When Boys and Men Are Raped: Clinical Insights

January 20, 2020

According to male rape myths, boys and men cannot be sexually abused. The truth is, the figure is staggering. Yale Psychiatry’s Joan Cook, PhD, offers new insights working with this population.

Joan Cook, PhD, Associate Professor at Yale School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, talks about male rape myths and provides clinical insights about this seldom discussed issue.

The best data show that men do not disclose their experiences of sexual assault until 20 to 25 years later. Some victims never disclose such traumatic events and sadly live and suffer in silence. A number of barriers keep them from reporting these experiences, including concerns they won't be believed.

According to male rape myths, boys and men cannot be abused. They should welcome any kind of sexual activity, and if they are abused by a female perpetrator, they should welcome it. Society needs to dispel such myths for the healing of male victims to come forward to accurately label their experiences as abuse and assault and for them to be able to recognize the pernicious effects of those experiences on their mental and physical health.

As many of you know, patients with PTSD have two to three times greater chance of having a range of physical health disorders. That figure is not just based on self-reports. It is in physician-rated diagnoses that show patients with PTSD have greater heart problems and musculoskeletal problems.

In addition, a lot of men in this country are sort of socialized to believe that must be invincible and they must be powerful; even though John Wayne was popular years ago, he still pervades our society today. I have heard that from male combat veterans as well as from male survivors of sexual abuse and assault that after they experience, they think “I'm just going to put it behind me and go on.”

But when you have a toothache, you go to the dentist. When you have psychological pain, you need to get assessment and treatment in order to promote healing.

Often male victims think crying and sadness are weaknesses Ultimately, this interferes with acknowledging and disclosing the experiences as well as linking it to mental and physical health and seeking services.

For more on this topic:

Male Sexual Assault: Hidden Trauma