Sexual assaults on men are rarely reported to authorities, a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll of current and recent college students discovered. Survey results revealed one in 20 men said they were sexually assaulted while in school. Men who participated in the poll—which found one in five women were assaulted—described a wide range of unwanted sexual experiences. Some were violent, some confusing, some terrifying, the Post reported. A small number joked about the experience or blamed themselves. Others remain tortured by the memories.
One man described an incident with a fraternity brother—his roommate—that escalated unexpectedly. “He was really drunk that night, and he started hitting me,” the student told the newspaper. “I wasn’t drunk at all. He kept trying to take off my pants. He tried pinning me down, and groping me. It was a really bad struggle. I hit him as hard as I could, and I got out of it.”
He found another place to stay, but he didn’t want to tell anyone what had happened. “I had nervous panic attacks. . . . I almost dropped out,” he said.
Were he a woman, the man said he likely would have told someone or asked for help. “Since I’m a guy, it’s a lot harder. If something happens, guys aren’t supposed to be victims. We’re supposed to be manly.” When a bartender found a 22-year-old sophomore from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire passed out in the back room of her Minneapolis bar, she assumed he was drunk. But when the man took a Breathalyzer test, bar security found he hadn’t had any alcohol at all.
He believes he had been drugged and then raped after someone slipped something into his soda while he was distracted. “I’ve been drunk once in my life and I’ve never done drugs,” the man reported. “And I’m a big guy. The fact that this could happen to me means it could happen to anyone.” Now 26 and a law student in Milwaukee, the man said he’d traveled to Minneapolis for Pride Week. He’s less naive now, he said. And less trusting.
“It’s hard enough to be gay in Wisconsin,” he said. “A gay bar is supposed to be a comfortable, safe place.”
It’s very common for men to feel confused, ashamed and certain that no one will believe their accounts after they are sexually assaulted, says Jim Hopper, an expert on psychological trauma and a consultant and part time instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Though counterintuitive, there can be a physical paradox that explains how men can get an erection even though they are emotionally unwilling to have sex, Hopper said.
“The physiology of how a penis responds to being grabbed can run in parallel with fear,” Hopper told the Post. “Just because you’re terrified doesn’t mean you can’t have an erection.”
It’s rare for men to report an incident, he said. “Any experience of being dominated, overwhelmed, exploited, assaulted—especially sexually—whether by a male or a female is going to be something that males are programmed to not want to talk about,” Hopper said. The stories the men told the Post covered a wide range of assaults, including men who were too drunk to consent, those who were physically forced into sex, and attacked while at a bar.
The Washington Post and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation poll about sexual assault and campus culture featured more than 1,000 people nationwide who attended college within the past four years. Post reporters then interviewed more than 50 women and men who responded that they had experienced unwanted sexual contact—or attempted or suspected sexual contact—while they were students. To read the full story, go to washingtonpost.com/local/education/male-victims-often-fear-they-wont-be-taken-seriously/2015/06/12/e780794a-f8fe-11e4-9030-b4732caefe81_story.