El-Khalil Osman: Stigmas Are Holding Back Men From Reporting

Dealing with sexual assault is difficult for women, but it can be as difficult for men. In the society we live in, it is only a myth that men do not get sexually assaulted. We picture men as being strong and able to fight of anything, including sexual assault. Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit content of the recipient, so it can happen to both men and women. Men, just like woman, have to deal with sexual assault, but on top of that they have to deal with extra mortification that is thrown on them after being sexually assaulted.

This problem does not only occur in the United States, it happens in other countries too. On August 10, 2010 in Manchester, England John Lennon was attacked in his flat for three and a half hours. He was hurt physically, but Martin Daubney stated in the article “Why doesn’t society care about sexual assault” that “it was his shattered mind that would bear the bigger scars.”  Lennon stated that he felt alone and unwanted after the event because of the “shame and stigma surrounding perhaps the darkest male taboo of all.” To add on to that, Lennon had no clue what to do with himself so he tried to call a Rape Crisis helpline but stated that the woman said, “The service is for women only,” and hung up. After a while, Lennon found out about an organization called Survivors Manchester which is a service that offers help to male rape victims. He claims that had he not found the service, he’d be dead because he felt worthless. Judging from statistics, John Lennon isn’t the only man who has been affected by sexual assault.

The website RAINN states that as of 1998, “2.78 million men in the U.S. had been victims of attempted or completed rape.” On top of that, “1 out of every 10 rape victims are male.” For women, since 1998, “an estimated 17.7 million American woman had been victims of attempted or completed rape.” By looking at these numbers, it is clear that they are significantly different, but the amount of cases that go unreported by men is what is truly shocking. According to an article written by the Ohio State University Rape Education and Prevention program, “approximately 90-95% of men who are raped do not report it.” In a writing by Lolita C. Baldor posted on the PBS website, she stated that even in the military only about one percent of males actually reported that  “they had experienced unwanted sexual contact.” Both articles stated the same reasoning through different contexts as to why the men do not report sexual assault. In the article written by Lolita C. Baldor she stated that the men were “afraid to be seen as victims or as weak or gay;” while in the article written by the Ohio State University Rape Education and Prevention program, it is said that “the stigma of apparent weakness in having been raped often prevents a survivor from coming forward.” Stigmas and stereotypes drive men to just keep their mouth shut when it comes to sexual assault.

There is no doubt that the world we live in today illustrates men as tough and hardy. All around there are phrases such as “Be a man,” “Don’t be a pussy,” or “Man up” that we hear from a young age getting thrown out all the time. Men all over who are sexually assaulted are worried and frightened as to what people would think about them if they dare speak up and report the case. It’s disheartening to know that there are some men out there who have been hurt but feel alone due to the societal expectations. It’s not easy for a woman to report sexual assault either but since there is an expectation for men to be durable and resilient, it makes it just as hard for them to speak up. The gender roles within our society are holding people back from speaking.

Gender roles are sets of societal norms dictating the types of behaviors which are generally considered acceptable or appropriate based on a person’s sex. In an article titled “What it means to ‘be a man’ in today’s world,” John Haltiwanger brings up many examples as to what a man is depicted as by everyone nowadays. He states that “most men refuse to talk about their emotions” and that “we’ve created a masculine ideal preventing men from being true to themselves.” From different personal experiences, I have seen how these stigmas and stereotypes affect men. In Kindergarten, I can remember my teacher going around class simply asking each of us students what our favorite color was. She happened to ask this one boy who responded by saying “pink.” The whole class bursted out laughing, started calling him a girl, which eventually made him cry. We performed the same activity the next week and instead of saying pink, the boy said “blue”. He was scared as to what the other kids would think of him if he stuck by his first choice so he changed up his answer. The fact that this young child changed his mind due to societal expectations shows us that gender roles are instilled in our heads at a young age, which makes them hard to break out of.

Sexual assault is not an easy topic to bring up. Being a man reporting sexual assault is even harder. As a society, it is essential to make men feel more accepted through these cases. It is important to show men that you are braver if you speak up rather than keep it in.