Sexual assaults affect males, too

  • Published
  • By Estella Holmes, Air Force Materiel Command

Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender or identity. However, an assault often affects males differently.

The Air Force Materiel Command Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) team is trained to provide specialized support to male clients as they seek recovery from sexual violence.

“Assault is not just a woman's problem. This crime can effect anyone, regardless of gender or sexual preference,” said Annamae Willis, AFMC SAPR Program Manager.

The goal of the SAPR program is to debunk some of the myths that surround male victimization, while ensuring gender-responsive advocacy is provided.

According to Willis, the primary reason males report less is often related to perceptions of masculinity.

“Societies view of men, or toxic masculinity, further impacts stereotypes about masculinity that can deter men from coming forward to receive the services and supportive care that can be so crucial to trauma recovery,” said Willis.

Because of this, few men, military or civilian, report sexual assault. 

When men do finally decide to report, an uncompassionate reaction from friends, family, and the community can exponentially impact the harm men experienced from the initial sexual assault.

Willis explained that victimology and the impact of trauma specific to males is very different from what a female might experience. For example, it is not outside social norms to hear that a female has experienced a sexual crime, but society might not readily associate assault with male masculinity.

“We know there are a lot of male survivors out there who do not feel comfortable coming forward,” said Willis. “Many wait a year or longer to tell anyone about assault, or never tell anyone ever.”

In general, sexual assault is the most underreported crime. If women are not likely to report then men are even less likely to report. In a lot of cases, men indicate that sexual assault occurs in the context of hazing incidents, during duty hours, and in their workplace.

SAPR personnel, including sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates, are trained in gender responsive advocacy, with most programs having both male and female advocates. Anyone can make a gender-specific request at any time. Reporting procedures are the same for everyone.

“The availability of a full range of support professionals is discussed with a client in depth in an attempt to ratchet up the comfort level and meet the needs of each person,” said Willis.

Every base within AFMC is unique in their approach and partnerships with outside agencies. Also, specific programs or initiatives on different installations can vary.

Helpful resources include:

Male Survivor (MaleSurvivor.org)

Safe 4 Athletes (safe4athletes.org)

1 in 6 (1in6.org)

Men Thriving (menthriving.org)

DoD Safe Helpline 877-995-5247

Regardless of gender identification, if someone would like to talk to a SAPR professional they can reach out to their local office or call the DoD Safe Helpline and become connected to the appropriate sexual assault prevention team member.

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