Can Men Get Sexually Assaulted by Women?
According to the United Nations 92 people out of every 100,000 report a sexual assault in Australia. That puts us at one of the highest rates of reported sexual assault in the world, ranking us just below South Africa. But who is being sexually assaulted?
Centres Against Sexual Assault report that 17% of women and 4% of men experienced sexual assault since the age of 15 (Australian Bureau of Statistics – Personal Safety Survey, 2012) A University study found 20.6% of women and 10.5% of men reported non-penetrative childhood sexual abuse by the age of 16 and that 7.9% of women and 7.5% of men reported penetrative childhood sexual abuse by the age 16 years. (Mamun, Lawlor, Oâ€™Calloghan, Bor, Williams. & Najman, 2007 Queensland University study).
Recorded Crime Statistics 2003 (ABS, 2004) indicate that out of 18,237police recorded sexual assaults, 14,892 were from females victims and 3,255 were from males victims.
The NSW Recorded Crime Statistics (2005) recorded a total of 3,503 sexual assaults for females and 644 for males. SBS.com reports, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
A 2014 research report by Temple, paints a quite a different picture. The results of this study found that “68.6 percent of men who report sexual victimization describe female perpetrators.”
Although the percentage of men who are victims of sexual assault is much lower than those of women (5% according to Australian Centre for Sexual Assault, March 2014), men too can be victims of sexual assault. No matter what gender the victim is, sexual assault is a crime. It is a “crime of power and control and invasion of another person’s space” (Source SBS.com).
However as an article in SBS.com highlights, only 15 per cent of male victims of female perpetrated sexual assault report the assault to police, the vast majority of men do not.
Are the numbers correct or are the amount of men report being sexually assaulted under reported and if so why?
Barriers to men reporting sexual assault
There are many barriers to both men and women reporting sexual assault. However, gender stereotypes make it even more difficult for men to come forward. There is the common misconception that men are ‘un-rapeable’ or that men who are raped are either gay, boys who are underage, or those who are in jail. With stereotypes like these it makes it really hard for men to come forward, which results in underreporting.
Other common myths about sexual assault on men include:
Men cannot be sexually assaulted by a woman because they are bigger and stronger. That is not true. Just because a man is bigger does not mean that he cannot be emotionally coerced or manipulated with threats of potential repercussions.
Having an erection or ejaculating means they wanted it. Just because a person’s body reacts does not mean that they emotionally or psychologically consented. Forced arousal can be a form of control.
Any and “all sex if good sex” (Vice).
Many men are pressured to reframe their victimization as a “rite of passage” (Source; Vice). As men grow older studies have shown that they are more likely to be blamed for their abuse than female victims.
This stigma is further highlighted by the fact that very few women end up on sex registries. For example according to Stephen Blum in Vice, one five state study of registries revealed “that between 0.8 percent and 3 percent of people on sex offender registries are female” and another survey found “proportions lower than 2 percent.”
It is hard for people to conceptualise that sexual assault on a man by a woman is possible. This is even more so for men of other cultures where ideas of masculinity and male dominance is prevalent.
Although sexual assaults of men occur much less than they do for women, it does still happen. Are we as a society equipped to deal with female perpetrated sexual assault on males? Unfortunately we are not. In the past 15 years there has been an increase in reporting, but there “have been few large-scale policy initiatives to address the issue.” In the 1970s, the Service Assisting Male Survivors of Sexual Assault (SAMSSA) – ACT was introduced. However, most jurisdictions still do not recognize that men can be sexually assaulted by a woman. Most treatment options for sexual assault are difficult to find for male victims and still primarily focus towards women. What we understand about the sexual and psychological impact of male sexual assault victims is very limited.
As Sarah Comb states in her article Male Survivors of Sexual Assault and Rape, “procedural advice and criteria for justice, health and support workers are limited or non-existent.” The only way to get male victims the support they need is for us as a society to tackle the stigma and shame associated with it. There has to be public acknowledgement that men can be victims too.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault contact the Service Assisting Male Survivors of Sexual Assault (SAMSSA) at 02 6247 2525