What's needed

By now it should be clear: male survivors of sexual assault are nearly invisible, and services for them are largely absent, if not hostile. There is so much that needs to be done to change this, everything that each of us can do will make a difference. What follows is a short list of some things that can be done.

  1. Over the next week or month, keep count of how many times rape or sexual assault are mentioned in the media. And count how many times - if at all - men are mentioned as victims or survivors.
  2. Read a book written by or for gay men.
  3. Read a book written by or for male survivors.
  4. Provide survivors with a choice of male or female counselors, physicians, and other support personnel. Nearly all rape crisis resources have only female volunteers and counselors.
  5. In providing support, mirror the survivor’s language. In particular, don’t be quick to frame his experience as “assault,” “rape,” “domestic violence” and so on.
  6. It's important to tell the survivor that he is not the only one, that this also happens to other men. You may be the only person from whom he will hear this.
  7. Don't presume the sexual orientation or marital status of a survivor or perpetrator. Use gender-neutral language, for example "Do you have a regular partner?" instead of "Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?"
  8. Challenge the presumption that only women can be raped and sexually assaulted.
  9. Challenge the omission of male survivors when rape and sexual assault are discussed, when men are discussed only as offenders, or only in the context of their "responsibility" for rape and sexual assault.
  10. Contact local lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) organizations. Ask for educational materials. Exchange information. Exchange speakers. Start a dialogue.
  11. Cross-training among service, support and policy organizations is essential. LGBT organizations need to learn about domestic violence in lesbian and relationships. Rape crisis centers need to learn about anti-gay hate crimes and pick-up crimes. Domestic violence services need to learn about lesbian and gay relationships. Working together, they can educate each other.
  12. Support/initiate gender-neutralization legislative efforts.
  13. Support/initiate legislative efforts to establish equal protections for lesbians and gay men in their workplaces, communities, homes, relationships and families.
  14. Fight heterosexism in its every guise.
  15. Come out.
  16. Ask the men your group serves: What made it difficult for you to contact us? How were you treated? What assumptions did you encounter? What worked for you? What didn't work for you? What can we do better? What didn't we do for you?

Finally, think of something that's not on this list, and do it. And if you do, please let me know!

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