Male Survivors of Sexual Violence and Abuse

CASSVA Counselling

Counselling Adult Survivors of Sexual Violence and Abuse (CASSVA) is a counselling service for anyone over 18, living in Sunderland, who has experienced Sexual Violence.

This experience can have happened at any time in your life, including as a child.

Please see our facts and information section to find out more about sexual violence and whether counselling is right for you.

How to Refer

To make a referral or to speak with someone for more information, please call 0191 5147007.

You can also email office@sunderlandcounselling.org.uk or complete this online form.

You will be offered an appointment to speak with one our specially trained counsellors to discuss what support is available to you.

You can access this support, even if you have not disclosed to anyone else, including the police.

Reach Counselling

Reach is a counselling service for anyone aged 16 and over, living in Newcastle or Sunderland, who has experienced Sexual Violence in the last 12 months.

Please see our facts and information section to find out more about sexual violence and whether counselling is right for you.

You can access this support, even if you have not disclosed to anyone else, including the police.

How to Refer

If you’d like to make a self-referral, you must contact your local Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) by calling 03333448283 or through this website: www.reachsarc.org.uk. Here you can access counselling, and other support such as support through the court system or support from an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA)

If you are a professional and would like to make a referral on behalf of someone you are supporting. Please complete this referral form (download Reach referral form) and email it to office.reach@scs.cjsm.net

You will be offered an appointment to speak with one our specially trained counsellors to discuss what support is available to you.

In the year 2019/2020, 10% of our 576 referrals to our specialist sexual violence counselling services were for male survivors.

From 2017 to 2019, we provided counselling for 89 men across Northumbria Police Force area as part of funding we received from the Ministry of Justice.

The following data is from the latest statistics compiled by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and is for the year ending March 2017.

This data is gathered from the Crime Survey for England and Wales and also from all sexual crimes recorded by the police.

Sexual assaults experienced since the age of 16

In their lifetime, 4% of men in England and Wales have experienced some type of sexual assault (including attempts) since the age of 16, this is around 631,000 male victims.

In the year 2016/2017

  • 138,000 men aged 16 to 59 reported a sexual assault (including attempts) to police, or in the crime survey.
  • Around 7900 men aged 16 to 59 reported rape or sexual assault by penetration
  • Around 126,200 men aged 16 to 59 reported unwanted sexual touching or indecent exposure
  • Around 90 per cent of victims of the most serious sexual offences in the previous year knew the perpetrator, 45% of which were a partner or ex-partner

Sexual assault experienced before the age of 16

According to Information from the Home Office Data Hub, ‘Males aged 5 to 19 were also disproportionately more likely to be victims of sexual offences. For example, while 6% of the male population were aged 10 to 14, this age group accounted for 30% of police recorded sexual offences where the victim was male’

Combining results from Crime Survey in 2015, 2016 and 2017, data found:

  • For 39% of male victims of rape or assault by penetration (including attempts), this was by a partner or ex-partner
  • For 13% of men victims of rape or assault by penetration (including attempts), this was by a family member
  • For 15% of male victims of indecent exposure or unwanted touching, this was by a partner or ex-partner
  • For 5% of male victims experienced indecent exposure or unwanted touching, this was by a family member

Significant ONS data from other years:

Data from 2013 showed:

  • 1 in 10 boys (under 16) experience some form of childhood sexual abuse and 72% do not tell anyone at the time of the abuse

Data from 2016 showed:

3.8% of men who experienced CSA went on to become a victim of sexual violence in adult hood

It is important to remember that these figures may be higher in reality, as so many people do not report sexual violence to the police and would not feel comfortable sharing this information in the crime survey.

The full report can be found here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/sexualoffencesinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2017

Myths about sexual violence against men are very harmful and damaging. These myths can be absorbed by everyone in society, even without realising. Myths that people believe are true lead to negative stereotypes, persecution and re-victimisation. Anyone can be influenced by these myths, including society, victims themselves and even the legal system.

Below we have fact checked some of the most common myths about male experiences of sexual violence:

Myth: Men and boys can’t experience sexual violence

Fact: Yes, they can. Sexual violence can happen to anyone, no matter your gender, race, class, sexual orientation, strength or appearance.

Myth: Being a man means you should be able to protect yourself from sexual violence

Fact: Often, fighting back can put you in more danger of physical harm. Even if you think you would fight back, you often do not have control over how your body and brain will respond to a physical attack. Please see our section ‘What happens to my brain and body if I experience Sexual Violence? (link). Not all sexual violence involves physical threat. Some sexual violence occurs due to coercion or threat in non-physical ways.

