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Men and Sexual Violence


Can men be sexually assaulted?

Yes.

Society does not often think of a man being a victim of sexual assault … "aren’t men 'supposed' to be ready for sex and always want it?"

No.

Gender does not affect a male or female’s sexual rights.

Gender does not decrease the impact of a sexual violation.

Gender does not influence the criminal code.

The difference for men is that sexual assault:

  • has a different social perception and norm than for women;
  • may be difficult to identify as a criminal act;
  • healing groups and support may be more limited due to geographical location.

Men are often the victims of inappropriate workplace harassment, and are pressured into having sex when they do not want to – often through coercion, manipulation or overpowering. They survive sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse. In Canada, the statistics from the 2004 General Social Survey on victimization revealed that 664 in 100,000 males were sexually victimized.

And in 2008, men accounted for 8% of sexual assault victims in Canada.

However, this number is likely not an accurate reflection of reality as even though the survey reports that for every 5 assaults against females there is 1 assault on a male, the statistics also reveal that less than 1 in 8 incidents of sexual assault are ever reported to police.

Sexual assault is vastly under reported to police as compared to other types of violent offences, as sexual assault is perceived by many to be a personal matter.  The most commonly stated reasons why victims do not report is because they feel it is not important enough, the incident was dealt with in another way, or they did not want to get involved with the police for personal reasons.

Other reasons specific to males:

Privacy

As sexual assault is a very personal crime, many survivors do not wish to share what happened to them publicly and fear that disclosing or reporting the attack may require them to talk widely and openly about their assault to strangers.

Self-blame

Male survivors may blame themselves for the assault, believing they were not ‘strong enough’ to fight off the perpetrator. Many are confused by the fact that they became physically aroused during the attack, despite the assault or abuse they endured, and may question their sexual orientation.

There is little acceptance that the normal physiological responses do not in any way imply that the victim wanted or liked the assault.

Gender of perpetrator

When the perpetrator is a woman, the male victim may not even consider the event to be a criminal sexual assault. [i]

According to Statistics Canada 2008 - Police-reported Violent Crime in Canada

  • 48% of sexual assaults against males occurred in residential locations and 16% in an institutional setting such as a school, university or college or other non-commercial or corporate place.
  • Nearly half of assaults were perpetrated by someone known to the victim such as a friend, acquaintance, or current/former dating partner.
  • As compared to females, males were more often victimized by non-spouse family members.

Effects of sexual assault on a male survivor:

Psychological

  • Confused or disrupted sense of self and reality.
  • Anxiety or generalized fear.
  • Shame and self-blame.
  • Concern about sexuality or orientation.
  • Fears or anxiety related to where the assault happened.
  • Depression.
  • Stress responses such as problems sleeping, easily startled, unable to relax.
  • Flashbacks or pre-occupation with memories of the assault.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Psychological outcomes can be severe for men because of socialization and myths which suggest men are always ready for sex and are therefore immune to sexual assault.

Relationships / Intimacy

  • Relationships may be disrupted as the survivor learns to cope with the assault or by others’ reactions to the assault, such as a lack of belief/support.
  • There may be problems with sexual performance and withdrawal of intimacy in an effort to avoid arousal.
  • Heterosexual males may fear that the assault will make them gay or perceived as gay; that they are “less of a man” because they were unable to stop it and/or they need to accept help to cope and get through it.
  • Homosexual males may feel the crime is punishment for their sexual orientation; may worry the assault affected their sexual orientation and/or may develop self-loathing related to their sexual orientation.

Emotional

  • Feeling overwhelmed and have difficulties coping with day to day tasks.
  • Increased anger that leads to internal self-blame or external rage to compensate for loss of power and control during the assault.
  • Avoidance of emotions or emotional situations.

Physical

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs to avoid thoughts or memories of the assault.
  • Isolating self from others and withdrawing social contacts.
  • Changes to appetite – under or over eating.
  • Headaches and difficulties sleeping.

Is it normal to feel this way?

While not every male survivor of sexual assault reacts in the same way, many reactions are quite common. If left untreated, these effects can have a long-term impact on a survivor’s well-being.

It can be difficult for male survivors to seek help for fear of how others will react - sometimes it easier to first tell an anonymous crisis line advocate who is impartial and trained to listen rather than a loved one.  Many male survivors find that talking to a crisis line person first makes it easier to tell friends and family later.

