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Male Sexual Assault: The Silent Epidemic That Must Be Addressed

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In June 2012, Trey Malone, a junior at Amherst College and a distinguished student both academically and athletically, took his on life after he was unable to deal with the immense trauma and intense emotions he suffered after being the victim of rape by a co-ed. After his suicide, it was discovered that Malone's experience was not an aberration. A year earlier, in April 2011, Newsweek magazine published a riveting expose of the dirty little secret of male rapes and sexual assaults that were happening with regular frequency in all segments of the armed forces, in particular the army. The personal stories of several soldiers were revealed. More recently, in November 2013, The Los Angeles Times exposed the harrowing ordeal of an Air Force security guard, Trent Smith, a 20-year-old black male who was pressured into engaging in sexual activity with a male sergeant. The experience left Smith so psychologically distraught that he contemplated suicide several times, according to news and medical reports. Smith has asked Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to overturn an order that he be medically discharged from service. Each of these powerful stories made national headlines.

What was even more startling, in the case of military assaults, was the callous level of indifference and dismissive attitudes directed to the majority of military victims of such sadistic sexual violations. In fact, in a number for cases, it seemed to be an environment where "blaming the victims" and "exonerating the perpetrators" was the rule of law. On the contrary, Mr. Malone's death caused the Amherst College community to erupt, resulted in widespread discussion on the campus and once again bought the issue of male rape and sexual assault to the forefront of national debate.

As these situations indicate, sexual assault is not the sole domain of women or confined exclusively to women. A number of men have also been victimized and violated as well.

These horrific cases have focused an even larger spotlight on the issue of male rape and sexual assault. The fact is that male rape and sexual assault is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, it is a relatively well-known fact of institutional life. What is lesser know is the fact that the majority of people (men and women) have tended to relegate the sexual violation of men as a deviant sort of activity that takes place behind prison walls or tend to be aberrations that happen so infrequently as to be miniscule. Indeed, for some people, the idea of male rape is so difficult to imagine or comprehend that it has been branded as an oxymoron in their minds. These are the people who see such a vice as "outlandish."

There are number of reasons for such retrograde and draconian attitudes. One being is the fact that a number of people of both genders have personified an image of men and masculinity as one that is strong, rugged and confident and in many ways, impervious. Thus based on these supposed factors, it is incomprehensible that any individual of the male gender could be the victim of any form of sexual violation. Moreover, if he is, there is some degree of abnormality or deviancy involved in the situation. He is often seen as a freak of nature, deviant, possibly or probably bisexual or homosexual, sexually perverted or is a retrograde aberration in one manner or another. The cold, hard reality is that rape and sexual assault is that for many perpetrators of rape and sexual assault, it is about humiliation and power.

The most common psychological factors that can affect victims are:

• Sense of self and concept of "reality" are disrupted
• Profound anxiety, depression, fearfulness
• Concern about sexual orientation
• Development of Phobia
• Fear of the worst happening and the sense of having a shortened future
• Withdrawal from interpersonal contact and a heightened sense of alienation
• Problems sleeping, being constantly startled, unable to relax
• Male heterosexual victims may fear that such an assault will make them gay
• Gay male victims may often see such an assault is "punishment" for their sexual orientation

Just to list a few of the traumatic responses that can occur.

In fact, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) many men are often reluctant to report such assaults due to the fear of such public judgment like the aforementioned examples and the fact that their stores will be greeted with ample levels of disbelief and possibly ridicule. It is a tormenting situation to have to endure. Thus, as a result, many men, rather than speak out, often decide to suffer in silence.

The grim facts are that male rape/sexual assault (like female sexual assault) is a social evil that causes untold amounts of psychological issues -- anger, depression, suicidal attempts and thoughts, mental breakdowns, panic attacks and other mental health issues that can traumatize, affect and in some cases, damage its victims for life. Such an act of sexual terrorism must be combated with unrelenting force and those who engage in such sadistic and wicked disregard for the dignity and humanity of others must be must be held accountable and severely punished.

NOTE: For men who have been the victims of rape and sexual assault and wish to seek help, they can contact RAINN at either (202) -544-1034 or 1(800)-656-HOPE (4673) or by e-mail at info@rainn.org

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this blog post erroneously stated that Trent Smith attempted suicide several times and has been discharged from the Air Force. In fact, Smith merely contemplated suicide several times, and though there is a motion to have him medically discharged, he is appealing it. This post has been updated accordingly.