Why Sexual Assault Is Not Just a “Women’s Issue”
A common misconception is that sexual assault is just a “women’s issue” and up to them to solve. This is wrong for numerous reasons.
More men than you think are victims of sexual violence.
Statistics tell us that 1 of 4 women and 1 of 6 men are victims of sexual assault. While there are more female victims than males, it is clear that sexual assault spans the sexes.
Researchers found that the sexual assaults of males are severely under-reported, perhaps even more so than sexual assaults of women. Male sexual assault victims are much less likely to disclose information regarding their experience than are females. Very few men will report being sexually assaulted because they don’t want to feel like they are less of a man or don’t want to be regarded as homosexual. Therefore, they constitute an extremely under-identified, under-served, and frequently misunderstood population.
Someone in your life is probably a victim.
It is not just a “women’s issue” because every female victim is likely a wife, daughter, mom, sister, friend, co-worker, grandparent, niece, or sister-in-law of some man. Their pain is your “issue.”
Some victims are sexually assaulted from when they are a few days old and some are in their 90’s. People can be assaulted regardless of their color, race, religion, nationality, lifestyle, sexual preference, education, class, occupation, ability, or disability. It is clear that sexual assault is a frequent phenomenon and is well within the range of being labeled a “common experience” for women, men, and children. According to the most recent studies, every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.
Sadly, the odds are high that a woman in your life is a victim of sexual assault.
The perpetrators are usually men.
Sexual assault is also a man’s issue because most perpetrators are male and are usually someone the victim knows. That doesn’t mean that most men are perpetrators. It means that, predominately, perpetrators responsible for sexual assaults are male. Most sexual assault perpetrators are white, educated, middle-class men.
Men should support and care for victims of sexual assault.
Men are not just perpetrators or possible offenders, but they can be a huge asset in supporting and caring for victims both female and male. The more informed men are regarding sexual assault, the better. Because sexual assault is a form of victimization that is particularly stigmatized, many victims suffer in silence, which only intensifies their distress and disgrace. There appears to be a societal impulse to blame traumatized individuals for their suffering.
Victims experiencing blaming and other negative social reactions have poorer adjustment. Research has proven that the only social reactions related to better adjustment by victims were being believed and being listened to by others.
More men, especially pastors, need to understand the specific pain and suffering that comes from sexual assault so they can respond in ways that are biblical, compassionate, and informed.
Justin Holcomb and his wife, Lindsey, are the authors of Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault. Sources for the statistics cited above can be found in this book.