If you have been assaulted, and would like to speak to a trained crisis counselor/advocate, Click the orange, 24 HOUR SEXUAL ASSUALT PHONE LINES, tab at the top of the web page.

Because of the stigma surrounding the subject of sexual assault against men many people feel uncomfortable and unwilling to talk about it. Other men who have experienced the same trauma may also feel the stigma  This may make it difficult to find someone with whom you can openly talk to and share your experiences. This may cause you to feel lonely and isolated, like no one understands what you are going through. Remember you are not alone, and it may help to read about other men's experiences and how they survived their struggles. Click here to read thier stories

Remember that during the assault you did what was best at the time to survive.
There is nothing un-masculine about surviving.

After Care for Males

Make sure to seek medical attention after a sexual assault.

This information is not intended to and should not replace the advice of your doctor or health professional.

Medically for sexually transmitted infections, Hepatitis B, HIV or possibility of tetanus infection, there will be swabs taken of body areas and/or blood samples. Depending on test results and your medical history, medications may be given.

Sexually transmitted infection (STI) symptoms to look for:

  • trouble urinating,
  • discharge from penis,
  • pain on one side of the scrotum,
  • swelling of scrotum,
  • rectal discharge,
  • pain while having a bowel movement,
  • open sore on penis, mouth or rectum,
  • burning or tingling around mouth, genital or anal areas,
  • throat infections.

 *** If you see any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately.

 

Common body responses after an assault

You may have burning, itching, or soreness in the urethra and/or anus (from the assault or an STI test).

Anal spotting should disappear within a few days. Soaking in warm water or placing a warm, clean cloth on the sore area will help soothe the burning, itching, or pain.

If the area gets worse or does not heal or stop bleeding after a few days, see a doctor immediately.

You may have difficulties with bowel movements and rectal pain for up to 10 days or more.

Cuts and any soreness inside your mouth should heal within 2 weeks.

Bruising, stiffness and pain in other parts of your body may get worse 2-3 days after the assault, but will slowly start to improve.  Apply cold compresses to bruises for the first 24 hours, and warm bath soaks may help.

Any cuts to other parts of your body should be kept clean and dry, apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a bandage as needed.

Be kind and patient to yourself with the knowledge that it takes time to heal - you will get through this one day at a time.

Male childhood sexual abuse

There are many myths surrounding men and sex that most everyone in society has encountered and absorbed to some extent.  Myths are damaging and slow to dispel, and when it comes to sexual assault/abuse the myths are big obstacles to understanding and healing.

It is important to identify and address the myths about boys and men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences and to reveal the facts that bust the myths.

 

Myth - Boys can’t be sexually used or abused, and if one is, he can never be a "real man."

Reality - Boys and men can be sexually used or abused, and it has nothing to do with how masculine they are.

 

Myth - If a boy experienced sexual arousal during abuse, or if he partly wanted/enjoyed it, the abuse was his fault.

Reality - If a boy liked the attention he was getting, or got sexually aroused during abuse, or even sometimes wanted the attention or sexual contact, this does not mean he wanted or liked being manipulated or abused, or that any part of what happened, in any way, was his responsibility or fault.

 

Myth - Sexual abuse is less harmful to boys than girls.

Reality - Sexual abuse harms boys and girls in ways that are similar and different, but equally harmful.

 

Myth - Most men who sexually abuse boys are gay.

Reality - Boys can be sexually abused by both straight men and gay men. Sexual abuse is the result of abusive behavior that takes advantage of a child’s vulnerability and is in no way related to the sexual orientation of the abusive person.

 

Myth - Boys abused by males must have attracted the abuse because they are gay or they become gay as a result.

Reality - Whether gay, straight or bisexual, a boy’s sexual orientation is neither the cause nor the result of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse has nothing to do with a boy’s sexual orientation.

 

Myth - If a female used or abused a boy, he was "lucky," and if he doesn’t feel that way there’s something wrong with him.

Reality - Girls and women can sexually abuse boys. The boys are not "lucky," but exploited and harmed.

 

Myth - Boys who are sexually abused will go on to abuse others.

Reality - Most boys who are sexually abused will not go on to sexually abuse others.

 

On-line Canadian resource: The Men's Project

1 in 6 American website and full article on myths click here

For the Male Survivor website click here


[i] Lev-Wiesel, R., & Besser, A. (2006). Male Definitions of Sexual Assault: The Role of the Perpetrator's Gender. Individual Differences Research, 4(1), 46-50.

Click here for more resources.