Information for Men
Can men experience unwanted sexual contact or sexual assault?
Yes. Men and boys often experience unwanted sexual contact or sexual assault and we understand that their experience can be very different from that of women.
Department of Defense (DoD) Safe Helpline staff are trained to help men who have had these experiences. For support, or if you are just trying to understand what happened and how it is affecting you, please contact Safe Helpline online or call 877-995-5247.
Yes, some acts of hazing can constitute sexual assault under military law. Hazing occurs when a military member, or members, causes another to suffer activities that are cruel, abusive, humiliating, oppressive, demeaning, or harmful. Hazing may be considered sexual assault when it involves penetration of someone’s body, contact with someone’s genitals, or contact with other parts of the body. Hazing may occur to establish an individual’s membership within a social group1. Hazing is a problem that the military is working hard to address because it is a crime and a prime indicator of an unhealthy unit climate. Notably, more military men than military women describe their sexual assault as coming from a hazing experience.2
1Keller, K. M., Matthews, M., Curry Hall, K., Marcellino, W., Mauro, J. A., & Lim, N. (2015). Hazing in the US armed forces. Rand Corporation.
2United States Department of Defense (2014). Appendix C: Response to the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s Report on Male Victims. Retrieved from http://sapr.mil/public/docs/reports/FY14_Annual/FY14_Annual_Report_Appendix_C.pdf
Men may be concerned about seeking support or services because of the potential reaction from friends, family, organizations, and institutions, to name a few.
Safe Helpline staff understands that it can be difficult for men to ask for information because they are concerned about how others will respond, and are there to provide confidential and anonymous support and resources to help. Because Safe Helpline is an anonymous resource not connected to any base/installation, men can feel confident that their experiences and identity will not be shared with anyone in their chain of command.
Safe Helpline staff are available 24/7 worldwide online or by telephone at 877-995-5247 and are specially trained to help men who have experienced unwanted sexual contact or sexual assault.
Sometimes men find it easier to talk anonymously to a professional Safe Helpline staffer first rather than a loved one. This allows an individual to speak to someone who is impartial and trained to listen and help. Many men find that talking to Safe Helpline staff makes it easier to sort out their experience and begin to understand and deal with it emotionally before they tell family and friends.
Many men do not wish to share what happened to them due to concerns that reporting may require them to talk publicly about their experience. Safe Helpline staff can help men understand and provide support throughout the reporting process. Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) and Victim Advocates (VAs) are also available to help. Find a SARC on your nearest installation/base.
Perpetrators may use force or threats to prevent an individual from seeking help. That’s why DoD has policies and resources in place to protect those impacted by unwanted sexual contact or sexual assault. Click or call 877-995-5247 to learn more about the resources available to you.
While not every man who has experienced unwanted sexual contact or a sexual assault reacts in the same way, many of the following reactions are quite common, and totally normal. If a person doesn’t get help dealing with them, these effects can have a long-term impact on one’s psychological and physical well-being.
- Sense of self and concept of “reality” are disrupted (“Did that really just happen to me?” “Who am I, now that this has happened to me?”)
- Profound anxiety, depression, and fearfulness
- Concerns about one’s sexual orientation
- Intense fear or nervousness about things connected to the assault setting
- Fear of the worst happening and having a sense of a shortened future
- Withdrawal from interpersonal contact and a sense of disconnection or alienation from others
- Stress-induced physiological reactions (inability to relax, increased startle response, problems sleeping)
- Note: These outcomes can be severe for men for a variety of reasons, including because they have been socialized to believe males can’t be sexually assaulted, and because they tend to keep things bottled up rather than reach out for help
- Anger about what happened, which can leading to outward- and inward- focused hostility
- Sadness about what happened
- Feelings of shame about what happened, and what (others might think) it could mean about oneself as a man, boyfriend, husband, service member, etc.
- Avoidance of emotions or emotional situations in general, because they could trigger overwhelming feelings that come with having had such an unwanted or assaultive sexual experience
- Can occur in men who believe they were not “strong enough” or “man enough” to fight off the perpetrator-even though reactions during such experiences are brain-based responses over which one had no control or choice at all
- Can result in men who are confused by the fact that they became physically aroused during an unwanted sexual experience or sexual assault, even a violent one-although such arousal can happen automatically because of how the brain works
- Important: these completely normal, brain-based physiological responses do not in any way imply that the person “wanted”, “liked”, or “deserved” the assault or contact
Relationships and Intimacy
- May be disrupted by the assault, particularly when it comes to letting down one’s guard or being sexual
- May be impacted by difficulty becoming physically aroused or interested in sex
- May be disrupted by others’ reactions to the assault, such as lack of belief and support
- May be disrupted by how one reacts to or copes with the experience and its other impacts
- May fear that what happened will make them gay
- May feel that they are “less of a man”, “robbed of their manhood”, etc.
- May develop self-loathing related to their sexual orientation
Homosexual and Bisexual Men
- May feel the crime is “punishment” for their sexual orientation
- May feel targeted because they are gay or bisexual (which may be a true motivation for some offenders). This fear may lead to withdrawal from the community
- May interfere with acceptance of one’s sexual orientation for men who are not “out”, and make them feel fearful about being “out”
- May develop self-loathing related to their sexual orientation
Risky and Harmful Coping
- May use increasing amounts of alcohol, tobacco, and/or other substances to help decrease unwanted feelings and thoughts
- May eat much more or much less than usual
- May seek out risky or dangerous sexual situations
- May stop using helpful coping techniques (exercise, getting plenty of rest, healthy eating, and being with friends and family)
If you are someone you know is experiencing any of the thoughts, feelings, or behaviors listed above, please contact Safe Helpline or call 877-995-5247 to speak with a trained Safe Helpline staffer.
Safe Helpline staff can help you make sense of Reporting Options, but if you’d like to read about them on your own, or to read them before using Safe Helpline, click here.
Safe Helpline staff can help by providing information to many on base military resources, like Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) and Victim Advocates (VAs). Or if you’d like to search for internal military resources yourself, click here.
Safe Helpline staff can help you by providing information on civilian resources. If you’d like to search for external resources yourself, click here. This will take you to a separate site, in a new browser window.
Special Victims’ Counsel/Victims’ Legal Counsel offers free confidential, legal advice and is available to help you learn more about your options when you are dissatisfied with your commander’s response. More information about your legal resources can be found here.