Male Survivors

Many people believe that sexual assault is only committed by men against women. The majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by men, but the fact is that 1 out of every 10 men is sexually assaulted. Victimization can also include childhood sexual abuse and although this page doesn't discuss this topic you can click on this link to read more. Because our society fails to see that men can be sexually assaulted, men often have a difficult time accepting their own victimization and delay seeking help and support. This page offers information about the sexual assault of men, talks about the barriers male survivors often face, and offers a list of resources male survivors can contact to connect with a counselor or others who have been sexually assaulted.

Understanding sexual assault of men

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact. It can be committed by the use of threats or force or when someone takes advantage of circumstances that render a person incapable of giving consent, such as intoxication. Sexual assault of men can include unwanted touching, fondling, or groping of a male's body including the penis, scrotum or buttocks, even through his clothes. Rape of a man is any kind of sexual assault that involves forced oral or anal sex, including any amount of penetration of the anus or mouth with a body part or any other object.

There are specific definitions for the degrees of sexual assault. Rhode Island law defines these as:

  • 1st Degree Sexual Assault -- sexual penetration of any orifice of the victim's body by a body part or object, achieved through force, threat of force or coercion.
  • 2nd Degree Sexual Assault -- physical contact of a sexual nature without consent, with a victim's genitals or buttocks or a woman's breasts.
  • 3rd Degree Sexual Assault -- sexual activity between one party who is 18 years of age or older and one who is under 16 years of age. (Sixteen is the age of consent in RI)

Many people don't take sexual assault of men seriously. This is one of the reasons why men have a difficult time reporting what happened and why the rates of male sexual assault are thought to be significantly underreported. If a male survivor's friends think that male sexual assault is a joke, he will feel isolated and afraid to tell anyone. Sexual assault is a painful, traumatic experience for any victim.

Who can be a perpetrator of male sexual assault?

Anyone, regardless of gender or gender identity, can sexually assault a man. However, most sexual assaults against men are committed by other men, who actually identify themselves as heterosexual. It's important not to jump to the conclusion that man-against-man sexual assault only happens between men who are gay. Sexual assault is not about sexual desire or sexual orientation; it's about violence, control, and humiliation.

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What are some of the feelings a male survivor may experience?

Any survivor of sexual assault may experience the following feelings, but male survivors may experience these feelings in a different way:

  • Guilt -- as though he is somehow at fault for not preventing the assault because our society promotes the misconception that men should be able to protect themselves at all times.
  • Shame -- as though being assaulted makes him "dirty," "weak," or less of a "real man."
  • Fear -- that he may be blamed, judged, laughed at, or not believed.
  • Denial -- because it is upsetting, he may try not to think about it or talk about it; he may try to hide from his feelings behind alcohol, drugs, and other self-destructive habits.
  • Anger -- about what happened; this anger may sometimes be misdirected and generalized to target people who remind the him of the perpetrator.
  • Sadness -- feeling depressed, worthless, powerless; withdrawing from friends, family, and usual activities; some victims even consider suicide.

If a man became sexually aroused, had an erection, or ejaculated during the sexual assault, he may not believe that he was raped. These are involuntary physiological reactions. They do not mean that the person wanted to be sexually assaulted, or that they enjoyed the traumatic experience. Just as with women, a sexual response does not mean there was consent.

The experience of sexual assault may affect gay and heterosexual men differently. Rape counselors have found that gay men have difficulties in their sexual and emotional relationships with other men and think that the assault occurred because they are gay. Heterosexual men often begin to question their sexual identity and are more disturbed by the sexual aspect of the assault than any violence involved.

What should I do if I was assaulted?

If you are a man who has been sexually assaulted, remember:

  • It was not your fault that you were assaulted.
  • You are not alone.
  • There are resources available to you.

Collecting physical evidence must occur within 96 hours (4 days). Medications to prevent the development of some sexually transmitted infections and HIV can be provided by Health Services.  HIV prophylaxis treatment needs to be started within 72 hours. Screening for date rape drugs can be done up to 72 hours after the incident but is optimally done within 12 hours. Since many of these drugs clear the system quickly, a negative test result does not necessarily mean that no drug was involved.

