Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Sexual assault and male victimization in the U.S. military

Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Sexual assault and male victimization in the U.S. military

by Hilary Valdez
Stripes Okinawa

Sexual assault can happen to anyone. It is often about violence, anger, power, and control over another person,  not necessarily lust, desire, or sexual attraction. It can happen to anyone, including men and boys. Male sexual abuse is any unwanted or non-consensual sexual act performed against a man or boy at any time in his life. According to materials provided by Camp Zama’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program, based on reports of sexual assault, the Pentagon reported that in 2020 “male-on-male sexual assault occurs approximately five times as often as assaults on women” but, a “majority of incidents that get reported involve men sexually assaulting women."

Myra Strand, M.A. CA, trauma expert and owner of Strand2 Squared Solutions, said assaults against men are not as uncommon as we may think: “Although most perpetrators are male, men can also be sexually abused by women.” It is the gender breakdown of the military population, where male victims outnumber female victims. Furthermore, men are less likely to report when they’ve been sexually assaulted, Victor M. Rivera, Camp Zama’s USARJ SHARP Program Manager, said.

Violations range from coerced sexual contact, aggravated assault, and rape. These crimes do not discriminate against race, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc. Research shows that every day over 70 members of the military become victims of these types of sexual assaults. Male active-duty soldiers don’t want to report that they were raped. Victims feel ashamed, embarrassed, betrayed, and isolated, and this could have long-term effects.  

Sexual abuse and assault affect every survivor differently. The impact is deeply personal and unique to the victim, it can influence a person’s feelings about themselves, the world and relationships with other people. Veterans who experienced male-on-male violence report higher incidents of Post-Traumatic Stress. When victims do not seek medical care, they are at risk to experience Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Some survivors experience excessive use of alcohol or drugs; sexual addiction or compulsion; avoidance of sexual intimacy; difficulties in relationships; rage and anger; post-traumatic stress such as flashbacks and nightmares; disbelief or denial.

There is no shame in seeking help if you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault. There must come a time when you release yourself from this mental prison, and the beliefs and silence you created to suppress your feelings for fear of what people may think of you. Rise up!

Remember that consent is about permission or agreement. This is something that must be clearly established between two people before any kind of sexual act or behavior; and you can change your mind at any time. Sexual assault is where any male or female intentionally touches another person sexually without his or her consent. If you are under 16, you are not able to give consent. If you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or incapacitated, you are not able to give consent. If you are asleep, you are not able to give consent. If you are physically, emotionally coerced, or controlled, or are blackmailed in any way, you are not able to give consent.


Victor M. Rivera, USARJ SHARP Program Manager at Camp Zama, Japan contributed to this article and is responsible for all Army SHARP activities in Japan. If you, or someone you know needs assistance, contact USARJ SHARP 365/24/7, Hotline Honshu 090-9395-8909, Okinawa: 090-6861-8447; DoD Safe Helpline 1-877-5247 / 1-877-995-5247; Yokota Air Base, SAPR, 315-225-7277; #StrongerTogether, #SAPR, #Sexual Assault Awareness Month, #SAAM. Also, Military Family Life Consultants are available on all facilities.

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