understandable. This can be especially true if the you experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault. Physiological responses like an erection are involuntary, meaning you have no control over them.
Sometimes perpetrators, especially adults who sexually abuse boys, will use these physiological responses to maintain secrecy by using phrases such as, “You know you liked it.” If you have been sexually abused or assaulted, it is not your fault. In no way does an erection invite unwanted sexual activity, and ejaculation in no way condones an assault.
What if abuse happened when I was a child or teen?
If you were sexually abused when you were a child or a teenager, you may have different feelings and reactions at different times in your life. RAINN partners with 1in6, an organization dedicated to helping men who survived unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood. Their website has answers to many of the questions or concerns you might have as an adult survivor.
What if the assault or abuse occurred when I was an adult?
Some men who have survived sexual assault as adults feel shame or self-doubt, believing that they should have been “strong enough” to fight off the perpetrator. Many men who experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault may be confused and wonder what this means. These normal physiological responses do not in any way imply that you wanted, invited, or enjoyed the assault. If you were sexually assaulted, it was not your fault.
How will this affect my relationship?
Coming forward about surviving sexual assault or sexual abuse can be difficult. It requires a lot of trust and understanding on both parties. 1in6 answers some of the questions you might have about telling a partner.
If something happened to you, know that you are not alone.
- Visit the Online SupportLine. 1in6 has partnered with RAINN to offer the 24/7 ‘Online SupportLine’ for men and the people who care about them who are seeking immediate information and resources related to unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood.
- Visit online.rainn.org. Chat anonymously and confidentially with a RAINN support specialist who is trained to help.
- Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline. Call 800.656.HOPE (4763) to be connected to a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider in your area.
- Consider therapy or other mental health support. Some therapists specialize in issues you may be facing as a result of the abuse or assault. You can ask your insurance company which providers are covered by your insurance plan. You can also visit use the Mental Health Treatment Locator function from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Find the center that is closest to you and best fits your needs.
To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE(4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.