There is life after rape and sexual abuse.
Has it happened to you?
Men and boys can be sexually abused, assaulted or raped. It is estimated that 12,000 men are raped in the UK every year, and more than 70,000 are sexually abused or assaulted.
This affects boys and men of all ages, and those who are straight, gay, bisexual and transgender.
If this has happened to you, it is important to remember that it is not your fault. No-one ever asks to be raped or assaulted, or deserves it. Being assaulted doesn’t mean that you are weak or that you should have been able to stop it from happening.
Rape and sexual assault are criminal offences, and the blame lies with the abuser.
Questions often asked by victims of sexual abuse
What do ‘sexual assault’ and ‘rape’ mean?
Sexual assault refers to sexual touching rather than a physical assault. If someone
intentionally grabs or touches you in a sexual way that you don’t like, if you’re forced to
kiss someone or do something else sexual against your will, this is sexual assault. This
includes touching: with any part of the body; with anything else; through anything
(clothing) and in particular includes touching amounting to penetration. All of which is
without consent. Sexual assault can be perpetrated by either men or women.
Rape is defined as penetration by the penis of a vagina, anus or mouth, without consent. It can be committed against men or women, but since it involves penile penetration it can only be committed by men.
What does ‘consent’ mean?
Consent means agreeing to do something and being comfortable with that decision. Consent has to be given freely and no one can make you consent to something. It’s not consent if you do something because you feel like you have to. You consent to sexual activity only if you agree to it, and if you have the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
Freedom: you can’t consent to sexual activity if you are subject to threats or fear of serious harm, unconscious, drugged, abducted, or were unable to communicate because of a physical disability.
Capacity: Your ability to consent may be affected by being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, even if you were conscious at the time.
You may consent to one form of sexual activity but not another, for example you might consent to kiss and do other things, but not have full intercourse. Everyone has a choice in whether they want to have sex or engage in any sexual activity. You can also withdraw consent at any time if you are not comfortable, and if the other person does not stop, that is sexual assault or rape.
Consent can never be assumed: it is the responsibility of each partner to make sure that the other person fully consents to each activity. Sex without consent is rape.
The age of consent in the UK is 16 and a child under the age of 13 cannot legally consent to any sexual activity.
Was it my fault?
No, it wasn’t your fault. Whatever the circumstances, nobody has the right to force you to have sex, sexually assault or harass you. This includes if you:
- had been drinking alcohol or taking drugs at the time
- know the person or have had sex with them before
- had been kissing or touching that person beforehand
- were with someone of the same sex
- didn’t say ‘no’ or didn’t fight back
- can’t really remember it properly.
What if I was in a relationship with the person at the time?
You always have the right to say ‘no’ or withdraw consent to sexual activity, regardless of whether you have given consent to sex with that person in the past, or are in a relationship with them. Sex without consent is rape.
It happened a long time ago, is there anything I can do?
Yes. Some survivors of rape and sexual assault take many years to acknowledge what happened, and it can feel very difficult to talk about it or get help. But it’s never too late. Our services can support and advise you whether the assault happened recently or many years ago, and whether you were an adult or a child at the time.
I feel confused and don’t know if what happened to me was rape or sexual assault. What can I do?
If something has happened to you and you are not sure whether it was rape or sexual assault, you can still call us to speak to a support worker to get some advice.
The impact of rape and sexual assault and how you might be feeling
Rape and sexual violence are very traumatic events, and people can respond very differently to trauma. You might be experiencing one of these things, or all of them. However you are feeling, you are having a valid response to what has happened to you.
Not everyone reacts in the same way but some common reactions that people may have are:
You may fear people won’t believe youwill blame you or judge you.
Feeling depressed, upset and tearful.
You might feel worthlessor critical of yourself/your actions.
You might be afraid of people, places, or of being alone.
Feeling angry or irritable with peoplearound you, and your relationships might become strained or break down.
You may feel you’ve lost your confidenceand find it hard to cope with everyday life.
You might think about suicide or hurting yourself.
Get in touch to find out more about how we can support you.
Talk to someone.
It can help.
We know it is difficult to talk about what has happened, but telling someone can really help. Contact Ask Marc, and we will help you get the support that you need.
We will believe you. We will listen to you, support you, advocate for you and give you time and space to decide what you want to do. We won’t judge you because of what you say or force you to make a decision you do not want to make.
