The crisis of sexual assaults is on people’s minds again, with the following stories reported all in one week: On Tuesday, the body of a girl who was sexually assaulted prior to her death was found. On Wednesday, a man was convicted for the 1974 murder of a girl who had been strangled, sexually assaulted and beaten to death with a poker. That week, another priest pleaded guilty to charges of sexual molestation.
These reports represent the victims who are seen and heard. When we look at the small portion of sexual assaults that are reported, one might ask where the other stories are. What other victims are out there?
Recent statistics estimate that one in 10 men will experience sexual violence in his lifetime. Like female victims, they come from all ethnicities, orientations and walks of life. They feel shame, fear, anger and betrayal after the assault. They lose faith in others. Their daily lives and relationships are disrupted. They also are much less likely to report their assaults than are women, who, despite years of advocacy, still underreport this crime.
Gay or bisexual men may be even less likely to report. Yet a 1990 report indicated that these men were experiencing sexual violence at a rate three times that of heterosexual men, and, according to a 1996 research report, sexual assaults against gays and lesbians had increased by 13 percent nationally (twice the 6 percent increase in violent crimes in general. Studies also indicate that perpetrators may target gay or bisexual men out of hate because perpetrators perceive them as weak or feminine—fair game for sexual violence. Perpetrators also may assault them within an abusive relationship.
Perpetrators rely heavily on the expectation of silence from their victims and use awareness of the discrimination faced by gay or bisexual men to identify potential targets.
These survivors of sexual violence may not seek support for several reasons: They may believe their experience was something everyone who is coming out goes through, or they may fear betraying the LGBT community by disclosing sexual assault by an acquaintance or partner, thereby reinforcing stereotypes of homosexual men as promiscuous and predatory. Survivors may not have been informed that counseling services are available, or they may not feel welcome at an agency strongly identified with women.
But there is hope on the horizon: a new opportunity for gay or bisexual male victims to share the recovery process in a safe, comfortable and confidential setting. For more information, call 319-4962.