While I was involved in "every 5 minutes" in Syracuse, NY, a topic that came up was addressing male survivors of rape. It's a touchy subject: would the audience be too distracted to have anything good brought out of it?

We had seen many instances when someone would bring out the subject as a means to sidetrack us (of course, in their examples the perpetrator was always female). Of course, the statistics say otherwise - men are most likely to be assaulted by other men. And while the numbers aren't as high as women, is it something to ignore? No, but our societal standard of homophobia still creates a problem.

To be honest - I haven't reconciled the problems. Most of the time I'm the only male in the group, and putting myself in the position of survivor is not something I'm sure I can do. That and the lack of requests for such a scene has meant the issue has slid onto the back burner.

Sue Rochman wrote this article: "Silent Victims - Bring Male Rape Out of the Closet" some time ago (my fault for not asking her), addressing the subject of male victimization and the consequences involved.

Silent Victims

Bring Male Rape Out of the Closet

Men Raping Men - It's a violent crime that affects straight men as
much as gay men. There is terror, both during and after the
attack. Fear of death is matched only by fear of being stigmatized
as a male rape victim. It is a statistically silent crime, but the
numbers are growing.
     According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice's National Crime
Survey, released in 1991, there are approximately 168,000 rapes
annually in the United States. Of that number, 13,000 rapes
involve male victims. And their assailants are almost always other
     Kaylan Fredriks, 24, was gang-raped by three men on June 2 in
Volunteere Park in Seattle. As he was leaving what is known as
Seattle's gay park, he was grabbed from behind by the men. "The
next thing I knew, there was a hand over my mouth, and I was
dragged into the bushes," recalls Fredriks. "The broke a bottle on
my leg and were cutting up my clothes and men." He was forced to
perform oral sex and all of the men and was raped by one of them.
"The whole time there were verbally abusive, talking dirty,
telling me how much I liked it," says Fredriks.
     Found unconscious and bleeding. Fredriks was brought to a
nearby hospital. "The first police officer I spoke to at the
hospital I didn't feel would understand me," he says, "so I
requested another one. The second officer was very understanding.
He help saying, 'Son, it wasn't your fault.'"
     Although he has felt supported by his friends and spoke with
a male counselor from Seattle Rape Relief, Fredriks says that what
would really help gay men would be a support group for male rape
victims. "I get depressed, and there are times when I feel scared
just to go out of the house," says Fredriks. "Sometimes I can't
sleep because of it, and it makes me more angry that there is no
group to go to."
     Another rape victim remembers his attack ten years ago though
it happened yesterday: "I was waiting at the bus station in New
York City," recalls Ross, who requested that his last name not be
used, "and this guy cruised me and picked me up and offered me a
place to stay. I was 19 and just starting to come out. He didn't
mention sex, but I was hoping for it and scared of it at the same
     "He started to touch me, and that was fine," Ross says, "but
them without warning he started to fuck me. And when I said no and
that I hadn't done this before, he said I was lying. I was
terrified. And it was confusing because I had wanted sex but this
was not what I wanted. I just went into this numbed out space, and
then it was over. What was clear to me was that he was going to do
it, that I had no say. I didn't feel like I had my own will or ego
or anything. I felt like I was his."
     It was years before Ross told anyone about the rape. "You
just don't hear men talk about rape," he explains. "The idea is
that it doesn't happen to men."
     But it does.
     "The whole problem around the sexual assault of men is that a
lot of people don't think that it can happen," says Naomi
Lichtenstein, director of client services for the New York City
Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project.
     Mike used to believe that as well. A Los Angeles-based
writer, he was raped eight years ago when he was a student living
in New York City. "I met this very cute, normal-looking guy on a
corner near a gay bar," recalls Mike (a pseudonym), "and we ended
up taking a cab back to my apartment. We were hanging out in the
kitchen, and I had my back to him. When I turned around, I saw
that he had grabbed a large kitchen knife. He looked at me and
said, 'If you move, you're dead.'
     "He made me get undressed and then tied up my arms and legs
with a towel," continues Mike. "The whole time he verbally abused
me, saying things like 'You fucking faggot.' Then he anally raped