Myth: If a boy is sexually assaulted by an older person, he is ‘lucky’ and should welcome the attention

Fact: If you are under the age of consent, any sexual activity with an older person would be illegal. An older person could be a teacher, religious leader, babysitter, neighbour, friend of the family or family member. Often in these circumstances there is coercion, grooming or manipulation and the impact of this experience can be immediate, or longer term.

There are usually differences in power, which can mean consent is not freely given. Society can re-enforce a stereotype that boys are lucky to experience sexual contact with an older person, no matter the circumstances, and this can make it hard to disclose what has happened to you, but your feelings are valid. This experience could feel confusing, especially if you trusted or admired the person.

Myth: Men cannot be sexually abused by women

Fact: According to the law, the crime of rape can only be committed by a male as it requires penetration specifically by a penis, however any other form of sexual violence can be committed by a woman. Women can, and do, sexually abuse men.

Myth: Erection or ejaculation during sexual violence means that you gave consent, or that you liked it or wanted it

Fact: During a sexual assault, you do not have control over your body. Erections and ejaculation are physical responses that can result from any kind of sexual stimulation, physical contact or in times of stress. It is common for this to happen to males during unwanted sexual contact and does not mean that you liked it, wanted it or consented to it. It also does not mean anything about your sexual orientation.

Some perpetrators of sexual violence are aware of how the body can response and will use this to confuse or manipulate you. It can increase their control and stop you from disclosing your experiences.

Myth: If I was drinking or taking drugs, it was my fault.

Fact: Nothing you do entitles another person to assault you.  If you experience sexual violence whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it does not mean it is your fault. The Sexual Offences Act, 2003, states that in order to give consent, you must have the ‘capacity’ to do so. Anyone who is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol cannot give consent.

It is possible to give consent when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, your capacity to consent can reduce with each drink and whether you are incapacitated depends on your ability can make an informed decision, free from threat or intimidation. If you felt too drunk to say no and someone did something to you anyway, that is sexual assault.

If the person who is giving you drugs or alcohol is doing so in order to lower your ability to say no to sexual activity, this can also be sexual exploitation.

Myth: Only gay men and boys are sexually abused.

Fact: Sexual Violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, strength or appearance. Sexual violence has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

Myth: If a male experiences sexual violence by a male perpetrator, this makes him gay

Fact: Sexual violence has nothing to do with sexual orientation and sexual violence cannot make someone change sexual orientation. This myth can be damaging as it can cause confusion and fear.

Myth: Men shouldn’t be impacted by Sexual Violence and should be able to ‘tough it out’

Fact: The long-term impacts of sexual violence can affect anyone, regardless of gender. Some men experience societal expectations that they should be able to tough it out. The reality is that everyone will react in their own way. Being 'tough' or having 'strength' has nothing to do with how you will feel after experiencing sexual violence. Some experiences are so overwhelming that it is hard to overcome them without support.

Myth: Being sexually abused will make you an abuser.

Fact: It is not true that if you have experienced sexual violence, you will become an abuser. This myth is dangerous as it means that men who have been sexually abused can be perceived as perpetrators. The fear of becoming an abuser can have a lasting impact and lead you to feel there is something wrong with you or that you are a danger to children.

Myth: A man cannot be raped or sexually assaulted by his partner.

Fact: According to a 2013 joint overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales, by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Home Office, approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence, which means you are more likely to be assaulted by a partner than a stranger.

It is very difficult when someone you know breaks your trust and can leave you feeling angry, hurt and scared. It is important to remember that even if you know the person, any sexual contact without your consent is still assault.

Myth: It won’t happen to me.

Fact: Sexual Violence can happen to anyone.

Myth:  Men who sell sexual services cannot be sexually assaulted or raped.

Fact: Under the law, consent is required for every sexual act. If a man has agreed to sex or a sexual act, either for money, survival or payment in kind, he has the right to withdraw consent at any time. If consent is not freely given, this can be considered sexual assault.

Sexual violence will have a different impact on everyone. It can lead you to feel differently about yourself, others and the world, leaving you feeling unsafe in the world and in your relationships with others.

Common Feelings and Emotions

Anxiety – There are lots of types of anxiety that can result from experiences of sexual violence. These are: Social Anxiety, Health Anxiety, Generalised Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Phobias and OCD.

Fear can be helpful as it can alert you to danger in your environment. However, anxiety occurs when you feel that fear without an obvious danger present. After experiencing sexual violence, your environment and world can be a scary place and different types of anxiety can occur. Sometimes this is because feelings are pushed down at the time of abuse.

