Sexual Violence Knows No Gender

“I should have been able to protect myself.” “What does this say about me as a man?” “How do I reach out for help?” - These are common thoughts and questions experienced by male survivors of sexual assault.

Services to help survivors of sexual assault often evolved out of the women’s movement because sexual assault has often been presented as primarily a women’s issue.  The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2011) concluded that across a lifetime, 1 in 4 males in the United States will experience some form of sexual assault. Clearly the issue of sexual assault is not just a women’s issue.

Because of the gendered perception of sexual assault, men often face additional barriers when deciding to reach out for help.  Gender stereotypes often make it more difficult for men to come forward to seek services. Men often feel like they have to be strong and deal with the emotional repercussions of assault on their own. The incompatibility between gender expectations and being a victim is called a “disconnection dilemma.” This concept says that to maintain a masculine identity of strength, courage, and control, male survivors have to disconnect from the natural feelings of fear or vulnerability associated with being a victim. This dilemma can lead to extreme all-or-nothing types of emotional reactions.  Because of these additional challenges, it is important that male survivors receive services that help them navigate the emotional repercussions.

Gender interfaces with disclosure and feelings about the assault and it is clear that male survivors need services as much as female survivors. Sexual Trauma Services has been working extensively over the past five years to find ways to make services more accessible to male survivors. One of the greatest ways to empower male survivors is to connect them with other survivors who can understand the complicated relationship between being a man and a survivor. As part of the counseling services at STSM, each survivor participates in our Trauma Recovery and Empowerment (TREM) support groups. Men have their own group and are able to address these issues with other men who understand while using a model designed specifically for men.

Are you a man struggling to manage the emotions associated with being assaulted? Do you feel isolated and alone? YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We are here and so are other men who are fighting to manage the same emotions you are. Call us and get connected with services today.

Emily Flores, LMSW

Emily Flores rejoined the staff of STSM in September 2016 as the Group Services Coordinator. Emily’s position has three parts: provide counseling to survivors of sexual trauma, coordinate the support groups STSM offers throughout the Midlands, and supervise group facilitators. Emily is passionate about providing quality group therapy for survivors and their loved ones. She enjoys being a part of an agency that lives out its vision and mission on a daily basis.