5 Reasons Male Survivors Of Sexual Abuse Must Be Included In Sexual Violence Healing

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In America, someone is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds. Let that sink in.

Countless television shows, documentaries, books, and podcasts are dedicated to examining the phenomenon of sexual violence.

Local and national organizations across the country exist to help survivors in its aftermath and treat perpetrators.

The bulk of prevention and treatment efforts focus on identifying cisgender women and children as victims or survivors, understandably so.

Roughly one out of six women will experience an attempted or complete rape in her lifetime. According to RAINN, every "nine minutes child protective services substantiates, or finds evidence for, a claim of child sexual abuse."

Women are advised on how to stay safe and children are sometimes given effective lessons to avoid stranger danger.

RELATED: What It's Really Like To Be A Male Victim Of Rape

Sexual violence is incredibly common in our society. 

For women and children, most sexual violence is perpetrated by people known to the victim. In fact, 93 percent of victimized children are sexually abused by someone with whom they are familiar.

These efforts only scratch the surface and overlook the alarming number of transgender, genderqueer, non-conforming (TGQN), and cisgender male victims.

RAINN reports that 21 percent of TGQN college students are sexually assaulted, compared to cisgender women (18 percent) and cisgender men (4 percent).

One out of every 33 to 38 cisgender men will experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

It's not just women — men are also victimized.

Though women experience sexual violence at a much more prevalent rate, the frequency of sexual assault involving victimized men is also alarming, especially when considering male children who are abused.

Sexual abuse is generally under-reported, especially when the victim identifies as male.

Though female children are sexually abused at higher rates, it's estimated that anywhere between 8 to 29 percent of men experience sexual abuse as a child.

It's clear that sexual violence is a rampant problem in the U.S.

Here are 5 reasons why including male victims of sexual abuse is essential in sexual violence healing.

1. Men experience more violence.

When both physical and sexual violence are accounted for, boys are victimized at overwhelmingly high rates.

According to the American Psychological Association, the FBI declared that approximately 90 percent of criminal violence was committed by men, and men also make up 78 percent of those victimized.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one in four men have experienced a form of sexual violence that included physical contact, with one in 14 being made to penetrate (MTP) another person, and one in 38 having experienced an attempted or completed rape.

Roughly 28 percent of victimized men have experienced sexual abuse or assault before the age of 10.

2. Trauma often goes untreated in men.

Powerlessness, fear, and anger are common emotions felt by survivors of sexual abuse and assault.

Feeling powerless is not an emotion that men are conditioned to express with grace or permission, so they are less likely to disclose or seek treatment for mental health issues or trauma.

Instead, they are more likely to exhibit risky behaviors, aggression, or substance abuse to cope with the residual effects of trauma.

RELATED: 41 Thoughts I Had After Being Sexually Assaulted (That No One Wants To Hear About)

3. Men often live in emotional isolation.

Narratives from a patriarchal system perpetuate a script that directs men away from knowing, feeling, and expressing their emotions.

Under this rigid framework, normalized male alexithymia is the rule, and to emote is considered un-masculine and puts men in a crisis of identity and the fear of exclusion from other men.

As a result, men live with more emotional isolation, which can also lead to social and relational isolation, and play an increased role in sensitivity to rejection or judgment, as well as self-harming behavior.

In 2019, white cisgender men accounted for 69.38 percent of all suicides in the U.S., and data supplied by RAINN indicates that roughly 57 percent of perpetrators are white cisgender men.

What's clear is that when men have to choose between being perceived as a man or addressing emotions other than anger, the existential choice often leads to horrific consequences.

4. Men are forced into performative masculinity.

Masculinity is a role that needs to be proven over and over again in order to feel sustained. Frequently, this is accomplished by men asserting power over one another and over women, children, or other marginalized groups.

The Masculine Gender Role Stain Model details how men use violence to prove their masculinity.

When their perception of their own masculinity is different than their idea of masculinity, some men resort to violence as a way to try to reclaim a sense of being "man enough."

Sexual violence has long been understood as being rooted in motives of power, not sexual pleasure.

Any kind of victimization may leave a person feeling powerless or weak. This is in direct contrast with the tenets of harmful or toxic masculinity, which requires the perception of strength and invulnerability to fit the mold of being a man.

Sexual virility and aggression are two paths men are told are appropriate channels for their demonstration of masculinity, so it's no surprise that other felt (usually passive) emotions, such as fear or shame, can become a catalyst for sexual aggression.

5. Perpetrators of sexual violence are mostly men.

The CDC indicated that of men who experience sexual violence, 79 percent noted that the person they were made to penetrate was a woman, whereas 89 percent who suffered an attempted or completed rape reported a male perpetrator.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reported that 96 percent of perpetrators of sexual violence against children are men. This study found that boys who have been victimized are more likely than victimized girls to become violent toward others.

How we move forward including men in the discussion of healing sexual abuse and violence.

Addressing sexual violence includes response and prevention, and examining the role of victimized men.  As Charles Eads is noted for saying, "Hurt people hurt people."

Men are being victimized at alarmingly high rates, and then called to denounce and disconnect from their emotions, leading them to employ sex and aggression to prove membership in the club of masculinity.

Unresolved trauma and societal pressures have left men more vulnerable to self and other-directed harm.

If we want to make a dent in the high rates of sexual violence in this country, we must humanize men, give them permission to express emotions, and treat their trauma.

If you are a survivor of sexual violence, please know you are not alone. 1in6.org, among many other resources, are here to help 24/7.

RELATED: The Actual Definitions Of Sexual Assault & Harassment (For People Who Think The Rules Have Changed)

Dr. Kate Balestrieri is a Licensed Psychologist, Certified Sex Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, PACT Therapist, and Founder of Modern Intimacy, a group practiced in Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago. Listen to her podcast, Modern Intimacy, and follow her on IG @drkatebalestrieri.