Since rape is commonly thought of as a sexual rather than a
violent act, many people don't think of men as potential rape
victims, counselors say. But Dr. A. Nicholas Groth, a clinical
psychologist and author of Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the
Offender, says sexual desire or deprivation is not the primary
motivating force behind sexual assault. "Sexual assault is the
sexual expression of aggression, not the aggressive expression of
sexuality," Groth explains. "It is not about sexual gratification.
When a sexual assault happens, it is not because a man is sexually
frustrated. What we are talking about is a man using somebody else
as a means of saying 'I'm the one in control.' The defining
element in rape is coercion as opposed to consent."
     According to the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence
Project, most rapists and their victims are heterosexual. Yet
Richie J. McMullen, author of Male Rape: Breaking the Silence on
the Last Taboo, notes that articles frequently refer to male rape
as homosexual rape, perpetuating the myth that rape is about sex
and that it is only gay men who rape other men.
     "Another insidious myth is that all men who are raped are gay
or want to be gay," explains Lichtenstein. "But sexual assault has
nothing to do with sexual orientation. We have to separate out
sexual orientation from sexual violence. And one does not cause
the other in either direction."
     Although women are more frequently the targets of rape, some
men only rape men and other rape both women and men. Groth recalls
one man incarcerated for rape who said to him, "At the time I
couldn't tell you what the victim looked like. It wouldn't have
mattered if they were attractive or unattractive, male or female,
and adult of a child. It was just who was accessible to me at the

Statistics maintained at police stations, district attorney's
offices, and national programs are often compiled according to the
type of crime, not the gender of the victim. But even if such
statistics existed, rape crisis counselors believe that they would
vastly underrepresent the actual number of men who are raped.
     Studies have shown that approximately 50% of all women who
have been raped have never told friends or family members about
the assault, and it is estimated that only one in 50 women who
have been raped reports the crime to the police. For men, rapes of
underreporting are believed to be even higher.
     Almost all the men who have contacted the New York City Gay
and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project have chosen not to report to the
police, says Lichtenstein. "It is too complicated and too scary to
deal with all the stigma and backlash," she explains. "Most men
just want to keep it private."
     Mike didn't call a crisis line or file a police report. "I
was too embarrassed," he says. "I didn't think they would catch
him. And I didn't want to deal with judgment form the cops."
     The sexual orientation of the victim may also influence
whether or not he files a police report. Groth says, "For gay men
who have chosen to keep their sexuality private, it can be very
difficult to disclose a rape, especially if the assault occurs
within the context of looking for some type of sexual contact of a
consenting nature.
     "Victims in general aren't treated kindly by our society," he
continues, "and it is more complicated for the person who is gay,
because you are going to be talking to a male-dominated [police
and legal] system. In our society there are victims who are seen
as deserving of help and those who aren't. So, if a straight man
is assaulted, that may be seen as a more serious thing than if the
person is gay. If he is gay, the attitude might be 'Well, he
probably liked it.'"
     Statistics from agencies that provide rape counseling vary
throughout the country. In 1990 the San Francisco Rape Treatment
Center say 528 clients; 9.8% were men. In Boston, of the 250
people seen each year at Beth Israel Hospitals' rape crisis
program, about 10% are men. And the New York City Gay and Lesbian
Anti-Violence Project receives about four calls a month form men
who have been raped. But counselors stress that these statistics
reflect men's fear of telling anyone, even a crisis counselor,
about a rape. "There is an additional layer of pressure for men
that doesn't exist for women due to stereotypes and assumptions
about male rape," says Denise Synder, executive director of the
Washington D.C. Rape Crisis Center.
     Many rapes - most all of which remain unreported - occur in
childhood. At the age of 14, Martin (who has asked that his real
name not be used) was raped by his foster brother, Danny, as they
walked through the woods between their home and a nearby shopping
center. "Danny was two years older than me," recalls Martin, "and
weighed twice as much. He said he would hurt me physically if I
did not do what he told me to do. I was terrified. My only
alternative was to comply with his demands, hoping to get out of
there alive. Danny told me that if I told anyone, he would kill
     It was years before Martin told anyone about what had
happened that afternoon. "For 12 years," he says," I kept Danny's
'secret' a secret. But I also just about lost all desire to even
live. I could never get the assault out of my mind. It still felt
like it just happened."

The New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project has
received a number of calls from men who have been raped by someone
they men in a bar. This type of rape, now commonly referred to as
date or acquaintance rape, is rarely addressed within the gay
community. "What nobody seems to understand about rape is that if
you say no, you mean no," says Lichtenstein.
     When most people think about male rape, they think about
prisons and jails, counselors say. Groth explains, "People think
that men who go to prison are going to get sexually frustrated
because they have no opportunity for consenting sex. Yet what they
don't look at is that people who engage in consenting sexual
encounters, and they could masturbate or, in some states, take
park in conjugal visits." Rape in prison, he explains, happens for
the same reasons as does rape on the outside: It is an act of
power and control and sometimes one of retaliation or revenge.
     But like other victims, prisoners are not very likely to
report the crime. Stephen Donaldson, president of People Organized
to Stop Rape of Incarcerated Persons, and national education and
advocacy group, reports that a 1982 study of a California medium
security prison revealed that 14% of all prisoners there had been
sexually assaulted while in prison.
     A jail protocol for victims of sexual assault, published by
the San Francisco Department of Health, calls jail rapes
"frequent," adding that the exact number is "difficult to
     "Victims do not report for fear of retaliation or are ashamed
to tell other people," the report says. "Only a fraction of the
victims utilize jail services after the assault. For each case
that is reported or otherwise discovered, one can assume that many
more go unreported."

