One devastating and traumatizing myth affecting male survivors of sexual abuse is the rape myth. This is best summed up as false beliefs and stereotypes about rape, victims and rapist or abusers. Traditionally, rape myths were introduced in the context of female sexual assault. Therefore, it only included the idea of sexual aggression toward women. Interestingly when reviewing research for men it shows that sexually abused men have their own unique set of rape myths and false beliefs. For example: male rapists are gay, if you experience an erection while being raped then it’s not rape, masculinity and manhood are lost, the rape victim may become homosexual or male victims of rape are to blame if they did not fight off the assailant. Interestingly, these myths uniquely relate specifically to men. No one makes the assumption that if a woman is abused by another woman that she will become lesbian. Unfortunately, many of these male rape myths are accepted or believed among the general population.
One impact that male rape myths contribute to is the lack of services provided to male victims of sexual violence. I remember the beginnings of my journey in the 90’s and difficulties locating services to address recovery from my childhood sexual abuse issues. Amazingly, many workers at the sexual assault crisis centers often supported or demonstrated a belief and acceptance of male rape myths. Such acceptance served as obstacles and barriers for male victims to even get help. One survivor shared his experience with hotline centers involved nonresponsive and insensitive call center responders. They assumed he acted as the abuser, not the victim of the abuse. Some counseling center even refused him services believing that “men can’t be raped”.
With the emotional, psychological upheaval that follow sexual abuse, it’s crucial that male victims also receive levels of concern and compassion that we often provide women. Yet, interestingly these male rape myths detract from the sensitivity and compassion and discourages so many men from seeking help.
The real problem arises when we as male survivors internally embrace many of the rape myths mentioned above. I have encountered numerous instances where men with years of therapy are discharged. They attend the coaching workshops, but before we can move forward, we must debunk and unravel the rape myths that often were not addressed during therapy.