Male Sexual Assault Research Inadequate, Study Claims
The intent of the study is to show that depression caused by sexual assault is understudied and underreported in adult men.
Early findings from a new sexual assault study released on Monday indicate little to no research has been conducted on how sexual assaults affects men, particularly non-incarcerated adults.
The intent of the study conducted by researchers at Florida Atlantic University and Sam Houston State University is to show that depression caused by sexual assault is understudied and underreported in adult men while studies surrounding the emotional effects on adult women are abundant.
“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,” said the study’s spearhead, Lisa M. Dario, Ph.D., assistant professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at FAU.
The researchers obtained a sample of 5,922 men and 5,938 women from the National Violence Against Women Survey’s database to conduct the study.
The study also intended to debunk the theory that men who are sexually assaulted are more likely to respond with anger or engaging in criminal activity while women are more likely to respond with depression or self-destructive behavior.
The theory in question, known as The General Strain Theory, was published in the Women & Criminal Justice journal. Its aim is to explain deviant behavior caused by behavioral, emotional, or cognitive adaptations to negative life events – such as sexual assault.
The General Strain Theory also suggests that women are more likely to blame themselves or feel guilt and shame while men are more likely to blame others when negative life events occur.
“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,” said 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.”
The researchers suggest that men may even be more likely to experience depression following a sexual assault since they have such few outlets and resources which lead to suppressing emotions.
The 2013 National Crime Victimization Survey found that 38 percent of rape and sexual assaults were against men.
Dario hopes that findings from the study will help to create sexual assault support programs for men and to eliminate the stigma that comes with reporting or discussing sexual assaults among men, especially those in the military who are even less likely to report a sexual assault.
“If left untreated, sexual assault victims may look for other outlets to process their emotions; untreated depression may lead to negative coping mechanisms, like drug use,” said Dario. “We do know that people who experience strains, like sex assault, are more likely to use illicit drugs, and we certainly need to be mindful of halting an already nationwide epidemic of opioid and other drug misuse.”