Sexual assault against males necessitates attention

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Lena Rawley, Staff Columnist

Two high school teachers in Louisiana were arrested on Oct. 1 after they videotaped themselves having a threesome with a 16-year-old student. Although the boy claimed the act was consensual, he was under the age of consent in Louisiana. Accordingly, the case was deemed a sexual assault and both teachers now face felony charges.

However, a different perception of the case is circulating on the Internet. A few days after the incident occurred, VICE published a piece highlighting the disgusting comments made regarding the situation, which included, “Nice,” “Atta boy,” “Best.Teachers.Ever” and “Damn…lucky dude!” Had the case involved a teenage girl and two male teachers, it is likely that the public would have demanded blood, calling for justice for the victim and for the predators to spend their entire lives behind bars. However, because the student is male and the two teachers are female, some think it is appropriate to make Van Halen references and treat the case like the tired plot line of an adult film.

Unfortunately, this reaction usually happens when cases involve male victims. Demonstrated by the reaction to the Louisiana case, many in the public do not consider sexual assault against men to be serious. Despite this perception, the problem is prevalent. One in six men are sexually assaulted before they turn 18. Studies conducted from 1996 to 2005 have consistently shown that 14 to 16 percent of American men have experienced sexual assault. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports that 10 percent of sexual assault victims in the United States are men.

Men who are sexually assaulted face issues similar to those faced by sexually assaulted women. They are just as likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, intimacy issues and suicidal thoughts. They are also just as likely to underachieve in work and academics.

Yet, male sexual assault is rarely discussed. A 1998 study found that the problem is “common, underreported, underrecognized and undertreated.”

There is no reason this issue should be underrecognized — male sexual assault is legitimate sexual assault. These qualifiers do not differ from female sexual assault — unwanted penetration by force or coercion, physical contact of a sexual nature without consent or sexual activity involving a person who is 18 or older and a person who is 16 or younger. In the wake of sexual assaults against men, as seen in the case of the Louisiana student and his female teachers, many people discount the incident. The stigma that boys always want sex and are willing to participate in sex acts with anyone of any age puts undue pressure on boys, making it difficult for them to come forward when they have been abused.

The lack of attention also contributes to how underreported male sexual assault is. Men who have been sexually assaulted feel as if they may be blamed, judged, ridiculed or have their sexuality questioned if they come forward. In addition, many men also keep their abuse a secret out of fear that people will not believe them or take it seriously. If male sexual assault were addressed more frequently and openly, the topic would have less of a stigma, which would pave the way for survivors to more easily seek help.

The public needs to abandon this false notion that sexual assault only occurs when a male preys on a female. It is not restricted to one type of person — sexual assault can happen to anyone regardless of age, class, gender or sexuality. As such, attempts to educate people and curb sexual assault should not be directed at a single demographic.

Email Lena Rawley at [email protected]