Please contact us to speak to an advisor and find out more about how we can support you. We have male and female support workers. Agencies: please scroll down for a referral form and details of our secure email.
Common misconceptions surrounding male rape and sexual abuse
“Men can’t be raped or sexually assaulted.”
Men can be and are sexually assaulted. Rape and sexual assault are traumatic for both me and women and may have very long-lasting and damaging impacts. Men may find it difficult to talk about their experience for fear of being judged, ridiculed and not believed.
“This just affects gay men.”
Research shows that the majority of sexual violence and assaults are committed by heterosexual males. Rape is not about sexual attraction but about power and control.
Being raped or sexually abused has nothing to do with how you identify: it affects straight, gay, bisexual, transgender men and nonbinary people. Being raped or abused cannot “make you gay”. However, experiencing rape or assault in childhood or adulthood can leave you feeling uncomfortable about your sexual identity. This is normal and nothing to be ashamed of: getting support can help you to work through this.
“Rape victims have to fight back for it to be called rape.”
Fighting back is not a criterion for rape or any sexual offence. A sexual offence is committed if consent is not given. Any coercion, threat, or use of force that prevents an individual from freely consenting is a criminal act.
“Rapists are strangers.”
When most people think about how rapes occur, they imagine dark alleyways late at night and that the attacker is a stranger. The truth is the majority of people who commit rape know their victims and in some cases are relations, friends or work colleagues. Men and boys who are abused in childhood are often assaulted by a trusted adult that they know. This doesn’t mean that they somehow wanted what happened or should have been able to stop it.
“I should have been able to stop it.”
You might feel that because you are a man you should be physically strong and able to stop what happened to you. However there may be many reasons why you weren’t able to stop what happened:
- Shock and fear can cause the body to freeze so you were unable to resist; this does not mean you consented;
- You may have been abused as a child by someone who had power over you, or who you trusted. They may have threatened you or told you no-one would believe you;
- You may have been overpowered by someone using physical strength, or with the use of drugs or alcohol;
You might be feeling very confused, conflicted and ashamed about what happened. But rape and sexual abuse are never your fault.
“There are no support services for men.”
Our services support men and boys who have experienced rape or sexual assault, whether this happened recently or in the past. Please contact us to find out how we can help. We have also included national support helplines and information in the links below.
How we can support you
Our support workers are called ISVAs (Independent Sexual Violence Advisers). They are trained specialists who can work with you one to one and support you practically and emotionally. The things that they can help with include:
By being an advisor you can confide in
Being there as someone you can talk to in confidence who will listen to you and believe you.
Sharing information with you so you feel empowered to make decisions that are right for you. They never pressure you to make decisions or take action you’re not comfortable with.
Helping you understand how the criminal justice process works
Helping you to understand how the criminal justice process works, explaining what will happen if you choose to report to the police and if you choose not to.
If you do choose to report, your ISVA can support you through the legal process, at court, and afterwards.
Being an advocate with other agencies
Advocacy with other agencies you come into contact with, ensuring that your views, opinions, wishes and feelings are respected and listened to
Counselling and Support Groups
Our IDVA’s will help provide access to counselling and support groups.
*Although ISVAs work closely with other organisations to ensure you get the best support, they are independent of all statutory agencies including the police, local authority and social services.
Support in the community
Experiencing rape or sexual violence can make you feel very isolated and even ashamed of what has happened to you. Being in a group with other men who have had similar experiences can really help.
We offer a friendly weekly men’s group offering wellbeing activities such as mindfulness, discussions, and group support. There is no pressure to share your own experience if you do not feel ready; our support groups offer a safe and supportive space where you feel you are not alone.
Our therapeutic services offer specialist counselling for male survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse to explore their feelings in a safe, confidential environment.
If you have experienced abuse, counselling can help you overcome problems arising from these potentially devastating experiences. Counselling does not claim to be the only answer to your problems but does offer the opportunity to move your life towards better and more effective ways of coping.
National male survivors helpline
Online self help leaflets
Information and support
National Association of People Abused in Childhood
Sexual Assault Referral Clinic
Local police force
We work with you in a confidential way and will not share any information with your family, the police or anyone else without your permission. The only time we will ever share any information without your permission is if we are worried about a child or vulnerable person’s safety.