While male survivors of sexual assault have become more willing to go public, many have difficulty asking for help or speaking out about their experiences, Taiwan Men’s Association social worker Liu Hsin-wei (劉信緯) said.
Many men were brought up to think that society expects them to face their problems independently, Liu said, adding that “many sexual assault survivors are only willing to talk about their experience after many years have passed.”
There were 7,581 reports of sexual assault from January to October last year, up 16.28 percent from 2019, Ministry of Health and Welfare data showed.
Of those assaults, 1,462 involved male survivors, up nearly 30 percent from 2019 — an historic high for that period, the data showed.
Of the male survivors, 52 were boys aged six or younger, up 73 percent from 2019, the data showed.
People’s misconceptions about sexual assault often bring more pain to survivors, such as the common misconception that men who experience an erection or ejaculation during an assault must have “wanted or enjoyed the assault,” said Liu, who has worked with 20 male survivors of sexual assault.
Many people equate a survivor’s physiological response with his willingness to engage sexually, causing survivors to feel a sense of blame or shame for not being strong enough to stop an assault, he said.
Even when male survivors attempt to speak out about an assault, people might question their masculinity or their manhood, which can cause survivors to further doubt themselves, Liu added.
Other misconceptions include that sexual assault only occurs to men or boys who are attracted to the same sex or gender, or that a survivor’s sexual orientation can be changed by being assaulted, he said.
Liu said that he has worked with men who were sexually assaulted by a woman in a position of power or authority, so sexual orientation is not the cause or result of sexual assault.
Many perpetrators sexually assault someone not for sexual gratification, but to control and dominate others, he added.
Some people believe that survivors more easily become perpetrators of sexual assault, and that perpetrators must have been sexually assaulted earlier in life, but the real issue is that many survivors lack support, Liu said.
The misconceptions make it more difficult for male survivors to ask for help, Liu said.
“Some of them have been keeping the experience to themselves for more than 10 years, but if they are unwilling to speak out and to seek help, some might never overcome the trauma,” he said.
Some male survivors might entertain gender misconceptions, considering themselves to be “useless” or questioning why they were “treated like a woman,” said Wang Yi-ling (王儀玲), deputy-director of the Taipei City Center for Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
However, the center has worked with male survivors who were drugged by a female perpetrator and sexually assaulted, Wang said.
The crime scenes for sexual assaults of male and female survivors are often similar — a survivor’s home, their classroom or a place they often visit — because most perpetrators of sexual assault are someone the survivor knows.
Counseling and assistance for survivors of sexual assault in Taiwan mostly focus on female survivors, Liu said, suggesting that there should be a manual to show social workers how to help male survivors, encouraging them to speak out and take the first steps toward recovery.
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