Reactions to Sexual Assault
Every survivor experiences the consequences of sexual assault in their own unique way. Many survivors have reported that they experienced feelings of severe emotion and physical violation that affected many areas of their lives. Some effects may be noticed immediately, while others may appear later. It is important for survivors to know that regardless of how they react to the sexual assault that their response is normal.
Some reactions to sexual assault may include:
Any traumatic event or crisis can produce this response. It is often an attempt for the survivor to believe the sexual assault has not happened and some people try to regain normal life patterns after a shock. Survivors may be likely to fluctuate between degrees of hysteria and extreme control.
Survivors often begin to ask themselves if they asked to be sexually assaulted and begin to blame themselves for the attack. Many survivors say things like: "I shouldn't have gone back to his room with him," thus blaming the assault on their actions. Sexual assault is never the victim's fault.
Many survivors fear being assaulted again.
Regardless of how hard survivors may try to keep the rape from impacting their lives, the experience influences their lives profoundly. This phase of healing is often marked by nightmares, a generalized feeling of anxiety and flashbacks to the attack. This is often the phase when survivors seek professional assistance in recovering from the rape.
because the sexual assault is finally over and that the assailant is gone.
When enough of the anger and depression is released and worked through, survivors may begin to accept what has happened to them. The trauma begins to play less of a major life role and they begin to feel in control of their emotions.
Male Survivors of Sexual Assault
While most victims of sexual assault are women, men can also be victims. Male survivors receive the same services as women. Emotional support, options counseling, and medical treatment are available to assist all those recovering from sexual assault.
Male survivors of sexual assault have many of the same reactions as do female survivors.
What you should know... about men who have been sexually assaulted
(from Men Can Stop Rape)
Rape is a men's issue for many reasons. We don't often talk about the fact that men are sexually assaulted. We need to start recognizing the presence of male survivors and acknowledging their unique experience. The following questions and answers can help us all learn about male survivors so that we stop treating them as invisible and start helping them heal:
How often are men sexually assaulted?
While the numbers vary from study to study, most research suggests that 10-20 percent of all males will be sexually violated at some point in their lifetimes. That translates into tens of thousands of boys and men assaulted each year alongside hundreds of thousands of girls and women.
Can a woman sexually assault a man?
Yes, but it's not nearly as common as male-on-male assault. A recent study shows that more than 86% of male survivors are sexually abused by another male. That is not to say, however, that we should overlook boys or men who are victimized by females. It may be tempting to dismiss such experiences as wanted sexual initiation (especially in the case of an older female assaulting a younger male), but the reality is that the impact of female-on-male assault can be just as damaging.
Does rape affect men differently from women?
Rape affects men in many ways similar to women. Anxiety, anger, sadness, confusion, fear, numbness, self-blame, helplessness, hopelessness, suicidal feelings and shame are common reactions of both male and female survivors. In some ways, though, men react uniquely to being sexually assaulted. Immediately after an assault, men may show more hostility and aggression rather than tearfulness and fear. Over time, they may also question their sexual identity, act out in a sexually aggressive manner, and even downplay the impact of the assault.
Don't men who get raped become rapists?
This is a destructive myth that often adds to the anxiety a male survivor feels after being assaulted. Because of this misinformation, it is common for a male survivor to fear that he is now destined to do to others what was done to him. While many convicted sex offenders have a history of being sexually abused, most male survivors do not become offenders. The truth is that the great majorities of male survivors have never and will never sexually assault anyone.
If a male is sexually assaulted by another male does that make him gay?
No! A man raped by another man says nothing about his sexual orientation before the assault, nor does it change his sexual orientation afterwards. Rape is prompted by anger or a desire to intimidate or dominate. Not by sexual attraction or a rapist’s assumption about his intended victim’s sexual preference. Because of society’s confusion about 1) the role that attraction plays in sexual assault and 2) whether victims are responsible for provoking an assault, even heterosexual male survivors may worry that they somehow gave off “gay vibes” that the rapist picked up and acted upon. This is hardly the case. Sexual assault is never the victim's fault.
If a male becomes aroused or ejaculates during a sexual assault, does that mean he liked it?
No. Any stimulation creates a biological human reaction, even if an individual does not want to react. Arousal or ejaculation is not an indication that a person liked or wanted to be assaulted. The same concept can be applied to drinking a lot of water. If you drink a lot of water, the natural reaction would be to urinate, even if you did not want to. Intense pain, fear, or anxiety can also result in spontaneous erection or ejaculation.