There’s an uncomfortable truth that is unspoken, and that is men get raped more than we know or talk about. The statistics of sexual assault against men can vary, and due to how underreported it is, it can be impossible to really get a sense of how many men have been victims of sexual assault. The network show American Crime is focusing a gripping and powerful story centered on how young adult males struggle to come forward along with the stigma and gender roles that keep many from telling their story and getting help to deal with their trauma
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have put out a study that showed that among over 130 college campuses and 5,000 college students, one in 25 men answered “yes” to being asked if they had been forced to have sexual intercourse against their will. Research from other organizations estimate that one in six males are sexually assaulted before the age of 18. Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted often experience unique challenges with their traumatic experience. Adult men who have suffered sexual abuse as young boys or as teens may respond differently than men who are sexually assaulted as an adult due to differences in the expectations of gender norms and their development.
Boys are raised from an early age with messages such as “be strong” or “Don’t be a sissy and cry!” Often signs that abuse has occurred with children and teens show up in how they function at home and school. With adult men the aftermath of their sexual assault is usually seen in PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which causes their relationships to suffer from withdrawal, and feeling on edge. One challenge that male victims of sexual assault fear is being ridiculed or not taken seriously. Another challenge is men feeling shame about not being able to stop the assault from happening, and having confusion and concerns about their sexual orientation if they experience a physiological response to being assaulted such as getting aroused and ejaculating while being assaulted. Being sexually assaulted can be unbearable for men that don’t want to be seen as a ‘victim’ because it goes against the messages they were raised with of what it means to be a “real man”.
The writers of American Crime have taken this issue head on in the story that follows a community trying to make sense of an accusation of sexual assault by a young man at a party for prep school’s basketball team. The student Taylor Blaine, is on financial aid at a pricey prep school, and discovers that pictures of him drunk and looking incoherent at a victory party for the basketball team have been posted and mocked online. Having a history of being bullied at his school, Taylor tells his mother that the photos were taken after he was drugged and sexually assaulted. From there the story depicts the uphill battle Taylor’s mother has in making sure that the school and authorities track down the boys who are to blame. American Crime bring to light how people’s perspectives can shift from a parents and law enforcement questioning what occurred to being in denial and trying to sweep it under the rug. The character Blaine, who was raped, is shown telling his therapist how he felt ridiculed when reporting his account to the police. “People lose their minds when something happens to a girl. They have rights groups supporting them. But a guy? I just want it to be over.”
Coming forward about surviving sexual assault or abuse can be difficult. If you are a man who has experienced sexual assault, or know of someone who has been raped, then it’s important to realize how important it is to come forward and speak out. When men choose to come forward it’s important that they are believed and supported by the people around them. It’s important that they be allowed to make their own choices about what actions to take. Coming forward and telling their story to loved ones and seeking professional help from a therapist requires trust, compassion, and understanding. A resounding message that anyone who has been sexually assaulted needs to hear, is that they are not alone.