“I wasn’t actually raped.” At least that’s what I kept telling myself as I drove home the morning after I was technically raped.
“Technically raped,” the very possibility of being a man and actually being raped — by a woman no less — seemed so far out of the realm of possibility that I couldn’t accept it as being real. Even as I write this, I’m still not 100 percent sure. Or maybe I’m just not 100 percent willing to admit it, largely due to the stigma associated with men being raped.
When I shared my story about the night my girlfriend penetrated me with a strap-on dildo without my consent, I knew what that was tantamount to. But as I wrote the article, it became clear that what happened that night was indeed rape.
While I wasn’t necessarily carrying a giant burden surrounding that night, those who thought I should’ve kept it to myself likened it to me not being a real man. Some expressed concern that publishing an article like that with my name on it would make it hard to stay employed or find new employment.
In other words, it was more important for me to be silent than to stand up and share my story, an agency far-too-often removed from women who themselves have been raped.
It may be surprising to know that according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 38 percent of all reported incidents of rape were against men. Upon first glance, one might think the majority of that percentage is attributed to sexual assault in prisons. It’s not.
While sexual assault on men in prison is considered routine, the numbers compiled by National Crime Victim Survey doesn’t include prison rape in their statistics. That means more men are getting raped outside of a prison setting — or at least, they’re becoming more open in admitting that they were raped.
Last year, researcher Lara Stemple along with Ilan Meyer published a paper entitled “The Sexual Victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions” in the April 2014 edition of the American Journal of Public Health.
The paper discussed not only the findings of the National Crime Victim Survey but also a number of other surveys documenting sexual violence, assault and everything in-between. One of the conclusions presented in the paper directly challenges the presumptions that men are rarely victims of sexual victimization.
Taking Stemple and Meyer’s work into consideration, I look at my own experience in a different light.
And while I still feel like I’m an exception due to rarity, what happened to me — and what happens to other men, whether it’s molestation as a child, sexual assault in prison, or simply a significant other going a little too far — can’t be ignored and shouldn’t be silenced.
Women throughout time, have been subjected and oppressed by sexual violence at a level that most men will admittedly never experience, but if it’s important to give victimized women a voice, that same voice should be granted to men as well.
Doing so doesn’t further subjugate women or make their experiences any less important; rather, it ensures that everyone can tell their story without shame or judgment — and when that can happen, that’s when the healing can truly begin.