Male Rape

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime:

  • About 3% of American men - a total of 2.78 million men - have experienced a rape at some point in their lifetime (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2006)
  • In 2003, 1 in every 10 rape victims was male. While there is no reliable annual surveys of sexual assaults on children, the Justice Department has estimated that 1 of 6 victims are under age 12 (National Crime Victimization Study, 2003).
  • 71% of male victims were first raped before their 18th birthday; 16.6% were 18-24 years old; and 12.3% were 25 or older (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2006).
  • 70% never tell anyone of their rape, including family and friends.
  • Males are less likely to report a sexual assault, though it is estimated that they make up 10% of all victims (RAINN, 2006).
  • 22% of male inmates have been raped at least once during their incarceration; roughly 420,000 prisoners each year (Human Rights Watch, 2001).

Rape is one of the most misunderstood crimes - and when the victim is male the misconceptions are even greater. Many legal jurisdictions may not even recognize a crime of rape against a male victim but instead may use terms such as "sodomy" or "child abuse".

The rape of males by males is a well-hidden practice due to victims not speaking out against it and the popular belief that "real men cannot be raped". The phrase "homosexual rape" is used to refer to male-male rape, but covers the fact that the majorities of rapists as well as the victims are generally heterosexual.

Many studies of sexual abuse have shown that boys and girls, up to the early teen years, have an equal chance of being sexually victimized. Studies indicate a median victim age of 17.

Cases of rape involving male victims, as compared to female victims, indicate that gang rape is more common, multiple types of sexual acts are likely to be demanded, weapons are more likely to be used, physical injury is more likely to occur, and the injuries are more serious.

Also, whereas most cases of rape of young girls involves a relative or family friend, boys are more likely to be raped by strangers or authority figures in organizations. It is also important to note that men who rape boys have almost three times as many victims as men who rape girls. One perpetrator reported raping over 300 boys in one summer. Only one of the boys filed a complaint with the police.

While gay males are raped, the yare not victimized in greater numbers than their proportion of the general population. Most male victims are heterosexual. Most men also find it surprising that men that are heterosexual commit most rapes of males. In one study by Groth and Burgess, only 7% of the rapists were homosexual.

Many of the things a male survivor feels may be similar to those of a female sexual assault survivor - such as self-blame, fear, confusion and shame. However, there are certain issues that may be different including:

  • Concerns about masculinity and sexual orientation. "Does this mean I'm gay?" "Did I get raped because the assailant thought I was gay?"

  • Vulnerability and masculinity - "Why couldn't I protect myself?" "Can it happen again?"

  • Physiological confusion - Male survivors may experience additional confusion about the rape as their bodies became sexually aroused, had an erection, or ejaculated during the sexual assault. These reactions are normal responses to sexual stimuli and do not equate to consent or the lack of a traumatic experience. Sexual arousal does not mean there was consent to the act or acts.

  • Medical procedures - Male survivors may have fears/concerns about having an anal exam. Medical professionals also may not know what to do with a male survivor, or what type of exam to give.

  • Reporting to law enforcement - Although law enforcement is not known to be especially supportive of any survivor (female or male) it is likely that they will be especially unsupportive of male survivors. They will probably question whether or not the survivor really tried to get away.

  • Telling others - For many of the reasons described above (people's reluctance to believe that men are raped, the male survivor's questions about his sexual orientation after being raped, and the feelings of shame that he could not protect himself) the male survivor may have difficulty telling his partner, family ,or friends about the incident.

  • Finding resources and support - Because of his concerns about telling others, the male survivor may have difficulty getting needed support. He may also find it difficult to locate community resources, as most of the resources available for survivors are intended to be used by women.

Resources for the male survivor:

The National Center for Victimes of Crime
2000 M Street NW, Suite 480
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 467-8700
1-800-FYI-CALL (1-800-384-2255)
Website: click here 

Men Can Stop Rape
PO Box 57144
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 265-6530

National Coalition Against Sexual Assault
125 N. Enola Drive
Enola, PA 17205
(717) 728-9674

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
2320 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 332-6483

Recommended reading for additional information:

Brochman, Sue. (July 30, 1991). "Silent Victims: Bringing Male Rape Out of the Closet." The Advocate, 582: 38-43.

Donadlson, Donald. (1990). "Rape of Males," in Dynes, Wayne, ed. Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. New York: Garland Publications

Groth, A. Nicholas and Ann Wolbert Burgess. (1980). "Male Rape: Offenders and Victims." American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(7): 806-810.

Groth, A. Nicholas and B.A. Birnbaum. (1979). Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender. NewYork: Plenum.

McMullen, Richie J. (1990). Male Rape: Breaking the Silence on the Last Taboo. Lond. GMP Publishers Ltd.

Pelka, Fred. (1994). "Raped: A Male Survivor Breaks His Silence." in Stomber, et. Al eds. Sex Matters: The Sexuality and Society Reader. Pearson Allyn & Bacon. ISBN: 0205359744

Porter, Eugene. (1986). Treating the Young Male Victim of Sexual Assault. Syracuse, NY: Safer Society Press.