The Silent One in Six: Male Survivors of Sexual Harassment
By Will Robertson, Associate Editor
Having lurked in the shadow of the public conscience for decades, sexual assault has only recently begun to receive the attention it so desperately deserves. With the surge of media coverage surrounding the #MeToo movement, the public is starting to understand just how many people sexual assault has affected; on average, there are 321,500 victims of sexual assault each year in the United States. However, because of the culture of masculinity and heteronormativity in today’s society, it can be easy to forget a sobering fact: some of the aforementioned sexual assault survivors are male.
In modern society, the cultural expectation for men to manifest the traditional definition of masculinity creates the image that there are few male victims of sexual harassment and assault. In reality, around one out of every ten reported rape victims in the United States are male. In addition, studies have shown that around one in six males in the United States have been sexually abused or assaulted during their lifetime, and this number is generally regarded as an underestimate because of similar studies showing that males are less likely to report sexual abuse and harassment than females. Not only have there been a staggering number of male sexual harassment survivors, but because of a hyper-masculine culture pushed onto young men, many don’t feel like they can come forward with their stories.
Despite these shocking statistics, in Time Magazine’s article listing 142 public figures accused of sexual misconduct since Harvey Weinstein, only two are women. Many men have suffered from sexual harassment at the hands of women; heteronormativity is another large problem that permeates our culture. Although cases such as Kevin Spacey’s have brought much-needed light to the issue, it still is often swept under the rug. Often times, same-sex sexual assault can leave the victim ashamed or questioning their own sexuality. However, it’s important to remember that sexual assault does not orient survivors: it disorients them. Although many may feel confused after an experience with sexual assault, society must do its best to internalize the fact that assault does not affect sexuality in any way; only then might more survivors of same-sex sexual assault feel comfortable coming forward with their stories.
Sexual misconduct is one of the most sinister problems that we, as a society, face today. While it does not affect men and women equally, it does affect millions of Americans, and is something that we need to hear about as frequently as possible, for as long as it continues to affect the scores of survivors. It’s urgent that all survivors feel able to share their stories and raise awareness of how sexual misconduct can affect anyone — regardless of gender.