Tag Archives: male sexual abuse

Columbia PhD Student Alberto Leguina, pictured above, was fired because, he claims, he rejected the advances of his supervisor. Leguina, 25, came to Columbia from Chile in the spring to work under Dr. Qais Al-Awqati, a professor of medicine, nephrology and hypertension at Columbia’s Medical Center, but by the summer was forced out of the university and has now filed a lawsuit against Columbia.

Leguina says he received a message on Grindr from someone claiming to be Al-Awqati, which he initially assumed was a prank. When Leguina ignored the message, he received subsequent messages, this time more threatening. After Leguina rebuffed the messages, Al-Awqati stormed out from the next room and yelled at Leguina, “You’re out!”

Leguina sought the help of the human resources department, where he was then told to “deal with this matter as a big man.” Leguina was also threatened to be sent back to Chile if he hired a lawyer or sought help from the authorities in his native country.

It was not until a few months later when Leguina was in fact fired. After he spoke with the HR department, Al-Aqwati apologized for his advances and gifted him a new MacBook. Leguina claims his workplace conditions severely changed at this time. His supervisors began to shun him and when he again sought help from HR, was told he was simply overwhelmed by the big city. Leguina then in June received an email from his supervisors in Chile stating that due to poor feedback from Al-Aqwati, he would need to leave his position at Columbia.

Leguina’s story is exemplary of the power dynamics that can easily be taken advantage in a place such as a prestigious university, one that in this case was particularly exploited because of his status as a foreigner. In a graduate studies environment where students work very closely with professors and need the help of supervisors in order to succeed, as shown by Leguina’s story, students need a system in place to seek help should their supervisor’s abuse their power. Because Leguina is male, he was also expected to deal with sexual harassment through silence rather than speaking out and seeking help. According to Queerty, Leguina is now interested in pursuing workplace activism:

“You cannot let these [things] happen anymore. I know I’m not the first person, but I hope I can be the last.”

Ph.D. student alleges he was sexually harassed, unfairly fired [Columbia Spectator]

Grad Student Says He Was Fired By Pervy Prof Who Hit On Him On Grindr [Queerty]

Regardless of gender identity, sexual abuse can happen to anyone. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network has posted a video made by Dr. Broderick Fox of Occidental College to highlight this and urge survivors of any identity or background to seek help.

Though survivors of sexual assault are frequently female, it can happen to men as well. Unfortunately, notions of masculinity in our society often prevent men from speaking out. The New York Times recently ran an article on the difficulty male survivors face in seeking help. The consequences of sexual abuse, ranging from depression to substance abuse, know no gender but as the article says, male survivors often face a challenge particular to their sex:

But men also face a challenge to their sense of masculinity. Many feel they should have done more to fight off their attackers. Since they may believe that men are never raped, they may feel isolated and reluctant to confide in anyone. Male rape victims may become confused about their sexual orientation or, if gay and raped by a man, blame their sexual orientation for the rape.

Men are “supposed” to be the active agent in sexual relations, while women are often positioned as passive, making them susceptible to rape. But rape is not a sexual act, it is an expression of power and dominance. Men can just as easily be made targets of rape, due to “violent, drunken or drug-induced assaults; war crimes; interrogations; antigay bias crimes; and hazing rites for male clubs and organizations, like fraternities, and in the military.” In this instance, men are harmed by a misogynistic society that equates masculinity and male heterosexuality with power and aggression. As long as these ideas perpetuate, male survivors will have difficulty seeking help, and the abuse against them will be rendered invisible and thus more easily continued.

Male Sexual Assault [RAINN]

Male Victims of Sexual Assault [Sociological Images]

Men Struggle for Rape Awareness [NY Times]

In an article in the Guardian, journalist Will Storr reports about the invisibility of men as victims of rape in war-torn African countries. He talks to survivors in Uganda, whose experiences are not only horrific, but are endured in silence and fear of being discovered.

Storr explains that rape is often used as a brutal weapon of war, but not exclusively against women as is commonly thought. Men run great risks if they admit that they have been raped: police may think they are homosexual–a crime in most African countries–and arrest them. Wives and family may leave and shun them, thinking they have lost their ability to be men. And if they do approach organizations for help, they are often rejected by NGOs and UN initiatives, whose mandates are focused on women only.

Underlying much of these issues in dealing with the rape of men has to do with the ideas of gender and the nature of this kind of violence. The article states that gender roles in African societies tend to be rigid and traditional in their concepts of masculinity, and a man who has been raped does not fit those concepts. However, the organizations that serve war-stricken areas perpetuate the invisibility of this violence against men by failing to acknowledge that it happens when they do encounter it. These groups function according to the the idea that women are the only victims, and that men are only perpetrators of rape.

The rest of the article can be found here.

Storr’s photographs from his trip to Uganda can be found here.

The New York Times has just published an article reporting on some key findings of a nation-wide survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. The representative sample surveyed consisted of 16,507 adult respondents.

The study’s findings report that sexual assault is drastically more prevalent that previously thought. Whereas the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reported last year that about 270,000 Americans had experienced sexual violence, the CDC’s findings suggest that 1.3 million women were raped in the past year alone. The study found that between 1 and 2 percent of men have been raped, often when they were under the age of 11. It found that nearly one in five women, almost 20 percent of the population, have experienced sexual assault.

Some other statistics from the report:

  • 28 percent of male victims of rape were first assaulted when they were 10 years old or younger
  • 12 percent of female rape victims were assaulted when they were 10 or younger; almost half of female victims were raped before they turned 18; about 80 percent of rape victims were raped before age 25
  • about 35 percent of women who had been raped as minors were also raped as adults
  • more than half of female rape victims had been raped by an intimate partner, and 40 percent had been raped by an acquaintance; more than half of men who had been raped said the assailant was an acquaintance

The article points to some of the mental and physical health problems correlated with having suffered sexual assault, such as increased chances of having post-traumatic stress disorder and diabetes.

The article also links to a page of detailed and professionally reviewed information on rape published by the New York Times.

This study, conducted by a respected and widely recognized public health agency, is invaluable in establishing the prevalence of sexual assault in the United States, and by extension, our society. Numbers such as these indicate that the problem is much more pervasive, and thus even more pressing concern to be addressed. In a world where information informs action, such studies take the first step and lead the way for more work to be done.

Picking up from the last post on the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s public service announcement, here is an article that deals with the kinds of sexual abuse that do not fit the heteronormative stereotype.

The Globe and Mail reports that former pro ice hockey player Sheldon Kennedy will be testifying at a congressional hearing following the Penn State University scandal, where former football assistant coach Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing several young boys. Kennedy was sexually assaulted by his coach Graham James when Kennedy was a minor.

The fact that the sexual assault of underage male athletes is in the media is an important step in opening up the discourse about who suffers sexual abuse. While rape of women by men may be common, it is critical that it be understood that it is not the only kind of sexual assault, and that all people who have been sexually abused should be acknowledged.

As a young athlete, Kennedy did not know who to reach out to, as he was afraid his teammates might think he was gay and that his mother would not allow him to continue playing hockey if he told her what was happening to him. With cases like Penn State receiving heavy coverage, the sexual abuse of male children is emerging as a topic more accessible to the public, thus creating a heightened awareness of sexual abuse of children in vulnerable situations. Hopefully, more such awareness will translate into more openness to discussing child sexual abuse, as well as vigilance where it is needed to protect children from abuse.

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