Published on The Daily Femme – Monday, Oct. 11, 2010
Contributed by Annamarya
Last week, Clutch, a magazine directed towards young, contemporary women of color, published a blog post that struck a very deep chord with me: “What If Your Man Was Sexually Abused?” The post, written by Shahida Muhammad, addressed primarily the double-standard often applied to sexual abuse against men, and suggested that we, as women, use our “womanly intuition and support” to help men we know who are victims of sexual violence “heal and seek the best way to move forward.”
While the piece centered on men of color, its author raised an excellent point that transcends color lines and deserves serious attention. Noting that famous women, like Monique and Queen Latifah, who have publicly shared sexual violence stories were met with “compassion and sympathy,” Muhammad wonders why was Lil’ Wayne’s story of sexual abuse, which he shared onJimmy Kimmel Live, as well as in his documentary, The Carter, “met with laughter rather than shock or sympathy?”In response to her question, she offers a theory: While women sexually abused by men are “usually viewed as victims of a serious crime,” the molestation of men by women “can be viewed as a rite of passage,” and, when a man experiences sexual abuse by another man, it comes with a “significant level of taboo, hush-hush, shame, scandal and dismay.”
She isn’t wrong— According to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN), which reports that one in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, (2.78 million American men were sexual assault or rape victims), several ill-bred myths & stereotypes exist concerning male survivors of sexual violence such as: Men are immune to victimization; Men should be able to fight off attacks; Men shouldn’t express emotion; Men enjoy all sex, so they must have enjoyed the assault; Male survivors are more likely to become sexual predators. And, as Muhammad pointed out, RAINN found that these myths can lead to particular psychological and behavioral outcomes that are shared equally by female victims and include severe self-esteem loss, sexual difficulties, feelings of ignominy, culpability, anxiety, alienation, helplessness, rage, magnified self-blame, and self-destruction by way of drugs, drinking and aggression. In addition, according to the Ohio State University Rape Education and Prevention Program, male victims also experience confusion about their sexuality and homophobia.
Muhammad calls on women to have the same compassion, understanding and sensitivity towards male victims of sexual abuse as we would expect to receive if we were to reveal a sexual violent past. Specifically, she says, we shouldn’t “further victimize the victim” and their “sense of shame or guilt,” especially in a society “that irresponsibly promotes irrational ideas of hyper-masculinity and macho-ism.” I couldn’t agree more. While we should keep in my mind the fact that women make up a higher percentage of sexual assault survivors (1 in 6 American women has experienced an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime), and continue to fiercely combat sexual violence against women, we cannot ignore that men can be victims of sexual abuse as well and must extend services to them. If we were to give in to those aforementioned taboos and place blame on male victims as so often happens with female victims, then we would not be fully engaged in the fight against sexual abuse. We need to work as hard to remove those stigmas that are attached to male victims so we can support them in their healing as we would female survivors because, in the end, a victim is a victim no matter the sex.