Reuters Health

Male sexual assault not uncommon

Friday, March 26, 1999

NEW YORK -- About 3% of men report that they have been sexually assaulted as an adult, and in nearly half of these cases, the perpetrator was a woman, according to a survey of close to 2,500 British men.

``The idea of women as perpetrators (of sexual abuse) is not one that is easily acceptable politically,'' Dr. Michael King told Reuters Health, ``but actually it is quite common.''

King and colleagues from the Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, UK, also found that slightly more than 5% reported non-consensual sexual experiences as children (under age 16) and nearly 8% ``reported consensual sex experiences as children that are illegal under English law.''

The survey results were published in the March 26th issue of the British Medical Journal.

Non-consensual sex in both childhood and adulthood was defined as having an individual use force or other means ``to make you do sexual things that you did not want to do,'' according to the study authors.

``Sexual assault is (more common) among men than people suppose, and very few of (these episodes) are ever reported to either police or other professionals, like doctors,'' King explained.

Those men who had such non-consensual sex were more likely to have psychological problems, abuse alcohol, or to harm themselves, the survey results show.

``Many of these men will seek help for subsequent psychological problems,'' King noted in the interview, ``and therefore doctors need to be aware that this is an issue or could be an issue for their patients.''

The findings also suggest that being sexually abused as a boy is a significant predictor of experiencing a similar event in adulthood. ``If you've been abused as a child you are much more likely to be abused as an adult,'' King told Reuters Health. ``This dispels the myth that men who are abused as boys go on to become perpetrators. Actually, they go on to become victims much more often.''

SOURCE: British Medical Journal 1999;318:846-850.