Although counselors generally use the term rape to describe male
sexual assault, legal definitions vary from state to state.
McMullen argues that part of the disbelief and silence around male
rape can be attributed to confusion over legal terminology. In
many states, the work rape is used only to define a forced act of
vaginal sexual intercourse; an act of forced alan intercourse is
termed sodomy. In Georgia, for example, rape is defined as
"forcible penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex
organ." Oral sexual contact and anal intercourse are both termed
sodomy - whether aggravated )forced) or consensual - and both are
against the law. The penalty for forced sodomy is a life sentence
or up to 20 years in prison; the penalty for consensual sodomy is
nearly as severe - no life sentence but still up to 20 years in
     There are some states, however, that now employ gender
neutral terms to define acts of forced anal or vaginal
intercourse. In New Jersey, the terms rape and sodomy are no
longer used. Regardless of whether the victim is a man or a woman,
all sex crimes are covered under four legal categories: aggravated
sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual
contact, and criminal sexual contact.
     Marissa Batt, special assistant for the Los Angeles district
attorney, says that even though they don't see many male rape
cases, she doesn't believe that the legal definitions are the
reason that men don't report the crime. Sodomy and rape are two
specific acts, she says,and the penal code reflects that
specificity. "The names are different," she explains, "but the
sentencing is identical."
     But not all district attorneys agree. Linda Fairstein, chief
of Manhattan's Sex Crime Unit and deputy chief of Manhattan's
Trial Division, says that in New York State, lobby has gone on for
a number of years to make the laws more gender-neutral, and it is
a change that she would like to see occur. "While the issue may be
semantics," she contends, " if it is important to the victim, then
it is important."
     "I encourage reporting by male survivors," continues
Fairstein, "because I think that there are a lot more services in
place now for male survivors and because the prosecution is much
easier than one might think it would be. I haven't found judges
[in Manhattan] to treat male rape victims differently than female
rape victims."
     When Batt prosecuted a male rape case in Los Angeles a few
years ago, however, this was not the case. The two men had met in
a gay bar and went back to the one man's apartment, where the rape
happened. "When the case was investigated, it was found that the
defendant has assaulted other men as well," Batt recalls. "But
these other men were all too embarrassed to come forward as
witnesses. I think this one victim's serious physical injuries
encouraged him to go ahead with the charges. But because he was
too mortified to testify in front of a jury, I waived my right to
a jury trial.
     "The judge was really homophobia," she remembers. "He said
thinks like 'If it had been a woman, it wouldn't have been a
problem. But because it was a man...' And he wouldn't convict on
any of the charges."
     Peter Kling, assistant district attorney in the San Francisco
Sex Crimes Unit, notes that while it might be easier to prosecute
a male sexual assault case in San Francisco than in other cities,
there are factors that could influence the jury's verdict. "If the
victim is physically a large person," Kling says, "and larger than
your suspect and there is no weapon involved, there might be
problems overcoming a juror's ingrained belief that the victim
could have physically overpower his assailant. It might make it
harder to prove that there wasn't consent."

