The Rape Myth and Blame-Based Beliefs of Counselors-in-Training toward Male Victims of Rape

By Kassing, Leslee R.; Prieto, Loreto R. | Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

The Rape Myth and Blame-Based Beliefs of Counselors-in-Training toward Male Victims of Rape


Kassing, Leslee R., Prieto, Loreto R., Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD


The sexual assault of men is an important issue that has been underexamined in the counseling literature. Regarding the scope of the problem, the available research suggests that men constitute at least 5% to 10% of all sexual assault victims (Coxell & King, 1996; Forman, 1983; Pino & Meier, 1999). Isely and Gehrenbeck-Shim (1997) found that a group of 172 social service agencies across the United States reported seeing more than 3,600 male sexual assault victims between the years 1972 and 1991, with nearly half of these victims being seen in 1991 alone. Kaufman, Divasto, Jackson, Voorhees, and Christy (1980) reported up to a 10% increase in the number of male victims seeking help in a medical center in New Mexico within a 3-year period. Sorenson, Stein, Siegel, Golding, and Burnam (1987) found that 107 out of 1,480 men interviewed about their past sexual experience (approximately 7%) had experienced at least one incident of a forced or coerced sexual contact as an adult. Struckman-Johnson (1991) found that 34% of a sample of 204 male university students reported having experienced at least one coercive sexual situation since the age of 16. These figures stand in sharp contrast to the typical misperception of many laypersons that sexual assault against men typically occurs only in prison or other institutional settings (Donnelly & Kenyon, 1996) and underscore the fact that sexual assault against men likely occurs with a greater frequency than most people realize.

Male rape victims may underreport or fail to report assaults for a variety of reasons including fear of being disbelieved, gender role expectations, lack of available treatment, and sexual identity confusion (Donnelly & Kenyon, 1996; Groth & Burgess, 1980; King, 1992; Mezey & King, 1989). This is an unfortunate state of affairs given that male rape victims have been found to experience difficulties related to sexual assault that are very similar to those experienced by sexually assaulted women, including the occurrence of posttraumatic stress disorder (Rogers, 1997). Male rape victims may feel an increased sense of vulnerability and anger or irritability, confusion over their sexual orientation, a loss of self-respect, emotional distance from others, sexual dysfunction, and rape-related phobia (Mezey & King, 1989). Male rape victims also have a higher likelihood of sustaining more physical injuries in an assault, are often victimized by more than one assailant, and tend to seek medical attention for secondary injuries without reporting the rape (Isely & Gehrenbeck-Shim, 1997; Kaufman et al., 1980).

Similar to their female counterparts, when male victims of rape do report assaults, they may encounter "blame the victim" types of attitudes and people who subscribe to various myths surrounding rape. Rape myths have been defined as prejudicial, stereotyped, or false beliefs about rape, rape victims, or rapists, and acceptance of rape myths is associated with such factors as gender role stereotyping, sexual conservatism, and an acceptance of interpersonal violence (Burr, 1980, 1991). Greater acceptance of rape myths has also been associated with a greater willingness to attribute blame to a victim of sexual assault (Kopper, 1996). Investigators (cf. Gilmartin-Zena, 1988) have also found sex differences in the acceptance of rape myths and willingness to assign blame to the victim for a rape, with women significantly more likely to reject rape myths than are men and men being more willing to attribute blame to victims of sexual assault than are women (e.g., Cowan & Curtis, 1994; McCaul, Veltum, Boyechko, & Crawford, 1990; Schult & Schneider, 1991). Whatley and Riggio (1993) investigated the effect of sex on willingness to attribute blame to a male rape victim and found that men more than women tended to blame male rape victims. In addition to sex, the amount of physical resistance exerted by a sexual assault victim during a rape has also been shown to influence both the amount of blame people are willing to assign to the victim for the attack and the extent to which people view the assault as a crime (cf. …

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