If the incident occurred in the last 24 to 120 hours:

  • Call the Sexual Assault Response Line (401.863-6000) if you need immediate medical or police assistance.  If you are away from Brown, call 911. If you want to report the crime, notify Brown's Department of Public Safety immediately at 401.863-4111. For some, reporting the crime can help regain a sense of personal power and control.
  • Go to a safe place as soon as you can and ask someone you trust to stay with you.
  • Get help by calling one of these sexual assault resources:
    • Sexual Assault Response Line, 401.863-6000.  This number can connect you with the confidential help of the Sexual Assault Crisis Counselor who can provide you with information as well as accompany you to the hospital if needed.  
    • Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Coordinator, 401.863-2794. Confidential support.
    • Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-494-8100. Off-campus confidential or anonymous support.
  • Consider seeking medical attention. Go to Health Services (401.863-1330) or a hospital emergency room that provides medical care for sexual assault victims. Even if you think that you do not have any physical injuries, it's important to get medical care to discuss STIs, date rape drugs, and evidence collection. .  All services, expect  evidence collection, can be provided at Health Services. 
  • Try to preserve all evidence of the assault. Avoid drinking, bathing, showering, douching, brushing your teeth, or changing your clothes. Evidence can be collected at an emergency room and you can decide later whether or not you want to press criminal charges.
  • Try to write down, or have a friend write down, everything you can remember about the incident including a physical description of the perpetrator, their identity if you know it, and the use of threats or force.
  • If you think you were drugged or consumed a sedative-like substance, ask the medical provider to take a urine sample. Date rape drugs like GHB and Rohypnol are more likely to be detected in urine than in blood. If you still have remnants of the drink, save them for analysis.
  • Talk with a counselor who is trained to assist victims of sexual assault. You can call one of the resources listed below.

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What happens during the medical exam?

Even if you have no apparent injuries after the assault, it is still a good idea to seek medical care. Going to the hospital, even though it might be difficult, is an important way for you to start taking care of yourself. You can decide what medical care you want or don't want. You may come to Health Services or you may go to any hospital you choose. If you need to be transferred from Health Services to another emergency care site, Brown EMS can transport you.

At the hospital, you will be asked questions about your general health. You will also be asked specific questions about the assault. It may be difficult to recall some of the details, and it may be emotionally painful to talk about what happened. Medical providers ask specific questions to find out what to look for when they examine you. The information you give helps them conduct a thorough physical evaluation.

Then you can choose to have a general physical exam. The clinician will check for external and internal injuries and test for any sexually transmitted infections. You may be given antibiotics to prevent infection. The medical providers will, with your permission, collect physical evidence to be used if you decide to prosecute. Collecting this physical evidence is called a "rape kit." This cannot be done at Health Services, but must be done at an emergency room or hospital. Depending on the types of sexual contact that occurred, the search for physical evidence may include taking samples from the mouth or rectum to test for sperm cells and semen. Other evidence may be obtained from fingernail scrapings, foreign matter on your body, and the clothes you were wearing at the time of the assault.

All exam findings are completely confidential and can only be released with your written consent. If you have visible injuries, you may be asked to have photographs taken. Photographing injuries is important because by the time your assailant is prosecuted, the injuries may have healed.
Going to the hospital does not mean that you have to make a report to the police. That is your choice. The hospital staff will probably ask you to come back for a follow-up checkup. Or, you follow up with a medical provider of your choice. A counselor will be available to talk with you. Additional ongoing counseling will be available to you through the support resources of your choice.

Where can I go for help?

Whether the incident occurred recently or long ago, it is never too late to get help. Ask for support. Talk with someone you trust and/or get help by calling one of these sexual assault resources. You can ask to speak with a male or female counselor. Even if they don't have male staff on call, almost all rape crisis centers can make referrals to male counselors who are sensitive to the needs of male sexual assault survivors.