  • Men can be less likely to identify that they are experiencing anxiety, sometimes it is named as ‘stress’
  • Men can struggle to connect the physical sensations of anxiety with their experience of sexual violence
  • Men can often minimize how bad it feels and try to ‘tough it out’ without help and support.
  • Men often only seek help when things have become more severe

Depression – Low mood or depression can be a common issue after surviving sexual violence. It might feel like the pain will never stop, or that you are ‘going through the motions of life’ but not really living, you might find yourself crying a lot, or experience trouble crying.

  • Men can be less likely to identify that they are experiencing depression, instead they may feel unmotivated or like a failure
  • Men can struggle to connect the physical sensations of depression with their experience of sexual violence
  • Men can often minimize how bad it feels and try to ‘tough it out’ without help and support.
  • Men often only seek help when things have become more severe

 

Anger or Rage – Anger is a common response to experiences of sexual violence. Experiences of assault, injustice, humiliation and betrayal can lead to feelings of anger or rage. The anger can come out externally in physical action, hurting others or shouting. Or it can stay internal and bubble away inside, leading to passive aggressive behaviour towards others, or hurting yourself and self-loathing. After experiencing sexual violence, it is common to have a desire to hurt the person who attacked you, or feeling angry at the world, or at others who you feel have let you down

  • Anger is often considered a ‘male’ emotion, and physical aggression can be normalized for men. This can lead to men accepting a level of anger that is harmful to them and others.
  • Men who experience anger may not seek help as they may feel it makes them a bad person, or because it is so ‘normal’ to them that they have a feeling of hopelessness that things can change.

Fear – Fear can be a thought or a physical sensation. Men experience a lot of fears surrounding experiences of sexual violence. Some of these are:

  • Men can fear that their sexuality will be questioned
  • Men can fear that they will be considered less of a man
  • Men can fear that they will not be believed
  • Men can fear they will be rejected by loved ones, or blamed for what has happened
  • Men can fear that sexual violence will make them an abuser

It is important to remember that these fears can be rooted in real experiences as men can experience higher levels of stigma around sexual violence. Myths about male experiences of sexual violence can contribute to these fears and are dangerous as they can stop men disclosing what has happened or asking for help

Guilt – Many people think that guilt and shame are the same thing, but this is not true.

Guilt is feeling ‘I did something bad’

Shame is feeling ‘I am something bad’

Guilt often results from your conscience when you feel you have behaved in a way that you are not happy with. Shame is a powerful, deep emotion that is rooted in self-worth.

After experiencing sexual violence, people can experience feelings of guilt. This can be because you think that if you had done something differently with your behaviour or decision making, the sexual violence would never have happened. This guilt is common experience, but it is not true. If you experience sexual violence it is never your fault.

Survivors of sexual violence sometimes find guilt painful but helpful. The reason for this is because if you have survived sexual violence and you believe you could have stopped it somehow by making different choices or changing your behaviour, you still feel like you have control and this can be helpful. If, as a survivor, you accept that you could not have done anything differently, it can make you feel more helpless and the world feel even more terrifying. The brain is often walking a line between feeling helpless or guilty, both of which are difficult feelings to experience.

Shame – Shame is a common feeling to experience because often experiences of sexual violence contain elements of shame. This can be through embarrassing, shaming, humiliating or degrading experiences of sexual violence.

  • Shame can keep men silent about their experiences
  • For men, shame can be linked to myths in society about masculinity. For example, beliefs that ‘men cannot be victims’ or that ‘men should not feel fear or sadness’

Low self-esteem or Self Worth – When someone has made you feel worthless, by committing acts of sexual violence against you, degraded you or treated you as less than human, it can have a lasting effect on how you feel about yourself. Ongoing abuse or sexual violence usually contains manipulation and emotional abuse by the perpetrator, and you may have been told you are worthless and unlovable as part of the abuse. It is also common to feel that you are in some way to blame for what has happened or that you deserved what happened because you are a bad person or that there is something wrong with you

  • Often myths in society can suggest then men are violent or sexually aggressive by nature, this is not true
  • Men are three times more likely to complete suicide than women, this can often be linked to feelings of low self-worth

Grief and Loss – Many people feel grief and loss after an experience of sexual violence. People can feel that they grieve for the life they used to live, or the person they were before the sexual violence. People may feel they have lost their ability to feel joy or happiness and can grief for the time before

  • Men can struggle to connect the feelings of grief and loss with their experience of sexual violence
  • Men can often minimize how bad it feels and try to ‘tough it out’ without help and support.
  • Men often only seek help when things have become more severe

 

Helplessness – Sexual Violence can lead to feelings of powerlessness and helplessness as it is an experience where a person’s control over their choices and their body is taken away.

