Picture this: A wild college party with plenty of booze and drugs. In a darkened room there, a person is nearly passed out on a bed. Someone else enters and starts to make advances — all the time ignoring the other person’s helpless, confused state. “I know you want this,” is whispered. “Come on, it will be quick.”
The above scenario is an example of a very common type of rape that happens every single day, on college campuses and elsewhere. In picturing the scene, you likely imagined the passed-out individual was a woman, the rapist as a man. That is often the case, yet it doesn’t tell the whole story. Men also can be victims of sexual assault.
In fact, a new study published in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity found that 43 percent of high school and college-age men report they have experienced “unwanted sexual contact.” Of those, 95 percent say a female friend or acquaintance was the aggressor in question.
For most people, it’s very hard to imagine a scenario in which a woman could take advantage of a man. After all, society not only tells us that men are bigger, stronger and smarter than women, but it also tells us that men always want sex. How could a woman force a man to do something that is his biological imperative? Such gender generalizations make people more apt to high-five a guy who just “got lucky” as opposed to asking him if he is OK and making sure the sex was consensual and desired.
Sadly, when males are the victim, they often have no resources and no support from a society that tells them rape is a female problem. This only further emasculates and isolates men who have been victimized.
It’s time we change the way we talk about rape and the way we prevent it. Rape isn’t a “female” problem anymore than mugging or arson are male problems. Crime is crime, and until we start treating rape victims (male and female) with the respect and attention they deserve, we are going to continue having a society that turns a blind eye to sexual violence and excuses rape as bad judgment or a misunderstanding. We all have a role in preventing sexual assault and in supporting rape victims, whether they are a man or a woman and whether the rape happened on a street corner, at a party, or even on a wedding night.
If you or someone you love has been affected by sexual assault, go to www.rainn.org for resources and support in your area.