Rape victims not only have to confront unsympathetic attitudes if
they choose to press charges, but they often hear unsupportive
statements from their friends as well, counselors say. "People
will fault the victim instead oft he perpetrator, saying thinks
like 'If you lived a different type of life or if you weren't
looking for something, this wouldn't have happened to you,;"
explains Groth.
     Furthermore, male victims commonly blame themselves for the
rape, believing that they in some way gave permission to the
assailant. "In some ways I felt like I had set myself up," Mike
says. "I picked up this guy on a known hustlers corner. I should
have expected something might happen to me, even if the rape
wasn't really my fault."
     Some men may believe they were not raped or that they gave
consent because they became sexually aroused, had an erection, or
ejaculated. But explains Donaldson, ejaculation is often
misidentified as orgasm, erection is not always within conscious
control, and sexual arousal does not always mean there was
consent. "A lot of rapists," he says, "will manipulate the
genitals of their victims precisely to get the impression across
that you really did enjoy it."
     According to Groth, some offenders may try to get the victim
to ejaculate because is "symbolizes the assailant's ultimate and
complete sexual control over his victims's body and confirms his
fantasy that the victim really wanted and enjoyed the rape."
     The experience of a rape may affect gay and straight men
differently. Gay men may have difficulties in their sexual and
emotional relationships with other men and think that the assault
occurred because they are gay, whereas straight men often begin to
question their sexual identity, rape crisis counselors say.
"Within the context of a homophobic society, straight men seem to
be much more likely to be disturbed by the sexual aspect of the
assault than the aggressive aspect," Groth says.
     Sylvia Solorzano, a counselor at the San Francisco Rape
Treatment Center, underscores this point, saying, "Since most
people associate rape with women, it is hard for men to identify
themselves as rape victims and get the appropriate support,
understanding, and assistance they need."
     Even when they do seek medical care, male rape victims are
hesitant to say that they were sexually assaulted. Veronica
Ryback, director of the rape crisis program at Boston's Beth
Israel Hospital, says that it is not uncommon for a man to come
into the emergency room but not tell hospital staff that he has
been sexually assaulted. "It is only after we do a physical exam
and note where the injuries are that we know what has happened,"
Ryback says.
     Ross says, "I felt that if I called a rape crisis program, I
wouldn't be taken seriously. Men are always supposed to be in
control and be powerful. And you're not supposed to talk about
situations like this where you are powerless. It's like admitting
you are less of a man because this happened."
     Mike says that although he hasn't told many people, those
friends and family members who do know have been very supportive.
But he never through to call a crisis line. "At that time I didn't
think that there was anyone to talk to," he explains. "I had never
seen rape crisis services advertised for men. I didn't go for help
because I didn't know that it existed. Now I'd probably do it
     Rape crisis counselors stress that although women are the
primary focus of their programs, their services are for male rape
survivors as well. Jo Thompson, a counselor for the YWCA of Cobb
County [Ga.] Rape Crisis Center also provides education to the
community. "When I describe our services, I say we provide
counseling for men," she says. "And I make sure when I'm talking
not to use the pronoun she for the rape victim." Yet she notes
that their agency's literature doesn't specifically mention
services for men. "But we probably should," she admits. "We might
get more men to call."
     Of the six men who have called Thompson in the past year,
none of come in for counseling. "All these men were in a lot of
pain," she recalls. "It was so difficult for them just to call.
They didn't even want to give their names. At first, some wondered
if I would believe them, and they made references to that. And by
the end, they did realize that I believed them. But there was
still a stigma about coming to the center."
     Some crisis programs, including the Cobb County Rape Crisis
Center and the Orange County [Calif.] Sexual Assault Network
(OCSAN), have male rape crisis counselors available 24 hours a
day. Everyone who calls OCSAN for counseling is asked if they
would prefer to speak to a man or a woman, say Teresa Lu, director
of volunteers at OCSAN. But most rape programs are staffed by
women, and Lu believes OCSAN is the only program in Southern
California that has male counselors. Whether or not they have male
staff on call, all crisis centers can make referrals to male
counselors. Yet according to Thompson, most men prefer to talk to
a woman. "They were raped by a man, and because of the shame, they
didn't want another man to know," she explains.
     Nonetheless, Donaldson contends that to make men comfortable
with using these programs, "we need to get the work out to the
public that men get raped." Programs geared specifically to men
are needed, he stressed, and these won't exist until the reality
of male rape becomes a fact of public knowledge. "Without
education, the whole question of male rape will remain buried."
     Five years ago, Martin entered a counseling program for
sexual assault survivors. And now, to help other men who feel that
there is no one to turn to, Martin is starting a computer bulletin
board for rape survivors. Although the bulletin board will have
information for both women and men about sexual assault service
providers throughout the nation, Martin's main goal is to get
other men the help they need. "More men are starting to talk about
sexual assault," he says. "The number of men who have been
sexually assaulted is high, but their egos keep them from
receiving treatment."
     Martin hopes to have the bulletin board and a toll-free
number for those without a computer running by September. And, he
says, the system will be set up so that survivors can talk on the
bulletin board to other survivors. "This project is the biggest
and most important think that I have done in my life," says
Martin. "It is not easy to live with the pain he caused me. But
I'm trying."

There are organizations throughout the country that provide counseling for men and women who have been raped or sexually assaulted. To find a center in your area that can provide you or someone you know with free, confidential rape counseling, look in your phone book under Rape, or contact any counseling center. Not all rape crisis centers have male counselors staffing their 24 hour crisis lines, but they are interested in assisting men who have been raped or sexually assaulted and can refer you to a male counselor sensitive to the needs of male sexual assault survivors. Information about Martin's computer bulletin board network will be distributed to rape crisis programs throughout the country. Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender by A. Nicholas Groth Da Capo Press, $22.50, hardcover Male Rape: Breaking the Silence on the Last Taboo by Richie J. McMullen Alyson Publications, $18.95, softcover Recovery: How to Survive a Sexual Assault by Helen Benedict (out of print but available in libraries)

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