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A Male College Student’s Perspective as a Survivor of Sexual Assault

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As of recently, American society and media have started to address the pressing issue of sexual assault. Female-identifying people have made leaps and bounds with reporting sexual assault, demonstrated recently in U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman’s court case against her ex-doctor and abuser. The #MeToo statement has also set up a great media platform for survivors to raise awareness for their experiences with sexual assault. Although many have come forward and been able to share their story, there is still so much stigma surrounding sexual assault, especially for male-identifying and non-binary survivors.

I was able to interview a 20-year old college student who identifies as a man, John (name has been changed), about his experience with sexual assault.

“Although many have come forward and been able to share their story, there is still so much stigma surrounding sexual assault, especially for male-identifying and non-binary survivors.”

– Paige Harris (‘19)

After a night of heavy drinking at a party, John was raped by a female-identifying person who he considered a friend. The next morning, John vaguely remembered the situation and had a hard time piecing it together. He felt deeply betrayed by the fact that the woman took advantage of him when she knew he was not in a state to give consent. Feeling embarrassed and emasculated, John avoided his rapist for the next month.

John expressed that he did not report this crime because he did not perceive the situation as rape right away. He believes that this is because in society, there is “a large perception that men cannot get sexually assaulted.” Even other friends who had seen him being coerced to leave with his rapist said they felt “off” about the situation, but thought it wasn’t a big deal. They assumed that John wanted to leave with her, and that everything would be fine, even though no consent was able to be given on John’s part.

Because he was the victim in the situation, John believed people might believe his story after the fact. However, he also felt that many would be likely to down play the situation because he is a male-identifying person, and this simply “does not happen to males.” Because he had never met a male-identifying person who was sexually assaulted, John felt that he had no one to turn to.

As mentioned before, the brave and respectable female-identifying people who have broken the silence of talking about sexual assault have brought much needed awareness to this social issue. However, John believes there is not as big of a social platform for men to speak out about their experience of sexual assault. He was worried that if he reported the rape, people may have sided with the woman in this case, partially because of society’s stereotyping of masculinity, as well as the idea that males always have the ability to overpower females. Unfortunately, these misconceptions of society have contributed to the silencing of male-identifying survivors.

John knew that he eventually would need some form of healing from this situation, but the resources in the community seemed so foreign and impersonal. How can talking to strangers help him conceptualize his pain from this situation? John also was not aware of resources other than counseling services at college that may have been able to help him. There are fortunately many resources in the community that survivors of sexual assault have access to (see below).

Sexual assault is a reality to all genders and non-conforming people. This is why it is important to raise awareness, know the signs of a situation that could turn into sexual assault, and spread the news about the valuable resources that are available in the community. Breaking the stigma surrounding sexual assault starts here, now, and with you.

On Campus:

Decorah Police- 9-911 on campus phone

Luther College Counseling Services in Larson Hall (business hours)- 563-387-1384

Luther College Emergency Counselor (24/7 Crisis)- 563-387-1375

Off Campus:

Decorah Police- 563-382-3667

Riverview Center Sexual Assault Hotline (Decorah, IA)- 1-888-557-0310

Northeast Iowa Behavioral Health 24 hour Crisis- 563-382-3649

Iowa Sexual Abuse Hotline- 1-800-284-7821

National Sexual Assault Hotline- 1-800-656-4673

Signed,

Paige Harris (‘19)

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