Male sexual assault victims and their experiences, as well as helpful resources, were the main topics of discussion during an event in the University Center Atrium on April 8.
One event during the Sexual Assault Awareness Month informed men they are not to be always perceived as perpetrators of sexual violence and misconduct but who can be individuals who may have experienced sexual abuse themselves.
“There is a culture of silence that male victims of sexual assault seem to take on,” said Abby Kindervater, Title IX prevention specialist for the Office of Institutional Equity at the University of Memphis. “However, the main goal of having this event is to show men that while they are to be held accountable when they perpetuate inappropriate conduct, they can also be helped and given the right direction after experiencing sexual violence themselves.”
Sexual violence statistics against men show a necessity or awareness to be spread about the too-often suppressed issue. At least one in six men have been sexually assaulted, according to information gathered by the Title IX Prevention Center at the UofM. In addition, 15 percent of college-aged men are raped during their time at college, which further shows the emphasis and concern Kindervater has for male victims who are hesitant to reveal their experiences by coming forward.
“Men must be leaders on this issue and take their stance with the women to prevent sexual assaults,” Kindervater said. “Too often I see men who feel that their role in sexual violence includes being the one accused of the crime. Males and females must be allies, not enemies, for a true change to take place.”
Common reactions to sexual assault for male victims can include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks and eating disorders. Men may even start to doubt their sexual orientation and decrease their self-worth because they may feel little to no control of their natural bodies.
Many men may also feel stigmatized by society after coming forward, yet the wide range of reactions to sexual assaults concerns Kindervater, whose job specializes in fighting for sexual violence victims, regardless of the individual’s gender.
“Terry Crews, who obviously is a very strong person and a man well-capable of enviable strength, faced a situation in which he was sexually assaulted at a party,” Kindervater said. “He testified that this took place, and yet so many people were critical of him for not defending himself. Yet those same individuals failed to grasp the true problem, which is that men often have things like that happen to them and unfortunately they receive backlash for coming out and being ‘weak.’”
College campuses like the UofM have several resources for sexual assault and rape victims.
“The University of Memphis has provided outlets for all victims of sexual assault so that no one feels that they have to fight their battle alone,” said UofM student Deshana Johnson. “There still needs to be a sense of urgency because so many times sexual violence occurs on-campus and victims, male or female, are hesitant to speak up in fear of not being believed or receiving backlash.”