Male rape less common, just as upsetting

by The Post Editorial
by William Tarter


I have heard different people say that sexual assault is a "women's subject" and that sexual assault help exists to make a woman feel "empowered" so she can once again pick up the pieces of her life. I agree that we must support any female survivors of sexual assault. It is a disgrace that one in four women (or one in three, depending on the statistics) are sexually assaulted. It should never happen to anyone and we should do all that we can to help female survivors reclaim their lives.

However, there is one issue that's been troubling me as I have read recent Post letters -commentaries addressing sexual assault. No authors seem to acknowledge or give thought to the fact that it's not just women who are raped and/or sexually assaulted. In fact, much of the sexual assault discussion in our country centers on women who are the victims of sexual assault. The end result is that our country has become immune to the fact that rape can, and does, happen to men too. For example, the FBI Uniform Crime Report still completely omits statistics on male rape. I believe that our country has succumbed to the many myths about male rape including: a) it only occurs in prisons b) it only happens to homosexuals c) it only happens to children 12 and under d) survivors will become future rapists and/or e) it is impossible for women to rape men. All of these things are untrue.

To give perspective on how often men are raped, according to statistics compiled by George Mason University, one in five men in the United States will be a victim of rape at some point in their lifetime. Statistics cited by Appalachian State University have found, in nine separate surveys, between 3 percent and 6 percent of men on college campuses have been raped and upward of 25 percent had been sexually assaulted in some way. Nationally, among both sexes, it is estimated that less than 5 percent of rapes are actually reported. However, the percentage of male rapes that get recorded is estimated at a minuscule 1 percent.

Not surprisingly, many males who are survivors of male rape feel a variety of emotions similar to female survivors of rape, including depression, guilt, feelings of homosexuality, anger and shock. In fact, many male survivors don't even inform the ones that they love and trust the most. They feel that if they tell anyone they will be ignored, laughed at or ostracized. Although it's true that most sexual assailants are men, it is important to understand it is possible for a female to sexually assault a male. According to MaleSurvivor.org, the male sex organ responds to stimulation and can give the appearance that the man "wants it." It is tempting to dismiss the idea of a female raping a male as laughable and deem it highly unlikely (like the guy HAS to enjoy it when a female rapes him). But to ignore such an idea and dismiss it as foolish is as damaging and na*ve as trying to say that sexual assault does not occur anywhere at any time in our country.

Although I have never been a victim of any type of male rape, I believe that it is still important that we include male rape in any discussion or dialogue about sexual assault. It is a very serious subject that deserves to be recognized by our society.

I acknowledge the fact that men do have certain privileges that women do not have, such as an increased sense of security when walking home at night and not giving serious thought to walking in pairs in the early morning hours. I applaud efforts to keep the campus safer from attackers and empowering women. While it's good that women march in sexual assault awareness campaigns, I believe that men should not just sit along the sidelines and watch. Male rape happens too, and it is important that male survivors be recognized and supported just as strongly as any other survivor.

If you or someone you know has experienced male rape, or if you need more information, there is a really good Web site at http://www.ncweb.com/org/rapecrisis/malerape.html.

-William Tarter Jr., a senior organizational communication major, is a resident assistant. Send him an e-mail at william.tarter@ohiou.edu.