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Men and boys experience sexual abuse, usually perpetrated by other men but can be perpetrated by a woman.

The evidence suggests that eight per cent of the male population are sexually abused, and some put it at 20 per cent and higher. (Mankind UK, 2002)

It may be difficult for men to talk about what has happened because of the common view that men should be ‘strong’ and able to protect themselves or (in the case of straight men) because they think the assault has ‘made them gay’, because sexual assault of men is less common, they may not come forward because they think they will not be believed.

Men often find it easier to talk to women about the abuse as they fear being judged by other men.

Feelings and reactions

Men and women may share similar feelings about sexual violence but may react in different ways. Men may be more likely to hurt themselves or damage things but this is not always the case.

If men are crying and struggling to cope, they may feel this is ‘unmanly’ and this can affect their self-esteem.

Men who are abused as boys can struggle to dissociate from seeing all adult men as abusers. This can affect their concept of self as well as relationships and intimacy.

Men may feel particularly vulnerable because of expectations that all men should be strong, in control and able to protect themselves. This may be made worse if they have no one to confide in or they think that friends and family will be unsupportive. This in turn may make it more difficult for men to talk about the assault.

Straight men may feel very confused and wonder if they are gay as a result of the assault or because of how their bodies responded during the assault. Gay men may think that the assault happened because they are gay. They may have been taunted about their sexuality as part of the attack. Sexual violence happens because of who the abuser is, not who you are. You are not to blame.