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December 04, 2013 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2013-12-04

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B i

This is further complicated when a
beterosexual man is assaultedby another
man and experiences arousal. Survivors
often question their own sexual identity
in such cases. And for many younger
victims, it is their first sexual experience.
Both of Lyons' parents died in his early
adolescence. His mother committed
suicide and his -father overdosed on
heroin. His friends and family were quick
to comforthimabout these painfullosses,
but always shied away from his abuse.
"Ithought no one wanted to hear about
that," Lyons said. "People wanted to hear
about how torn are you, about how you're
going to survive. People wanted to hear
how I hadn't killed myself dssentially.
People didn't know and didn't want to
mksow, and I felt like it was a weird weak
Men abused as children confront their
experiences, on average, in their late 30s
or early 40s. Alterman said secondary
traumas are common for male survivors
- specifically, traumas that occur as a
result of telling someone of his assault
and experiencingsome sortofrejection or
questioning about if a survivor "enjoyed"
the experience.
"It's not just a question that someone
is asking of, 'Oh, did you enjoy it?'"

Alterman said. "Most people ask it in a
much more accusatory way of, "Oh, you
must have enjoyed it.' Then the question
is, 'Did I? Should I have? Am I wrong for
Lyons, too, argued that societal
narratives limit men's ability to discuss
their experiences. The schema that men
are logical beings and women are hyper-
emotional contradicts the possibility of
male feelings.
"We have to tell men that it's okay to
talk about (sexual abuse), and that's hard
to do even when women are supposed to
be more emotional than men," he said.
"But even then, so many women still feel
like they can't talk about it. So if women
are supposed to have this space where
they can be emotional, what are men who
are supposed to be logical supposed to
Pursuing legal action is relatively rare.
However, conditions for men seeking
legal reparations for their abuses are
improving. Little, who studies male
survivors in the legal system, interviewed
75 attorneys who were involved in such
These lawyers were especially
galvanized by male victimization. Such
cases are relatively rare in the legal
system, despite their relative presence in
"They actually seem to be intrigued by
cases involving male victims," Little said
of the lawyers she interviewed. "They

work a little bit harder. There's a great
sense of injustice that a sexual assault
could happen to a man."
Still, Little noticed something peculiar
with the mostly male attorneys: They do
not view themselves as potential victims
of sexual assault, unlike women. Jurors,
who also may not view men as possible
victims, must receive comprehensive
instruction that men can be targets of
sexual assault.
The environment that surrounds
male survivors of all ages drives many to
internalize their assault. There's often no
place to discuss one's problems..
"It's terrifying because everyday you
worry, 'Will someone find out about it?'
"Alterman said, his eyebrows furrowing.
"Everyday, 'Will someone see it? Will
it be discovered? Will someone realize
what's going on, realize I'm not a man
because of what happened to me? Am I
no longer worthy, am I no longer valid,
am I no longer ... human?"
A safe space
But anewnarrative is surroundingrape
- or it will be, if Alterman has anything
to do about it. He recently brought a Dare
to Dream event to campus, and he held
an open meeting after in the Michigan
"It's important whatwe as acommunity
can accomplish and that involves a much
larger conversation," Alterman said.

The male lawyers that Little
interviewed - and most men, for that
matter - don't give walking home in
the dark with headphones in or taking
drinks from strangers too much thought.
They don't, but experts suggest that they
The focus of sexual violence
prevention, Alterman explained, is men
protecting women from violence. It's not
about protecting everyone from rape.
"The conversation about sexual
violence is, (how) can we use our power
to stop it? How can I stand up and fight
it?" Alterman said.
However, this does not fix the power
"We can't just say, 'Hey men, use
the power that's causing violence and
use it to end violence,'" Alterman said.
"That's just taking the fire and pushing
it somewhere else. There's still the fire
there. It doesn't address the problem."
For those who have already endured
abuse, healing is possible. Both men say
that discussing their experiences and
educating others have helped more than
anything. Lyons is especially excited to
speak in a community of male survivors.
The Dare to Dream event in mid-
November was his first time speaking
about his abuse.
"Being through shitty things, it's
about learning to love yourself and,
above that, loving and accepting other
people," he said.


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