Men & Sexual Trauma
Men and Sexual Trauma
At least 1 out of every 10 (or 10%) of men in our country have suffered from trauma as a result of sexual assault. Like women, men who experience sexual assault may suffer from depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other emotional problems as a result. However, because men and women have different life experiences due to their different gender roles, emotional symptoms following trauma can look different in men than they do in women.
Who are the perpetrators of male sexual assault?
Particularly when the assailant is a woman, the impact of sexual assault upon men may be downplayed by professionals and the public. However, men who have early sexual experiences with adults report problems in various areas at a much higher rate than those who do not.
Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to suffer from PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression than those who have never been abused sexually.
Men who have been sexually assaulted have a high incidence of alcohol and drug use. For example, the probability for alcohol problems in adulthood is about 80 out of every 100 (or 80%) for men who have experienced sexual abuse, as compared to 11 out of every 100 (or 11%) for men who have never been sexually abused.
Risk Taking Behavior
Exposure to sexual trauma can lead to risk-taking behavior during adolescence, such as running away and other delinquent behaviors. Having been sexually assaulted also makes boys more likely to engage in behaviors that put them at risk for contracting HIV (such as having sex without using condoms).
Help for men who have been sexually assaulted
Men who have been assaulted often feel stigmatized, which can be the most damaging aspect of the assault. It is important for men to discuss the assault with a caring and unbiased support person, whether that person is a friend, clergyman, or clinician. However, it is vital that this person be knowledgeable about sexual assault and men.
A local rape crisis center may be able to refer men to mental-health practitioners who are well-informed about the needs of male sexual assault victims.
If you are a man who has been assaulted and you suffer from any of these difficulties, please seek help from a mental-health professional who has expertise working with men who have been sexually assaulted.
Recommended booksVictims No Longer: Men Recovering from Incest and Other Sexual Child Abuse by Mike Lew, Foreword by Ellen Bass. (1990). HarperCollins; ISBN 0060973005
Wounded Boys, Heroic Men: A Man's Guide to Recovering from Child Abuse by Daniel Jay Sonkin and Lenore E. A. Walker. (1998). Adams Media Corporations; ISBN 1580620108
Bauserman, R. B., & Rind, B. (1997). Psychological correlates of male child and adolescent sexual experiences with adults: A review of the nonclinical literature. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26, 105-139.
Black, C. A., & DeBlassie, R. R. (1993). Sexual abuse in male children and adolescents: Indicators, effects, and treatments. Adolescence, 28, 123-133.
Briggs, F., & Hawkins, R. M. F. (1995). Protecting boys from the risk of sexual abuse. Early Child Development and Care, 110, 19-32.
Carballo-Dieguez, A., & Dolezal, C. (1995). Association between history of childhood sexual abuse and adult HIV-risk sexual behavior in Puerto Rican men who have sex with men. Child Abuse and Neglect, 19, 595-605.
Collings, S. J. (1995). The long-term effects of contact and noncontact forms of child sexual abuse in a sample of university men. Child Abuse and Neglect, 19, 1-6.
Darves-Bornoz, J. M., Choquet, M., Ledoux, S., & Manfredi, R. (1998). Gender differences in symptoms of adolescents reporting sexual assault. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, 33, 111-117.
Etherington, K. (1995). Adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Counseling Psychology Quarterly, 8, 233-241.
Garnefski, N., & Diekstra, R. F. W. (1997). Child sexual abuse and emotional and behavioral problems in adolescence: Gender differences. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 323-329.
Gordon, M. (1990). Males and females as victims of childhood sexual abuse: An examination of the gender effect. Journal of Family Violence, 5, 321-332.
Hepburn, J. M. (1994). The implications of contemporary feminist theories of development for the treatment of male victims of sexual abuse. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 3, 1-18.
Lisak, D. (1994). The psychological impact of sexual abuse: Content analysis of interviews with male survivors. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 7, 525-548.
Marrow, J., Yager, C. A., & Otnow Lewis, D. (1997). Encopresis and sexual abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect, 21, 11-18.
Porter, E. (1986). Treating the young male victim of sexual assault. Syracuse, NY: Safer Society Press.
Winder, J. H. (1996). Counseling adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse: A review of treatment techniques. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 18, 123-133.
Information provided by the National Center for PTSD, and is a public domain article.
Women & Sexual Trauma
Sexual Assault Against Females
Although anyone - men, women, and children - can be assaulted, this fact sheet will focus on adult female victims of sexual assault.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is defined as any sort of sexual activity between two or more people in which one of the people is involved against his or her will.
The sexual activity involved in an assault can include many different experiences. Women can be the victims of unwanted touching, grabbing, oral sex, anal sex, sexual penetration with an object, and/or sexual intercourse.
There are a lot of ways that women can be involved in sexual activity against their will. The force used by the aggressor can be either physical or non-physical. Some examples of how women are forced or pressured into having sex include being:
Who commits sexual assaults?
Often, when we think about who commits sexual assault or rape, we imagine the aggressor is a stranger to the victim. Contrary to popular belief, sexual assault does not typically occur between strangers. The National Crime Victimization Survey, conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, found that about four of every five sexually assaulted women were attacked by a current or former husband, cohabitating partner, friend, or date. Strangers committed only about one of every five of the assaults that were reported in this survey.
