The reality of being a male victim of sexual assault
In short, it’s shit
Before going any further, I want to preface this by saying this is not meant to be any kind of political statement. Its not trying to undermine any of the experiences of any other gender or claim that I am an authority on sexual assault in general. I can’t tell you what the differences are between my experiences or anyone else, the similarities or themes based upon gender, orientation, race or background. Instead I want to shine a light a subject which isn’t always discussed as openly or as often as it should.
I also have decided to write this anonymously because I want to focus on the wider issue and take away any personal focus. As you will see in my story there is also a lot of confusion and rather than drawing attention to myself and the other’s involved with the story, this account is meant to be an exploration of the aftermath. Here are the, at times quite graphic, things I’ve learnt from the attack.
Everyone thought it was another man
As an openly bisexual man, it’s probably not surprising that all the people I have told thought it was a person with a penis that was involved. After telling both my parents, brother and editor, their reaction was all the same; before I explicitly said ‘she’ they assumed otherwise. It was even reflected in my own reaction. For a few weeks, I didn’t think it was. How could it be?
Everything from the legal definition of rape, which holds the person with the penis dong the penetrating as guilty, to popular notions that men want sex all the time clouded my vision of the event. It was only when a friend mentioned the C word; consent, that I began re-considering what happened. I knew I felt very uncomfortable about what had happened but didn’t fully realise why.
I leant how you can be assaulted by someone with a vagina
It’s probably time to go through what happened during that night which resulted in the assault. Classic start, I was quite drunk and ultimately got taken advantage off. I never gave my consent, I could not have given my consent and rationally I would not have given consent had I not been intoxicated. Consent is given, verbal and extends only to acts that you have agreed upon. It became very difficult to work out who was at fault. If hadn’t given consent, and I couldn’t remember if she had, was I also at fault?
I don’t have an answer for this and it’s part of the reason why I’m keeping anonymous. Even if I could prove what had happened a press charges, I don’t really want to. I understand it was a mistake and there has been remorse from the other party. Altogether, the verbal abuse that I also suffered during the incident, along with the clear physical signs that I was the party least in control (like throwing up in the communal toilet naked because I didn’t have time or co-ordination to put on pants) and the sickening feeling I get when remembering the incident makes me feel like I was assaulted.
Being sexually assaulted is horrible
This isn’t going to be the most shocking or original reality. Again, I want to re-iterate that in no way do I want to ignore the countless other stories out there from different groups and people. Much of what I say in this will be applicable to them, but I want to try and explore some of the internal and external struggles that I went through. Some of these I think are universal, but other are maybe because I’m male.
Being assaulted seriously affected my mental health, my physical security and emotional wellbeing. Physically, the symptoms range from feeling sick and nauseous to questioning my own autonomy. A raft of old and new mental health issues raised their head feeding off some fears of intimacy as well as opening wounds over self-importance and ability. I guess all victims feel like this when they are violated in such a way. What I have begun to understand is the physiological side-effects of going through the trauma.
Again, I didn’t realise that it was a trauma, sex is meant to be an intimate or enjoyable experience and I have been lucky enough to never have an overly negative experience. The trauma caused a massive increase in my panic attacks as my body was constantly on a low level of high alert.
Maybe something more unique is the manner of which you feel to blame for it all. I’ve heard that self-blame is a common occurrence for victims, feeling they could have prevented the attack by doing something different. For me, the ‘anatomical’ (for want of a much better word) circumstances which I found myself in, i.e. I was the one doing the penetrating, pushed the notion that I was to blame deep into my consciousness.
There is also deep shame. Again, not unique to my experience or background, but perhaps different. As a man, I expect to be able to defend myself especially in those kinds of situations. Feeling weak and powerless, scared to talk to other men about it in case I become the butt of jokes or a victim of ‘banter’.
Regardless of who you are, anyone can be a victim of sexual assault
I’ve help run the consent workshops in my college every year since my first one as a fresher. It has always struck me that when presenting the stats for the number of people who experience sexual assault, or when roleplaying different scenarios, most students give gender roles instantly. It is an assumption put there from popular culture as well as general culture and is more reflective of the overall picture of sexual violence. To the individual however, stats mean nothing.
I wanted to speak out about this to try and raise the issue that this type of assault does happen, and not to detract from the amazing work that many charities and movements have done especially over the past year with the time’s up and #metoo campaigns.
Too often, men are unwilling or unable to speak about experience that are not normally associated with the gender. I speak out to re-affirm that you a right to feel uncomfortable and angry if you have sex without consent, that you shouldn’t blame yourself for it and, from the reactions of my friends, you will not be judged, regardless of how society tries to stereotype you.