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Men and Sexual Trauma

 

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This section is for Veterans, General Public, Family, & Friends

This section is for Veterans, General Public, Family, and Friends

Men and Sexual Trauma

At least 1 out of every 10 (or 10%) of men in our country have suffered from trauma as a result of sexual assault. Like women, men who experience sexual assault may suffer from depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other emotional problems as a result. However, because men and women have different life experiences due to their different gender roles, emotional symptoms following trauma can look different in men than they do in women.

Who are the perpetrators of male sexual assault?

  • Those who sexually assault men or boys differ in a number of ways from those who assault only females.
  • Boys are more likely than girls to be sexually abused by strangers or by authority figures in organizations such as schools, the church, or athletics programs.
  • Those who sexually assault males usually choose young men and male adolescents (the average age is 17 years old) as their victims and are more likely to assault many victims, compared to those who sexually assault females.
  • Perpetrators often assault young males in isolated areas where help is not readily available. For instance, a perpetrator who assaults males may pick up a teenage hitchhiker on a remote road or find some other way to isolate his intended victim.
  • As is true about those who assault and sexually abuse women and girls, most perpetrators of males are men. Specifically, men are perpetrators in about 86 out of every 100 (or 86%) of male victimization cases.
  • Despite popular belief that only gay men would sexually assault men or boys, most male perpetrators identify themselves as heterosexuals and often have consensual sexual relationships with women.

What are some symptoms related to sexual trauma in boys and men?

Particularly when the assailant is a woman, the impact of sexual assault upon men may be downplayed by professionals and the public. However, men who have early sexual experiences with adults report problems in various areas at a much higher rate than those who do not.

Emotional Disorders

Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to suffer from PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression than those who have never been abused sexually.

Substance Abuse

Men who have been sexually assaulted have a high incidence of alcohol and drug use. For example, the probability for alcohol problems in adulthood is about 80 out of every 100 (or 80%) for men who have experienced sexual abuse, as compared to 11 out of every 100 (or 11%) for men who have never been sexually abused.

Risk Taking Behavior

Exposure to sexual trauma can lead to risk-taking behavior during adolescence, such as running away and other delinquent behaviors. Having been sexually assaulted also makes boys more likely to engage in behaviors that put them at risk for contracting HIV (such as having sex without using condoms).

Help for men who have been sexually assaulted

Men who have been assaulted often feel stigmatized, which can be the most damaging aspect of the assault. It is important for men to discuss the assault with a caring and unbiased support person, whether that person is a friend, clergyman, or clinician. However, it is vital that this person be knowledgeable about sexual assault and men.

A local rape crisis center may be able to refer men to mental-health practitioners who are well-informed about the needs of male sexual assault victims. If you are a man who has been assaulted and you suffer from any of these difficulties, please seek help from a mental-health professional who has expertise working with men who have been sexually assaulted.

Recommended books

Victims No Longer: Men Recovering from Incest and Other Sexual Child Abuse by Mike Lew, Foreword by Ellen Bass. (1990). HarperCollins; ISBN 0060973005

Wounded Boys, Heroic Men: A Man's Guide to Recovering from Child Abuse by Daniel Jay Sonkin and Lenore E. A. Walker. (1998). Adams Media Corporations; ISBN 1580620108

Sources

Bauserman, R. B., & Rind, B. (1997). Psychological correlates of male child and adolescent sexual experiences with adults: A review of the nonclinical literature. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26, 105-139.

Black, C. A., & DeBlassie, R. R. (1993). Sexual abuse in male children and adolescents: Indicators, effects, and treatments. Adolescence, 28, 123-133.

Briggs, F., & Hawkins, R. M. F. (1995). Protecting boys from the risk of sexual abuse. Early Child Development and Care, 110, 19-32.

Carballo-Dieguez, A., & Dolezal, C. (1995). Association between history of childhood sexual abuse and adult HIV-risk sexual behavior in Puerto Rican men who have sex with men. Child Abuse and Neglect, 19, 595-605.

Collings, S. J. (1995). The long-term effects of contact and noncontact forms of child sexual abuse in a sample of university men. Child Abuse and Neglect, 19, 1-6.

Darves-Bornoz, J. M., Choquet, M., Ledoux, S., & Manfredi, R. (1998). Gender differences in symptoms of adolescents reporting sexual assault. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, 33, 111-117.

Etherington, K. (1995). Adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Counseling Psychology Quarterly, 8, 233-241.

Garnefski, N., & Diekstra, R. F. W. (1997). Child sexual abuse and emotional and behavioral problems in adolescence: Gender differences. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 323-329.

Gordon, M. (1990). Males and females as victims of childhood sexual abuse: An examination of the gender effect. Journal of Family Violence, 5, 321-332.

Hepburn, J. M. (1994). The implications of contemporary feminist theories of development for the treatment of male victims of sexual abuse. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 3, 1-18.

Lisak, D. (1994). The psychological impact of sexual abuse: Content analysis of interviews with male survivors. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 7, 525-548.

Marrow, J., Yager, C. A., & Otnow Lewis, D. (1997). Encopresis and sexual abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect, 21, 11-18.

Porter, E. (1986). Treating the young male victim of sexual assault. Syracuse, NY: Safer Society Press.

Winder, J. H. (1996). Counseling adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse: A review of treatment techniques. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 18, 123-133.

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