  • Sexual Assault Response Line 401.863-6000
    Available through Psychological Services' on-call system. Confidential crisis support and information is available for any Brown student dealing with sexual assault. The on-call counselor is also available to accompany a victim to the hospital.
  • Coordinator of Sexual Assault Prevention and Advocacy
    Bita Shooshani, 401.863-2794, bita@brown.edu, 3rd floor of Health Services
    Bita is available to help students affected by sexual violence and abuse in a relationship. Confidential services include support for a survivor or the friends of a survivor, help exploring options to address the incident (such as filing a complaint, if that is the student's choice) and educational programs for the student community. When you speak to Bita, you do not have to pursue any specific course of action and no action will be taken unless it’s something you choose.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services 401.863-3476
    Clinicians provide confidential crisis support, follow-up appointments, and 24-hour on-call services for any Brown student dealing with sexual assault. Located at J Walter Wilson, Room 516.
  • Office of Student Life/Dean-on-Call 401.863-3800
    Provides a crisis response system which includes deans-on-call.
  • Brown Department of Public Safety 401.863-4111
    Emergency response available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Brown Emergency Medical Services (EMS) 401.863-4111
    Emergency response available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • University Health Services 401.863-3953
    Confidential medical care, testing and treatment. Emergency contraceptive pills and treatment for sexually transmitted infections are available. Located at the corner of Brown and Charlesfield Streets.
  • Local Hospital Emergency Rooms:
    • Women & Infants Hospital 401.274-1100
      101 Dudley Street, Providence
    • Rhode Island Hospital 401.444-5411
      593 Eddy Street, Providence
    • Miriam Hospital 401.793-2500
      164 Summit Avenue, Providence
  • Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-494-8100
    If you or someone you know needs help because of a sexual assault or an abusive relationship, call this hotline 24 hours a day. Counselor-advocates provide confidential support and are available to accompany victims of sexual assault to the hospital and police station. Ongoing counseling and support groups are available. (This hotline is specific to Rhode Island. Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE if you need help in another state.)
  • Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) 1-800-656-HOPE
    Call this national hotline to be automatically connected to the nearest rape crisis center. It is available 24 hours a day and is confidential.

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How can I help a male friend who has been sexually assaulted?

  • Take it seriously.
  • Ask him what you can do to support him.
  • Let him know that it was not his fault.
  • Let him know he is not alone.
  • Find out about resources that are sensitive to male victims and let him know his options.
  • Tell him that help is available and encourage him to call a rape crisis hotline.
  • Don't pressure him to do certain things. He needs to know that he has choices and that you support him.

For more general information on how to help a friend, click here.

(Adapted from Planned Parenthood's Teenwire, "He Didn't Ask for it Either," and National Center for Victims of Crime Infoline, "Male Rape.")

Links you can use

For Men Only:  Male Survivors of Sexual Assault
This page is from the Counseling and Mental Health Center at the University of Texas at Austin and offers another source of information for male survivors of sexual assault.

1 in 6 For Men
A website with resources for men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in their childhood, including 24-hour online support, educational material covering the impact of sexual abuse, and stories of healing from male survivors.

Day One: The Sexual Assault and Trauma Resource Center
Day One is the RI resource for victims of sexual assault and their families. The site provides information on a range of topics, including sexual assault, child sexual abuse, internet safety and sex offender management. Day One offers individual and group counseling for survivors of sexual abuse, child sexual abuse and for their families.

Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project
The Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project is a grassroots, nonprofit organization providing community education and direct services for clients. GMDVP offers shelter, guidance, and resources to allow gay, bisexual, and transgender men in crisis to leave violent situations and relationships.

Anti-Violence Project
This project serves lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and HIV-positive victims of violence, and others affected by violence, by providing free and confidential services enabling them to regain their sense of control, identify and evaluate their options, and assert their rights.

JUST DETENTION International
JUST DETENTION International (JDI) is a nonprofit human rights organization that seeks to end sexual violence against men, women, and youth in all forms of detention. Founded by survivors of prisoner rape over twenty years ago, JDI has worked to shed light on the dangers of sexual abuse in prison and helped survivors to access resources and connect with one another.

Stop it Now!
Stop It Now provides information on childhood sexual abuse, answers commonly asked questions and provides resources and related links.

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Disclaimer: BWell Health Promiotion is part of Health Services at Brown University. Health Promotion maintains this site as a resource for Brown students. This site is not intended to replace consultation with your medical providers. No site can replace real conversation. Health Promotion offers no endorsement of and assumes no liability for the currency, accuracy, or availability of the information on the sites we link to or the care provided by the resources listed. Health Services staff are available to treat and give medical advice to Brown University students only. If you are not a Brown student, but are in need of medical assistance please call your own health care provider or in case of an emergency, dial 911. Please contact us if you have comments, questions or suggestions.