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Ask Dr. Helen: Can a Man Be Raped by a Woman?

Of course he can, and believe it or not, it happens more often than we think.

by
Helen Smith

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June 30, 2008 - 12:06 am
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Because many people mistakenly think rape only happens to women — men and boys who are coerced into sex or abused by women are just having a good time or laughed at. Their reports are not taken seriously. John Althouse Cohen discusses male rape and abuse in a recent post on the disadvantages of being male:

Not all rape victims are women. They can be men or women. It’s well-known that this often happens to men in prison. Of course, this is usually just laughed at (as is female-against-male domestic violence) because — to add one more item to the list — society is more concerned about “protecting” women than men (which follows logically from the belief that women are weak).

By definition, we can’t know about all the unreported rapes. But which gender do you think would be more hesitant to report it out of shame or a need to always appear tough?

Yes, men often do not report abuse by women or even other men. However, even the ones who do report get turned away or no legal consequences follow for the perpetrator, so why bother? And studies often show only a small number of female perpetrators — thus giving the impression that male rape or abuse by women is unheard of. But this does not mean that sexual abuse of males by females is not happening — even the PC American Bar Association admits on its website on domestic violence that 7.6% of men were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or dating partner/acquaintance. But this pales in comparison to the extent of the problem when it comes to self-reports. According to the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence in Canada:

Self-report studies provide a very different view of sexual abuse perpetration and substantially increase the number of female perpetrators. In a retrospective study of male victims, 60% reported being abused by females (Johnson and Shrier, 1987). The same rate was found in a sample of college students (Fritz et al., l 981). In other studies of male university and college students, rates of female perpetration were found at levels as high as 72% to 82% (Fromuth and Burkhart, 1987, 1989; Seidner and Calhoun, 1984). Bell et al. (1981) found that 27% of males were abused by females. In some of these types of studies, females represent as much as 50% of sexual abusers (Risin and Koss, 1987). Knopp and Lackey (1987) found that 51% of victims of female sexual abusers were male. It is evident that case report and self-report studies yield very different types of data about prevalence. These extraordinary differences tell us we need to start questioning all of our assumptions about perpetrators and victims of child maltreatment.

Rape is about power and power can be used by men against women, but it can also be used by women against men as in Mike’s example. Yes, men are on average stronger than women. However, victimizing others is often not about physical strength but about the will and desire to have power and dominate and/or manipulate others. This desire is a human trait, not just a male one. In addition, men are penalized with jail or worse if they use physical strength to hurt women. There is rarely any such penalty for women who use the legal system to blackmail or harm men.

Women have much more psychological and legal power against men in our society and blackmail is very easy, given the current legal and political climate. Women know that men and boys have no or little legal recourse against them and use this to their advantage to get what they want. If you don’t believe this, take a look at Crystal Gail Mangum who made false rape charges against the Duke students. Any jail time for her? Nope. Her reward for lying? She just finished her bachelors degree in “criminal psychology” of all things!

Our society shames men who are abused by women just as it shamed and blamed women many years ago who were abused by men. Neither strategy is a good one for a society that purports to promote justice and fairness. If one group can be discriminated against this way, who will be next? Our society owes more to the men and boys in our communities than letting them be blackmailed and harmed by predators — male or female. I say the first step is to actually prosecute women who are found to make false rape charges against men. This crime should be taken as seriously as rape itself for it can often do as much damage to a man’s reputation emotional well-being and his freedom if he is falsely put in jail.

Isn’t it time we stood up for the rights of boys and men just as we do for girls and women who are abused by those of the opposite gender? Is rape okay just because the victim is male?

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If you have a question you would like answered, please leave it below or email me at askdrhelen@hotmail.com. Your questions may be edited for length and clarity. Please note that your first name only or no name at all will be used to identify your question — if you want me to use your name, tell me; otherwise you will be referred to by your first name or as “a reader,” etc.

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Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.
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