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Sexual assault services: how male victims use resources

June 28, 1013

By Patricia Nicholson

Services for sexual assault survivors are often thought of as resources for women, and that’s not surprising given the numbers: the overwhelming majority of adult sexual assault victims are women, and the perpetrators are usually men.

But recent research sheds light on how male victims of sexual assault use those services, and it shows that these resources are also valuable to men.

A new study of adult male victims of sexual assault confirmed that men are a small minority – about four per cent – of sexual assault survivors using these resources. However, all of the male victims in the study used at least one service, and most used many services.

Although it’s increasingly recognized as an important issue, adult male sexual assault has remained notably underresearched, says lead study author Dr. Janice Du Mont, a scientist in the Violence and Health Research Program at Women’s College Research Institute.

“In particular, not much is known about their service utilization when they seek help,” she says. Her study, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, helps illuminate that.

Service use

The study included all adult and adolescent males ages 12 and over who sought assistance at 29 hospital-based sexual assault treatment centres in Ontario during the course of a year. A total of 38 male clients were included in the study.

All of the men and adolescents made use of at least one service, and 86 per cent of them used five or more different services.

Some of the most-used services included assessment and documentation of injuries, crisis counselling, and medical care and treatment, with about three-quarters of victims using each of those services. Seventy per cent requested prophylaxis for treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and about two-thirds received counselling regarding HIV post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). About half of the men underwent an anal/rectal exam for injuries, and a sexual assault evidence kit was administered in about half of cases.

More than one-third of victims underwent risk-assessment and safety planning to prevent revictimization. Three-quarters were referred for onsite followup care, and about half were referred to other community agencies for ongoing support.

“The services appear to be important and useful to the male survivors in the sense that most of them utilized one or more of them,” Dr. Du Mont says.


In almost all cases, male victims were assaulted by a male assailant. One victim was assaulted by a female, and two were assaulted by both male and female assailants. In most cases (73 per cent) the assailant was someone the victim knew. One-third of victims were physically injured during the assault.

A substantial proportion of the survivors belonged to groups that are at higher risk of sexual assault, including those who are Aboriginal, very young, transgender or have no social supports. “We found certain vulnerabilities such as unemployment, disability, working in the sex trade, living on the streets or in an institutional setting. Some of the men had been sexually assaulted in jail,” Dr. Du Mont says.

It’s well documented that sexual assault of women is vastly underreported, and it’s believed that men may be even less likely to report sexual assault. Factors that can make people less likely to report the assault – such as stigmatization, self-blame and shame – may be even more common among male victims than female victims.

“The ramifications and psychological consequences of sexual assault can be really significant for men,” Dr. Du Mont says. “Providing services to them is essential.”

That’s one of the reasons, Sheila Macdonald, provincial coordinator of the Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres and co-author of this study, says “why outreach is so important: so that men know they can come forward and that help is available.” The study results indicate that men will use these resources if they have access to them, but many men may not know about these services.

The Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres provides services to women, men, adolescents, and children who have been sexually assaulted. For more information about the centres, their services and their locations, please click here.

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital