“Son, Men Don’t Get Raped”

“Son, Men Don’t Get Raped” By Nathaniel Penn.

Sexual assault is alarmingly common in the U.S. military, and more than half of the victims are men. According to the Pentagon, thirty-eight military men are sexually assaulted every single day. These are the stories you never hear — because the culprits almost always go free, the survivors rarely speak, and no one in the military or Congress has done enough to stop it. …

On the morning of September 20 [1999], two weeks before the warship was due in port, three men ambushed [Steve] Stovey in a remote storage area of the ship, where he’d been sent to get supplies. They threw a black hood over his head, strangled and sodomized him, then left him for dead on a stack of boxes. Stovey told no one. He was certain that his attackers, whose faces he hadn’t glimpsed, would kill him if he did. He hid in a bathroom until he could contain his panic and tolerate the pain. Then he quietly returned to his post. …

The moment a man enlists in the United States armed forces, his chances of being sexually assaulted increase by a factor of ten [compared to remaining a civilian]. Women, of course, are much more likely to be victims of military sexual trauma (MST), but far fewer of them enlist. In fact, more military men are assaulted than women — nearly 14,000 in 2012 alone. …

Military culture is built upon a tenuous balance of aggression and obedience. The potential for sexual violence exists whenever there is too much of either. New recruits, stripped of their free will, cannot question authority. A certain kind of officer demands sex from underlings in the same way he demands they pick up his laundry. A certain kind of recruit rapes his peer in a sick mimicry of the power structure: I own you totally. “One of the myths is that the perpetrators identify as gay, which is by and large not the case,” says James Asbrand, a psychologist with the Salt Lake City VA’s PTSD clinical team. “It’s not about the sex. It’s about power and control.” …

Above all, MST victims keep quiet because they do not believe their attackers will be punished. And they’re almost certainly right. The conviction rate in MST cases that go to trial is just 7 percent. An estimated 81 percent of male MST victims never report being attacked. …

The main attacks were at night. When you’re being dragged out of your bunk literally by your ear, you can’t fight, because they’re doing these funky things with your fingers, twisting them, and they’re ripping your mouth open, and then they got another guy that has his fingers in your nose or in your eyes to make you open your mouth. That’s what always used to bother me: I’m screaming, yelling, fighting, and nobody is even moving their curtains to look. …

Men develop PTSD from sexual assault at nearly twice the rate they do from combat. Yet as multiple research papers have noted, the condition in men is egregiously understudied. This is because so few men tell anyone.