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What We Know About Sexual Assault of
Military Men

Sexual assault affects all members of the Army Family. It is not just a women’s issue and it does not only happen to women. In fact, although the percentage of females reporting sexual assault is higher, the raw number of male victims has at times been greater. Data from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, states that approximately one in six men report being sexually abused during childhood. This means that over 8,000 men enter the Army every year having already been sexually abused.

The Department of Defense (DOD) Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military estimates that about 6,300 men experienced sexual assault in fiscal year 2016. Historically, more men experience sexual assault in the military than women, however, women report the assaults at a far higher rate than men. Women are almost two and a half times more likely to report their assault. While fiscal year 2016 was the first year since data recording began that less men are estimated to have experienced an assault than women, women still report at much higher rates – 43 percent of women report, while only 17 percent of men report the sexual assault.

Some men who experience sexualized violence might never consider making a report because they do not perceive the sexual nature of the incident. Men are far more likely to consider the sexual assault as hazing, bullying, physical abuse or an act with the intent to humiliate, rather than sexual harassment or sexual assault, contributing to the low reporting rate by men. Recent DOD reports showed 27 percent of men, versus just 9 percent of women characterized the sexual assault incident as hazing, and 39 percent of men characterized the incident as bullying compared to 24 percent of women. Men who are sexually assaulted in the military are much more likely than women to be assaulted at their duty station, during work hours, and much more likely to have experienced sexual harassment prior to the assault.

Male Sexual Assault Facts

There are many common myths around men and sexual assault, and it is important to remember:

  • Sexual orientation is neither the cause nor the outcome of sexual assault
  • Arousal or ejaculation does not equal consent; it is a physical, bodily reaction and does not mean you wanted the sexual contact
  • Women can sexually assault men
  • Even if you initially liked the attention you were getting, when it crosses the line or becomes nonconsensual or exploitive, it is assault and not your fault
  • Men can be just as traumatized as women; “being a man” does not mean you should be expected to just brush it off or forget about it
  • Having been sexually assaulted or abused does not make you any less of a man

The Army is fully committed to preventing, responding to, and eliminating sexual assault and sexual harassment. This issue affects the readiness of unit commands and impacts all members of the Army Family. Both men and women in the military experience sexual assault and sexual harassment, but until recently, many programs and trainings have been focused more towards responding to incidents that happen to women. In order to successfully meet the needs of all members of the Army Family, the Army is taking a deeper focus on addressing and preventing the sexual assault of men.

The Army is developing targeted communications and outreach, enhancing trainings and materials to include more male-focused scenarios and response trainings, and raising awareness of the issue through more male-focused discussions. All efforts are designed to support men who have experienced a sexual assault, whether prior to military service or during service, to ensure they have a safe space and the support to meet their needs for help-seeking, healing and recovery.