Your male friend tells you that he had an unwanted sexual experience when he was younger with someone he looked up to. He questions if it was sexual assault because he was sexually aroused during the interaction. what do you do?
Some possible options (depending on your comfort and his openness to further discussion) include:
- Offer encouragement for his willingness to consider a challenging question.
- Listen neutrally. Avoid defining what happened for him.
- Explore whether he feels there was a power imbalance in the relationship. Who has the power?
- Offer to help him find resources to learn more about unwanted and abusive sexual experience for males. It might be difficult, but it might put his mind at ease to know he’s not alone.
- Do a safety check. See if he has healthy strategies to manage negative feelings when he starts thinking about his experience. If not, help him find a hotline or local crisis service should he start to feel overwhelmed.
Some things to know…
We hear things about sexual assault growing up, which we might believe without even thinking about it, but which aren’t true and can be harmful. Here are some facts to set the record straight.
- Sexual assault can happen to anyone of any age, gender, or sexual orientation.
- Strength has nothing to do with avoiding or escaping sexual assault.
- Many men who experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault may be confused and wonder what this means. These are normal physiological responses that are outside of your control and do not in any way imply that you wanted, invited, or enjoyed the assault.
- Boys and men who experience sexual assault experience many of the same effects as girls or women who experience assault, sometimes with added challenges because of social attitudes and stereotypes about men and masculinity.
- There is no link between sexual orientation and sexual assault. Assault is unwanted sexual contact. Whether a boy is gay, straight, bisexual, or pansexual, sexual assault is not the cause or the result of his sexual orientation.
- People who sexually assault boys and men might by straight or gay, male or female. Sexual assault is harmful and unwanted, whatever the gender of the person.
For any man harmed by unwanted or abusive sexual experiences – and anyone who wants to support him:
- Thank them for trusting you with their experience.
- Continue to reassure and support them. Many men harmed by unwanted or abusive sexual experiences don’t get the recognition and help that they deserve.
- Remind them, it is never the fault of the victim in a sexual assault.
Sexual Assault Hotline: 1800-656-4673