Scientists have found that sexual assault is just as emotionally traumatising and depressing for men as it is for women.
Researchers used a sample size of 11,860 adults in the US, which included 5,922 men and 5,938 women.
They sought to challenge a sociological theory that explains that men are more likely to respond to sexual assault with anger and by engaging in criminal activity, while women are more likely to respond with depression and sadness.
They found that all victims of sexual assault had higher depression scores than individuals who have had not experienced sexual assault in their lifetime.
The researchers suspect that it is possible that men may even experience depression more than women because they do not have the social outlets and support systems available to women, and therefore may wind up internalising their feelings and emotions.
“When we began this study, we thought for sure that we would find that females who were sexually assaulted would exhibit higher depression scores than males who were sexually assaulted,” said Lisa M Dario, assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University in the US.
“I think this is probably because of antiquated ideas that men and women experience emotions differently. What we actually discovered, much to our surprise, is that sexual assault is traumatic regardless of gender,” Dario said.
In 1980, men made up between 1 to 10 per cent of rape reports received in crisis centres, hospitals and emergency rooms, in 1997, they represented between 5 and 10 per cent of all reported rapes.
Men make up about 38 per cent of sexual assault and rape incidents reported, and those in the military are particularly vulnerable and more unlikely to report an assault.
“There is no room for 'sexism' in sexual assault research by ignoring male victims and we must bring attention to an issue that impacts men equally, especially if we know that their negative emotional responses are treatable,” Dario said.
The study was published in the journal Women and Criminal Justice.