How often do sexual assaults happen?
Estimating rates of sexual violence against women is a difficult task. Many factors stop women from reporting these crimes to police and to interviewers collecting statistics on the rate of crime in our country. Women may not want to report that they were assaulted because it is such a personal experience, because they blame themselves, because they are afraid of how others may react, and because they do not think it is useful to make such a report. However, there are statistics that show sexual assault is a problem in our country. For example:
What happens to women after they are sexually assaulted?
After a sexual assault, women can experience a wide range of reactions. It is very important to note that there is no single pattern of response. Some women respond immediately, others may have delayed reactions. Some women are affected by the assault for a long time, but others appear to recover more quickly.
In the time just after a sexual assault, many women report feeling shock, confusion, anxiety, and/or numbness. Sometimes women will experience feelings of denial. In other words, they may not fully accept what has happened to them or they may downplay the intensity of the experience. This reaction may be more common among women who are assaulted by someone they know.
What are some early reactions to sexual assault?In the first few days and weeks following the assault, it is very normal for a woman to experience intense and sometimes unpredictable emotions. She may have repeated strong memories of the event that are difficult to ignore, and nightmares are not uncommon. Women also report having difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and they may feel jumpy or on edge. While these initial reactions are normal and expected, some women may have severe, highly disruptive symptoms that make it very difficult to function in the first month following the assault. When these problems disrupt the woman's daily life, and prevent her from seeking assistance or telling friends and family members, the woman may have .
What are some other reactions that women have following a sexual assault?
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)Depression is a common reaction following sexual assault. Symptoms of MDD can include a depressed mood, an inability to enjoy things, difficulty sleeping, changes in patterns of sleeping and eating, problems in concentration and decision-making, feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and decreased self-esteem. Research suggests that almost one of every three rape victims have at least one period of MDD during their lives. And for many of these women, the depression can last for a long period of time. Thoughts about suicide are also common. Studies estimate that one in three women who are raped contemplate suicide, and about one in ten rape victims actually attempt suicide.
Many victims of sexual assault report struggling with anger after the assault. Although this is a natural reaction to such a violating event, there is some research that suggests that prolonged, intense anger can interfere with the recovery process and further disrupt a woman's life.
Shame and guilt
These feelings are common reactions to sexual assault. Some women blame themselves for what happened or feel shameful about being an assault victim. This reaction can be even stronger among women who are assaulted by someone that they know, or who do not receive support from their friends, family, or authorities following the incident. Shame and guilt can also get in the way of a woman's recovery by preventing her from telling others about what happened and getting assistance.
Social problems can sometimes arise following a sexual assault. A woman can experience problems in her marital relationship or in her friendships. Sometimes an assault survivor will be too anxious or depressed to want to participate in social activities. Many women report difficulty trusting others after the assault, so it can be difficult to develop new relationships. Performance at work and school can also be affected.
Sexual problems can be among the most long-standing problems experienced by women who are the victims of sexual assault. Women can be afraid of and try to avoid any sexual activity. Or, they may experience an overall decrease in sexual interest and desire.
Alcohol and drug use
Substance abuse can sometimes become problematic for women who are the victims of assault. A large-scale study found that compared to non-victims, rape survivors were three to four times more likely to use marijuana, six times more likely to use cocaine, and ten times more likely to use other major drugs. Often, women will report that they use these substances to control other symptoms related to their assault.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) involves a pattern of symptoms that some individuals develop after experiencing a traumatic event such as sexual assault. Symptoms of PTSD include repeated thoughts of the assault; memories and nightmares; avoidance of thoughts, feelings, and situations related to the assault; negative changes in thought and feelings; and increased arousal (for example difficulty sleeping and concentrating, jumpiness, irritability). One study that examined PTSD symptoms among women who were raped found that almost all (94 out of 100) women experienced these symptoms during the two weeks immediately following the rape. Nine months later, about 30 out of 100 of the women were still reporting this pattern of symptoms. The National Women's Study reported that almost one of every three all rape victims develop PTSD sometime during their lives.
What should I do if I have been sexually assaulted?
Where can I go for help?If you were sexually assaulted and are experiencing symptoms that are distressing to you, or symptoms that are interfering with your ability to live a full life, we urge you to talk to a health care provider or mental health professional. Depending on the type of problems you are having, a number of therapies may be helpful to you.
The treatment you receive will depend on the symptoms you are experiencing and will be tailored to your needs. Some therapies involve talking about and making sense of the assault in order to reduce the memories and pain associated with the assault. Attending therapy may also involve learning skills to cope with the symptoms associated with the assault. Finally, therapy can help survivors restore meaning to their lives.
Unfortunately, sexual assault is fairly common in our society today. Survivors of sexual assault can experience a wide variety of symptoms, but they do not have to suffer in silence. Mental health professionals can offer a number of effective treatments tailored to the individual woman's needs. We urge you to seek help today.
Information provided by the National Center for PTSD, and is a public domain article.