More male victims of rape coming forward


A freshman basketball player at Ooltewah High School was severely injured after he was allegedly sodomized with a pool cue by three fellow players.

While this type of behavior may seem rare, experts said incidents of male sexual assault have been happening for decades.

While it’s difficult to cite a silver lining in any of the recent sexual assault reports, experts said providing actual language and opportunities to talk about the private, life-altering experiences may lead to public and pervasive changes.

“I made an agreement with myself at some point that I would take this to my grave,” said Karl Bolton, a rape survivor.

For more than 10 years, Bolton kept a secret that he had been raped by a boy a couple of years older than he.

“With perpetrators, it starts out with a pinch, starts out with a game, and leads to coercion, leads to assault,” Bolton said. “So these little things that we kind of go, whatever, boys will be boys.”

It was only when he went to rehabilitation years later and heard others share their experiences that his secret spilled out.

“This is the ultimate … assault against masculinity,” Bolton said.

“A heterosexual male being sexually assaulted can lead to internal questions and internal confusion about their own sexuality,” said Jessica Labenberg, an advocate with the Sexual Assault Center of Nashville.

Labenberg said that confusion complicates recovery for many men.

“The male physiological response to non-consensual sexual intercourse is identical to the male physiological response to consensual sex, which can be very confusing,” she said. “When internally, in your head, in your heart, you may be screaming, ‘no,’ you may be verbalizing, ‘no,’ but physiologically, your body may be responding the same way it does when you consent.”

While Labenberg said statistics don’t prove male rape is on the rise, awareness is.

“It’s hard to say to the extent to which it was going on before because it wasn’t being talked about,” Labenberg said. “It may not have been disclosed. Stories like this give language and terms. Instead of using terms like hazing, we’re saying sexual assault, we’re saying rape, because that’s what it is.

“Any time there is sexual contact, sexual intercourse without consent, it’s rape,” Labenberg added. “Plain and simple, it is rape.”

What can be done about it? Specialist Sharon Davis with the Sexual Assault Center of Nashville believes the male voice will play a key role.

“We know that only a small number of men rape. A very small number, less than 10 percent. So what are the other 90 percent doing when the other ones are acting out?” Davis said. “If they were willing to stand up, be accountable and hold their brothers accountable, then it definitely would be a support in our efforts to end sexual violence.”

Travis is about to launch the community program TennMen, or Tennessee Male Engagement Network, at the Sexual Assault Center of Nashville.

“I think this is the piece that has been missing way, way, way too long,” Bolton said. “There are so many people out there that are suffering needlessly, think they have to do this by themselves, that think they’re alone. One in six boys is sexually assaulted by age 16.”

Experts said everyone affects change by how they respond if someone comes forward.

“You can never say too many times, ‘I believe you, I support you and I know this is not your fault.’ You don’t need to go into any more detail than that. You just have to be that person in that moment believing them and supporting them,” Labenberg said.

“This is the stuff that’s been going on in locker rooms since the dawn of time, and the fact we’re starting to hear things percolate out into public knowledge means that there’s a change that’s dawning,” Bolton said.

Experts also said parents need to be explicit with their children and ask the question: “Has a coach, friend, teammate ever touched you in your private parts or made you do something you didn’t want to do?” Parents should then listen and provide support.

If you or someone you know needs help, the Crisis and Support Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-879-1999.

Copyright 2016 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Source: NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) Channel 4
More male victims of rape coming forward

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