Traditional attitudes towards the role of masculinity and antigay prejudices have diverted attention away from sexual violence between men. People and society have avoided dealing with this issue for too long. During the intervening time, many men who suffered from sexual abuse and rape have had to deal with their emotional pain alone.
Hall of fame professional boxer Sugar Ray Leonard recently publicized that he had been sexually abused during the early years of his boxing career by an Olympic coach. In 2011, Leonard revealed that he had managed to keep the abuse a secret from his friends, family, and the public for more than 35 years.
Since the incidents took place in the mid-1970s, Leonard claims that he battled with severe bouts of depression and emotional distress as a result of the abuse. His perception of public opinion on the subject of male sexual abuse caused him to suffer in silence. Through the entire time he was suffering, not once did he seek professional help.
Sexual assault of men is an issue that has not been scrutinized for many years. Research shows that as many as 10 percent of rape victims are men. Between the years of 1972 and 1991, social service agencies reported treating more than 3,600 male victims. Shockingly, more than half of those victims were treated in 1991 alone. These numbers, although shocking, provide hope that men are feeling more comfortable about seeking help. New Mexico saw a 10 percent increase in the number of male rape victims who seek help.
A study of the past sexual experiences of 1,480 men in 1987 revealed that 107 of them reported a least one incident of male-coerced sexual contact. Another study of 204 male university students reported that 34 percent of them had had at least one sexual contact of a coercive nature since the age of 16. This all proves that sexual assault against men is more frequent that most people realize.
Male rape has remained hidden from the public consciousness for too long. A book by Michael Scare highlights the issue of male rape. In the book he attempts to alleviate the stigma surrounding the issue and sheds light on a topic that has been in the dark for a long time. Scare acknowledges that men in general are at risk of sexual abuse, but he focuses the book's attention on adult males raping other adult males.
Male rape is a violent offense, and he uses empirical data from the testimony of survivors to discredit the notion that links male rape to homosexuality. Scare demonstrates through survivor interviews that sexual violence towards men is not an upsurge of homosexual violence. A large majority of the survivors considered themselves and their aggressors as heterosexual. The study was performed without using data from prisons settings where male rape is a common occurrence.
The rape survivors' accounts are the most chilling part of the story. Four accounts of rape are documented. The author himself documents his own story as he was the victim of a homosexual attack in his dorm room in college. Because he felt intimidated and was worried about anti-gay prejudice he did not call for help even though he could have alerted his neighbors.
The second story was of a young man who was assaulted on his way from the health club to his parked car. In the third story a business student who was engaged to be married tells of his rape while peacefully enjoying time in the forest. He expressed his distress at the indifferent treatment of the paramedics at the scene, the humiliation of the rape examination, and the police questioning.
Fourthly, a college student and outspoken supporter of women, was attacked by three men. The assailants repeatedly asked the victim during the assault about how he could protect women from aggressive men if he could not even protect himself. These disturbing accounts of male rape show that everyone must be alert and educated on the subject of male rape if we want to prevent further assaults in the future.
The purpose of Scare's book is a concerted effort to change the public image of male sexual assault so it can better be prevented and understood. Some of the strategies introduced inform people about the frequency of male rape, creating support groups, and providing emotional and psychological support for male victims. Scare also turns his attention to the law. He suggests changing legislation of existing sodomy laws and making laws related to rape neutral regardless of gender.