“As difficult as it has been writing this, there’s a point–a perspective, mine and other men’s, that shouldn’t be silent,” Joseph Rogers writes in a new op-ed titled “Men are survivors of sexual assault too.”
“Statistics regarding male victims of sexual assault are scarce and inconsistent,” he writes. “Some will say that 10 percent of all victims of ‘sexual assault, sexual abuse and rape’ are male. Others will go higher and put the number at 38 percent of victims.”
Rogers blames the lack of consistent data on the stigma surrounding male sexual assault, and the belief that only women can truly be victims.
“There’s a belief that a man wasn’t strong enough to prevent the assault,” he writes. “Or that straight male victims might think that they will be perceived as gay. Or gay male victims may feel targeted because of their orientation.”
He continues: “Male sexual assault survivors experience similar psychological effects to those of their female counterparts. Depression, fear, anger, disbelief, guilt and doubt plague assault survivors of any gender identity.”
“It hurts,” he writes. “A lot.”
And he would know. Rogers himself was sexually assaulted on two separate occasions.
The first incident happened when he was just 9 years old. He was in a public shower when a teenager who worked for his family molested him. He didn’t tell anyone about the assault, instead quietly carrying it with him, letting it fester for more than a decade, until it happened again.
The second incident occurred just a few years ago. Rogers recalls being at a friend’s 21st birthday party and talking to another guy. The man handed him a drink and, Rogers says, “I have no memory until the morning.”
He woke up the next day “naked and disoriented” and “being licked by his big-ass Dalmatian while he [was] getting dressed.”
“It [was] the sexual comments about ‘last night’ that confirmed sexual activity,” Rogers writes. “And I didn’t find a condom wrapper anywhere.”
“I didn’t end up reporting these assaults,” he says. “When I was 9, there hadn’t been the conversation about child molestation or rape so who’d believe that I wasn’t making it up. As for the second one, I was frightened. I was dealing with self-doubt. I didn’t want to deal with the police. Would the responding officer mock me? Make inappropriate comments?”
It has taken some time, but Rogers says he’s finally found the bravery to share what happened to him.
“One of the greatest men I know once told me if I really wish to make a difference in the world I have to tell my story,” he says. “Not the public story I share with others in polite arenas — the real, personal one.”
Perhaps in doing so, Rogers hopes, he will help empower other male victims of sexual assault to stand up for themselves, too.