Sexual violence is considered mostly a women’s issue. This is why men who have experienced it tend not to talk about it or seek support. Although every person reacts differently, men may experience:
Anger and shame
Men in our society often learn not to show or share their emotions; they have to be strong and tough to live up to the idea of “manhood.” It is very difficult for men to admit they have experienced sexual violence. They may express or act out their anger, but other feelings like hurt, shame or fear can lie underneath. They may also blame themselves, thinking it was their fault, that they could have stopped it or enjoyed it if they had a physiological response to sexual stimulation.
Confusion about sexual identity
Sexual identity is an issue that most men struggle with after a sexual assault. They may ask themselves if they are straight, gay or bisexual. They may wonder if their experience influenced their sexuality.
- If the perpetrator is a man, the survivor might have issues trusting men or developing same-sex relationships. He might also feel that he “must” be gay to have attracted the perpetrator or fear being perceived as such.
- If the perpetrator is a woman, the survivor might not define his experience as sexual assault, as men often learn that getting sexual attention from a woman is a good thing. He might be ashamed to disclose his experience or feel weak or “unmanly” because women are supposed to be protectors and nurturers, not powerful aggressors.
- If the perpetrator is a partner, the survivor might be confused or in disbelief and he might reframe the sexual assault as a bad sexual experience. He might also feel emasculated if he believes that men should always want sex.
Difficulties with intimacy
Men who have experienced sexual violence may have difficulty trusting others. This distrust might even be transferred to those in a position of authority, co-workers, friends or family and to an intimate relationship. This reaction is normal since an act of sexual violence is a serious breach of trust, especially if the perpetrator is known to the survivor.
Difficulties with physical functioning
A number of physical symptoms (as described above) can be experienced after a sexual assault, but men may also have difficulties with sexual functioning. They may associate sex with sexual assault and experience painful erections, difficulty maintaining erections, premature ejaculation, lack of desire or an obsession with sex.