Red Zone: One in every 16 collegiate males will face sexual assault

When people think about rape victims they often picture a female, and for the most part that is because females are disproportionately the targets of sexual assault and rape. While there is a big gap between rates of female versus male rape, for a minority of males in college their own experiences with sexual violence can be very present and traumatic. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) lists statistics showing that males aged 18-24 who are college students are approximately five times more likely than non-students of the same age to be a victim of rape or sexual assault. Similar to women, men in college have a higher chance of being raped than non-college students of the same age, which equates to about one in every 16 men in college according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

Men in college have higher rates of sexual violence, but between boys and girls, rates of rape are closest before the age of 18. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center states that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. Acts of sexual violence and rape tend to be the least likely reported crimes. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center found that 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police and only 12 percent of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities. In college, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center found that more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.

Keeley Olson is the Executive Director of Standing Together Against Rape or STAR, and she says rape is one of the most unreported crimes, and for men, it really has to do with external pressures.

“I think it comes down to a stigma in our society about rape in general, it affects all survivors of rape,” Olson said. “It’s the most unreported crime according to all crime statistics nationwide. It’s further under-reported with male survivors because there’s a stigma attached to it, the fear that they won’t be believed, the fear that they will be judged harshly, the internal dialogue that they are having within themselves that many women also have the same reaction: I should’ve been able to protect myself. I shouldn’t have been there. I shouldn’t have been with that person or whatever the scenario is. Men tend to keep it much to themselves so they never get much to a place where having their personal belief system questioned or challenged in anyway that it wasn’t their fault, that they’re not to blame. They are not always supposed to be so tough that they were supposed to defend against those things.”

Olson said STAR hotline responders are trained to address both men and female victims of sexual violence.

“It’s definitely the same sort of support but we definitely train our crisis line responders to be knowledgeable of the dynamics of the way a male may present differently than a woman,” Olson said. “They might be more angry, they might be more rageful though that’s common across the board for all survivors to be carrying a lot of internal rage. Some internalize it more and some voice it more. In our experience males will be able to voice that rage a lot more, so they may come across almost aggressively, but it’s really just that kind of righteous rage that a survivor has every right to. So we just try to focus on that, that they have every right to be angry, that they have every right to feel rage for what happened to them.”

The righteous rage Olson mentions is not the only thing responders are trained to notice. They also watch for something called disguised disclosures.

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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

“I think that we train our responders to be more mindful of disguised disclosures such as males calling and saying this happened to a friend,” Olson said. “Which a lot of survivors will do that because they’re testing the waters — they want to know if they’re going to be able to receive support by calling our crisis line. So, they don’t necessarily want to put themselves out there, so they distance it a little by saying that it happened to a friend, and a lot of times they’ll say, ‘OK it wasn’t a friend, it was me.’ Once they test the waters, [they will] see that they’re going to be getting someone on the phone who is responsive to their needs.”

Bridget Dooley is the Title IX Coordinator at UAA, and she says her office is working to spread knowledge of support available to all victims of sexual violence.

“I guess the message out of our office is every student, faculty and employee should feel free to come in and tell their story and get help here,” Dooley said. “That said we do know that it is something we need to reach out and involve males in more, and we are trying to do that through Campus Climate committee, through… Coalition for Change, and through our efforts to hire a person focused on prevention and awareness. Those are the things we are actively working towards.”

Title IX deals with a higher number of cases where a female is the victim of sexual violence but Dooley says that she wants to make sure all victims know resources are available to them.

“For here and now, in the moment, most of our complaints are females being the complainants, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t male complainants,” Dooley said. “I think that, first of all, we should acknowledge that there is a lot more we can do to reach out to males to help them feel comfortable reporting things they need to report and providing them support and education.”

Dooley encourages anyone who has been a victim of sex discrimination to contact her and other resources available on campus. These resources include the UAA Student Health and Counseling Center, STAR’s statewide crisis line or the RAINN national hotline.

UAA Student Health and Counseling Center – (907) 786-4040

STAR statewide crisis line – (800) 478-8999

RAINN national hotline – (800) 656-4673