Sexual violence impacts many people, no matter age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Male-identified people who have been sexually assaulted or abused may have many similar feelings and reactions as other survivors of sexual assault, but they may also face additional challenges due to social stigma, stereotypes of men, and skewed definitions of masculinity. According to research, at least 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused in childhood and 1 out of every 4 males will experience some form of sexual trauma in their lives (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 2015). Cultural myths and stereotypes of men can create challenges and barriers to receiving treatment and support needed in healing. Here are some facts we want everyone to be aware of in supporting male-identified survivors:
People who identify as male can be sexually used or abused, and it has nothing to do with how masculine they are.
If a male-identified person became sexually aroused during the abuse, or even sometimes wanted the attention or sexual contact, this does not mean he wanted or liked being manipulated or abused, or that any part of what happened, in any way, was his responsibility or fault.
Sexual abuse and assault harms, regardless of sex, gender, or identity, the harms may be similar and different but are equally harmful.
Male-identified survivors who are abused as children can be sexually abused by anyone regardless of sex, gender, or identity. Sexual abuse is the result of abusive behavior that takes advantage of a child’s vulnerability and is in no way related to the gender identity of the abusive person.
Whether the male-identified survivor identifies as gay, bisexual, trans, etc. (LGBTQ+) a male-identified survivors' identity is neither the cause nor the result of sexual abuse. By focusing on the abusive nature of sexual abuse rather than the sexual aspects of the interaction, it becomes easier to understand that sexual abuse has nothing to do with sex, gender or identity.
Girls and women can sexually abuse or assault male-identified people. Male-identified survivors are not “lucky,” but exploited and harmed.
Most male-identified survivors who are sexually abused or assaulted will not go on to sexually abuse or assault others.
At the Rape Recovery Center, we have seen an increase in male-identified survivors seeking services over the past year. We strive to create a space that is welcoming and supportive to all survivors and their healing. We are excited to announce a new member of our clinical team, Derek Cragun, CSW. He will be joining Camie Oka, LCSW, one of our full-time therapists, as a co-facilitator for Men’s Process Group. This group is held on Tuesday nights from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. We interviewed Derek to get to know him and learn what brought him to the Rape Recovery Center.
Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself? We’d love to know more about your education, experience, and personal passions.
I started in the mental health field back in 2008 as a wilderness therapy field guide. Prior to that, I worked as a stone mason, but when the 2008 recession happened there was very little in the way of construction work. I thought maybe it would be fun to work with adolescents, so I took a job as a field guide. I really enjoyed that work, and have found a lot of inspiration in working experientially with folks and building relationships through shared experience. I decided to further my knowledge and went back to school at the University of Utah where I earned a Bachelors and a Masters in Social Work. I've continued to work primarily with adolescent and young adult clients, most of which are working to heal from some sort of trauma in their lives.
I currently live in Salt Lake City, with my partner and three dogs. I enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors doing things that are challenging and rewarding. I'm currently spending a lot of my spare time mountain biking and fly fishing. I also love learning and am always looking to further my knowledge and stay curious about the world around me.
What motivated you to join the Rape Recovery Center team?
The team at the Rape Recovery Center has a reputation for being some of the best around, especially in the treatment of trauma. I've had several mentors in my life that are affiliated with the RRC in different capacities, and I thought it could be a great opportunity for me to learn more from them while giving back to the community in a meaningful way.
What gives you hope as you approach this work?
I find this work to be incredibly hopeful, as I'm always amazed at folks' ability to go through the scary and challenging process of taking back the power they deserve in the world that has been taken away. People have the ability to heal and to re-embrace the parts of themselves that they've been forced to fragment in order to survive, and I feel grateful to be a companion through that process.
We know that this work is can be challenging. What is most important to you in taking care of yourself?
I keep a pretty rigid self-care plan in place and do my best to acknowledge where I'm actually at, versus where I wish I was at in terms of my mental and emotional hygiene. I try to show up for myself with compassion, and with an understanding that my best will look different every day. I try to take care of myself in small ways throughout the day, take myself out for coffee, take myself out on a bike ride, etc. Oh, and lots of time with my partner and my dogs doesn't hurt either.
Have you worked with male-identified survivors before?
I've worked with male-identified survivors in a few different settings. I've worked in outpatient care with male survivors, as well as residential treatment. I find that male-identified survivors are often a population that doesn't get the focus and attention that they need and deserve. I hope to help support an environment in which male-identified folks feel comfortable and welcomed while recognizing the barriers that exist in our culture surrounding gender constructs.
What are some considerations you'd like our readers to know about male survivors?
I think it is important to remember that male-identified survivors are unfortunately quite common. Sexual assault is certainly an issue that negatively impacts all intersecting identities, maleness included. Additionally, there are aspects of traditional masculinity constructs that can create or exacerbate barriers for male-identified survivors in seeking help.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the Male Process Group, or additional resources, services, and support at the Rape Recovery Center please contact us at 801-467-7282.
Below, you will find a list of resources we find helpful for male-identified survivors.
MenHealing: MenHealing is a 501c3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to providing healing resources for men age 18 and older who have experienced sexual trauma during childhood or as adults. MenHealing ensures the sustainability of the Weekend of Recovery program (WOR). WOR are weekend retreats for male identified survivors. Scholarships are available. For more information on dates please see this link.
1in6: The mission of 1in6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences live healthier, happier lives. Their mission also includes serving family members, friends, partners, and service providers by providing information and support resources on the web and in the community.
Male Survivor: Male Survivor has been a leader in the fight to improve the resources and support available to male survivors of all forms of sexual abuse in the US and around the globe. They are a community built upon a unique foundation of respect and mutual partnership between survivors themselves and the professionals who work with them.