  • Society can see men as ‘providers’ and that they should remain in power and control, because of this, feelings of helplessness can make many men feel like less of a ‘man’, or that they are a failure in society
  • This can create a lot of pressure for men to ‘take back control’ by becoming more focused on areas of their life that they can control. This could be through eating, exercise, cleaning and other ways. This can become very stressful and lead to disordered eating, body image issues, steroid use, obsessive self-cleaning, or OCD.

Post-Traumatic Stress – Sexual violence is a traumatic experience. This may result in symptoms of post traumatic stress, or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). More details about this can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/

 

More information about emotional responses to sexual violence can be found here (SV page link)

More information about ways to manage mental health and wellbeing can be found here (mental health wellbeing page link)

Common Experiences

Grooming – Men and boys who have experienced sexual violence, may also have experienced ‘grooming’. Grooming is a type of manipulation where the perpetrator gives love, affection, gifts and more in order to gain trust. This may be a way to confuse you so that you do not recognise you are being sexually abused, or to stop you from telling other people. Perpetrators can groom their victims, but they also groom the family and friends so that no one will question what is happening, or it can stop the survivor being believed if they do disclose.

Flashbacks - A flashback can make you feel like you are reliving the traumatic event again and what is in the past can feel like here and now reality. More information about flashbacks and how to manage them can be found here: (Link to SV page, flashbacks)

Substance Abuse Issues – Some men and boys find that they start to use substances more frequently to block out negative feelings or memories of their experiences of sexual violence. This can be temporary, or it can lead to substance abuse issues. You might start to use substances to feel good and might not always recognise the link to your experiences of sexual violence

Self Harm or Self Destructive Behaviours – Self harm can be a way of managing distressing emotions like the ones mentioned above, it can also be a way of hurting yourself because of self hatred, or it can be a way of gaining back control. Men who have experienced sexual violence are more likely to self harm. There are many reasons men will self harm and talking about them can help.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviours – Men are three times as likely to complete suicide, with men aged 45-49 years old most at risk. Studies show that Adverse Childhood Experiences, such as childhood sexual abuse, can lead to a higher risk of an early death or suicide. All the emotions mentioned above can lead men to feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. Please see our crisis page for more information if you are feeling this way. (link)

Sexual Dysfunction – After experiencing a sexual trauma, it can be difficult to enjoy sexual contact. You might find it is difficult to find sexual intimacy, maintain an erection or orgasm. This is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Although it might not feel like it now, with the right support, it is possible to have a healthy, happy sex life again.

Difficulties in relationships – Sexual Violence is a relational trauma. This means that one human hurts another human, usually after building a relationship of trust. This can make it very difficult to trust others in relationships. This can lead to issues around trust, sexual intimacy, emotional intimacy and sexual dysfunction. You may find yourself withdrawing from relationships and feeling more isolated. Managing healthy boundaries in relationships can be difficult. These might become too rigid as a way to protect yourself from others, or too flexible and find other people do not respect them.

If you live, work or study in Sunderland and want to talk to someone about any of the feelings or experiences above, counselling might be right for you. Please call us on 0191 5147007 or email office@sunderlandcousnelling.org.uk to talk to someone.

In their public statement about male experiences of sexual violence, the crown prosecution service (CPS) acknowledge that there are barriers to male victims reporting experiences of sexual violence to the police.

They state 'the way society dictates how individuals should behave, according to their gender, can result in abuse being trivialised, normalised and misunderstood. Many of the barriers are based on gender stereotypes of masculinity and femininity, sexist or homophobic assumptions'

 The list below is provided by the CPS and does not include all barriers and may not apply to all males.

  • Male victims may feel their masculinity will be diminished if they report domestic abuse by a woman
  • Male victims may feel their sexuality will be questioned if they report rape by a man
  • If they are young, they will be perceived as being initiated into sexual activity by a woman, rather than being recognised as a victim of child sexual abuse because societal norms suggest all males wish to be sexually active from a young age.

