Sexual assault studies found to hold long-standing bias against men, say researchers

Men also make up around 38 percent of sexual assault and rape incidents reported in the US, according to the biannual National Crime Victimisation Survey: Rex
Men also make up around 38 percent of sexual assault and rape incidents reported in the US, according to the biannual National Crime Victimisation Survey: Rex

The issue of sexual assault is rightly gaining more attention from scientific institutions, but according to new research the impact on men has been largely overlooked.

Studying 11,860 adults in the US, with 5,922 men and 5,938 women, researchers say they have attempted to test the widely held theory that "men are more likely to respond to sexual assault with anger and by engaging in criminal activity, while women are more likely to respond with depression and sadness."

According to researchers at Florida Atlantic University and Sam Houston State University, there is a long standing bias against men in sexual assault research which they say has neglected the similar traumatising emotional impacts for men.

Criminology Professor Lisa Dario led the study which aimed to test whether sexual assault and its consequences are underreported and understudied in men.

"When we began this study, we thought for sure that we would find that females who were sexually assaulted would exhibit higher depression scores than males who were sexually assaulted," says Professor Dario.

"I think this is probably because of antiquated ideas that men and women experience emotions differently. What we actually discovered, much to our surprise, is that sexual assault is traumatic regardless of gender,” she adds.

In 1997, men represented between 5 and 10 percent of all reported rapes received in crisis centres, hospitals and emergency rooms in the US.

While women have been the focus of previous studies into links between sexual assault and mental health impacts such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, male victims of sexual assault were also shown to have higher depression levels in the research.

The data was obtained from the National Violence Against Women Survey and defined sexual assault as unwanted sexual contact.

Men also make up around 38 percent of sexual assault and rape incidents reported in the US, according to the biannual National Crime Victimisation Survey.

"There is no room for 'sexism' in sexual assault research and we must bring attention to an issue that impacts men equally, especially if we know that their negative emotional responses are treatable," says Professor Dario.

"If left untreated, sexual assault victims may look for other outlets to process their emotions; untreated depression may lead to negative coping mechanisms,” she adds.

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