Posted on December 10, 2014
Male victims of sexual violence remain a largely hidden in society. While the media gives more attention to the issue of male victimization than before, many men and boys continue to remain silent. This is particularly true of men in the military.
Despite representing the majority of rape victims, assaulted men are significantly less likely to seek help or report their assaults:
According to an anonymous survey released last week by the Pentagon, nearly 1 percent of males in the U.S. military said they had experienced unwanted sexual contact, compared to 4.3 percent of women. That equates to about 10,500 men and 8,500 women. Yet only 14 percent of assaults reported last year involved male victims.
Afraid to be seen as victims or as weak or gay, men in the hyper-masculine military culture often don’t feel comfortable reaching out for help or reporting sexual assaults. Over the past year, though, the services have increased efforts to reach out to male victims, urging them to come forward so they can receive treatment and so officials can go after perpetrators.
The military asked Jim Hopper, a leading expert on male victimization, for assistance in providing support services for men. It apparently took the military some time to realize they should tailor the services for male victims rather than simply making everything gender-neutral. One can guess from whom the military got the latter idea.
Hopper noted to military leaders that they should also change how men can access the services:
Hopper said he told military officials they also needed to better promote their confidential hotline because many men “are not going to feel safe as the first step going and talking to someone on their base.”
That would help a great deal, particularly given that some of those providing support services may be men and women the troops interact with on a daily basis. The confidential hotline allows the men a way to talk about what happened without fear of exposure. The latter is of greater concern for many male victims because they, unlike their female counterparts, often share the same quarters as their assailants. As a result, male victims face a greater risk of retaliation and discovery. The anonymity would offer some protection.
However, the military still has more to do. It is unlikely that only 1% of men in the military are victims of sexual violence. That number probably represents the men willing to view their experiences as abuse and those willing to acknowledge it happened at all. It will take time to work through many of the stigmas attached to male victimization.
That said, the reported cases among male sailors and Marines tripled in the last year. That is a testament to what happens when people take sexual violence against men seriously.