Other barriers to reporting, regardless of gender, can include:

  • Fear of not being believed
  • feelings of shame or guilt
  • the societal trivialisation of some abuse
  • hesitancy to report because of perpetrator’s mental health issues or their childhood abuse
  • immigration status
  • not recognising the situation as abusive
  • belief that such abuse is acceptable in some cultures
  • fear of losing contact with their children
  • threats by the perpetrator to harm family, pets or friends
  • not knowing who to report crimes to
  • fear of children being taken into care
  • recriminations from the wider community
  • pressure from family and friends to stay in their relationship

 

  • According to the Crown Prosecution Service in 2017, of the crimes reported to the police there are specific types, patterns or context of abuse for male victims that differ from female victims, such as:
  • In cases of child sexual abuse, boys are more likely to be abused by authority figures or people outside the family; whereas girls are more likely to face familial sexual abuse or by someone more closely known to them
  • The disclosure rates of abuse for boys of child sexual abuse peaks at age 13; whereas for girls is at age 16
  • Ridiculing of men’s masculinity plays a large role in many men fearing reporting abuse
  • Domestic abuse is under-reported by all victims, but with a lower proportion of men reporting it to the police than women
  • Larger numbers of men report sexual abuse after attending chemsex parties
  • In forced marriage and honour-based violence cases, male victims are often targeted when:
    • they individually are not complying with expected ‘masculinity’ behaviours
    • they are, or are thought to be, gay
    • the have a disability
    • are blamed for the behaviour of women, who are perceived as bringing shame to their family, culture or community

We are members of the Male Survivors Partnership. The Male Survivors Partnership is a group of organisations who work together to support boys and men affected by Sexual Violence at a local, regional and national level, as well as raise awareness in government of the needs of male survivors.

‘Members and the partnership itself is committed to ensuring that all males, regardless of legal gender status, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, class or other protected characteristic can access support; and adhere to the ethos of supporting organisations working with girls and women rather than negating them.’ MSP

We have made a commitment to follow the national ‘Quality Standards for Services Supporting Male Victims/Survivors of Sexual Violence’

We are working towards accreditation with the Male Survivors Partnership. This accreditation will be independently verified by LimeCultureCIC, the UK’s leading sexual violence training and development organization and will ensure the quality of our services for male survivors of sexual violence.

More information on The Male Survivors Partnership can be found here: https://www.malesurvivor.co.uk/

Other ways we ensure quality of service:

  • Whenever someone has had counselling with us, we ask them to complete a service evaluation form. Your counsellor will provide you with a copy of this which you can post in our anonymous feedback box in the waiting area, or this can be completed on our website here (link to evaluation form on website).
  • We used this evaluation form to continuously check the quality of our counselling and ensure it is working for everybody.
  • Through our Service User Forum. This forum is open to anyone who has had counselling. For more details email office@sunderlandcousnelling.org.uk

REACH Counselling

If you’d like to make a self-referral, you must contact your local Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) by calling 03333448283 or through this website: www.reachsarc.org.uk.

Useful Information and Local Support Services for Men and Boys who have experienced Sexual Violence

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National Male Survivor Helpline

Call: 0808 800 5005 or Text: 020 3322 1860

Mon, Wed, Fri: 9am – 5pm
Tues, Thurs: 8am- 8pm
Sat: 10am – 2pm

Survivors UK

Specialist Service for Male Survivors for resources and information: https://www.survivorsuk.org/

Victim Support have a helpline for male victims of sexual or domestic violence: 0800 328 3623

Survivors Library provides cultural resources, including books and films, about male sexual violence: https://www.survivorsmanchester.org.uk/breakthesilence/survivors-library/

Children's North East provide a specialised counselling service for young people aged between 11-25 years old, who have experienced sexual violence. They have locations in

  • Gateshead
  • Newcastle
  • Sunderland
  • South and West Northumberland
  • South Tyneside

https://www.children-ne.org.uk/young-victims-of-crime-support

Newcastle and Sunderland Sexual Assault Referral Centre

http://www.reachsarc.org.uk/

Victims First Northumbria provides

  • Support at court
  • Restorative Justice
  • Independent Sexual Violence Advocate
  • Helpline Support

https://victimsfirstnorthumbria.org.uk/

Crown Prosecution Service Public Statement on Male Survivors of Sexual Violence

Office of National Statistics: Sexual Violence in England and Wales 2017 Crime Survey

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/sexualoffencesinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2017 

Male Survivors Partnership: https://www.malesurvivor.co.uk/

ManKind: Helping Men Escape Domestic Abuse: https://www.mankind.org.uk/

  • Male Domestic Abuse Helpline: 01823 334244 (Weekdays 10am – 4pm)

 C.A.L.M – Campaign Against Living Miserably

https://www.thecalmzone.net/

Helpline 5pm – Midnight, every night - 0800 58 58 58