No gender bias for rape victims

[Editor’s note: This story is the fourth part of the multi-part series “Violated,” examining the horrors of sexual sexual asssault that begins with Issue #1 and concludes in Issue #6. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs, and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.]

by SARA MARSHALL//Editor-in-Chief

Sexual assault only happens to young, helpless women, or so our society believes.

The image we, as a community, hold in our minds for sexual assault victims tends to sway toward a battered and broken young woman. When the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s statistics prove 91 percent of rape victims are female and the rapists are usually male, this image seems justifiable.

But the other 9 percent matters just as much, despite being just a fraction of the whole.

According to the NSVRC, nearly one in 71 men will be raped, at least once in their lifetime. If this is due to men being much less likely to be raped or if it is due to the number of unreported assaults, no one really knows.

According to RAINN [a national sexual assault survivor support organization] college-age men are the ones most at risk for being sexually assaulted. Men around the ages of 18 to 24 who are actively attending college have a five times greater risk than those of the same age not attending college. The fact that one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college is astounding and seriously awful.

Rape is already the most under-reported crime in the world. But when men who have been sexually assaulted are faced with the stereotype of an assault victim being this fragile young girl, they are even more unlikely to report their assault.

Our society seems to hold men up to a different standard than women.  We expect men to be strong, to be above being a victim. We don’t want to see our protectors, our fathers or our brothers and friends, to be broken, hurt and victimized. But the stark reality is that rape does not just happen to women of the world, but men as well.

This isn’t just a theory. This isn’t just a rant about gender equality in victimization.

At only 19 years old, James Landrith was sexually assaulted in 2013 after a heavy night of drinking. He woke up in a stranger’s bed with foggy memories. The night before, he remembered a woman he did not know asking to drop her off at a hotel and for him to join her so they “could sleep it off.” He not only was raped while completely intoxicated, but she again forced herself on him the morning after.

This is proof that avoiding rape isn’t about your gender, how strong or brave you think you may be, or even who your friends are. Sexual assault is the blatant disregard for a person’s choice. Sexual assault can happen to anyone and everyone.

So there it is. Women may be the most likely victims, but rape is nearly as likely to happen to men.

There’s no diagram for what a victim should look like. There’s no manual on how a victim should act. There is no model for a victim. There are no age limits, gender requirements or designated sexual preferences. Anyone can be a victim at any moment. A victim is a victim.

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