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#MenToo: The Stigma Surrounding Male Survivors

TW: Sexual abuse and domestic violence.

On December 22, 2021, The Zach Sang Show, a popular show on YouTube posted an intimate interview with Disney+ star Joshua Bassett. The “Set Me Free” singer touched on topics from his new music, his near-death hospital stay, friendships, and more in the nearly two-hour-long interview. 21-year-old Bassett also discussed the sexual abuse he experienced as a young child. 

“I was five, so f— if I know what’s going on. This person was of course saying, ‘You can’t tell anybody’ and I’m thinking… If I tell, I’m gonna be in trouble.”

Bassett continued by revealing he was sexually abused frequently as a child by a family member and as a young teenager was groomed by an older man.

Despite all of the trauma and pain Bassett discussed, his main focus was on his journey to healing. 

“Recently I’m really looking at it in the eyes and what’s really happened and how it’s affected my life. And how it’s f–ed with me. I’m angry… Like, I should not have been [abused], that is not okay.”

For many children, the idea of telling an adult is a real struggle, as they fear they will be blamed for the abuse or not believed. Unfortunately, some comments on the video and his Instagram only reinforced this fear. Many people, particularly men, left comments rooted in homophobia and machismo. 

Let’s talk about Jack Wright…

Recently, TikTok star Jack Wright also came out with allegations of sexual abuse against another popular TikToker Sienna Mae. In a YouTube video posted by Jack, he reveals how this has been a recurring incident. He didn’t speak out publicly until his friend posted a statement and video evidence of Sienna’s actions while Wright was asleep. In Jack’s video entitled “what sienna mae did to me,” he states he did not want to ‘make a scene,’  because he felt “No one would believe a male. Especially in that type of situation.” He says other men have also come forward with allegations against Sienna. 

After Jack published his video, there are still a large number of people who do not believe him and are taking Sienna’s side. The comments on his videos are especially disheartening and nasty, bringing in things like his character, legitimacy, and even his sexuality. A lot of these reactions are deeply-rooted in homophobia and victim-shaming. Such behaviors and responses make it harder for men to come out with their stories and speak their truth in the future. 

What about the Johnny Depp situation?

Trauma, psychological or physical, can be inflicted by anybody towards another person regardless of sex or gender identity. While the stats may vary, one such phenomenon that’s usually overlooked is the domestic abuse faced by men from their respective partners. Due to the severe stigma surrounding this topic, most men don’t report it and sometimes even fail to recognize that they are being domestically abused.

If the gender roles were reversed, society is more open to believing a female victim and to “cancel” a male abuser. This stigma surrounding male victims of sexual and physical abuse is prevalent everywhere, including on social media.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s public situation is an example of why it is difficult for men of domestic abuse to come forward. Social media was flooded with opinions that “men can’t be abused by women” and that a man should be able to protect himself from abuse.

In 2020, phone recordings were released in which Heard admitted hitting Depp. Ryder and Paradis (Depp’s ex-partners) both provided statements in Depp’s defense.

Johnny Depp has strenuously denied all claims that he was violent towards Heard. Although we may never know what truly happened during this relationship, the response that “Men cannot be domestically abused” needs to be re-evaluated. This rhetoric that men are “too strong” to be abused or that a woman cannot be an abuser is harmful, as it invalidates the experiences of many men who have been abused. 

1 in 3 men will be sexually or physically abused by a romantic partner in their lifetime (cdc.gov).

Why is it so important for men to come forward?

During the #MeToo movement, many female celebrities came out with their stories of sexual assault and encouraged other women to do the same. But there were far fewer men, particularly young men, who were included in the movement. Joshua Bassett’s and Jack Wright’s choice to share their experience with their followers and the world shows young men (and all survivors) that they can share their stories too and that their experience is valid. 

Just as female survivors looked up to celebrities such as Gabrielle Union and Lady Gaga who shared their stories of surviving sexual assault, men need those role models too. Many women during the Me Too movement expressed that seeing powerful women openly admit they have been sexually abused helped them feel less alone and encouraged them to share their stories. This is why it is crucial to include men in the Me Too movement. All survivors of abuse deserve the same respect and space to say “Me too.” No matter their gender.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault please visit the sexual assault hotline here.


Written by Shoeb Khan, Madhumitha K, and Tiffany Leveille

Original Graphics by Tiffany Leveille


Sources

Zach Sang Interview with Joshua Bassett:

Jack’s video: 

https://people.com/music/joshua-bassett-gets-candid-about-surviving-sexual-abuse/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/larryfitzmaurice/joshua-bassett-sexual-assault-comments

https://www.rainn.org/articles/tips-talking-survivors-sexual-assault

https://www.abc.net.au/everyday/what-to-say-when-a-friend-discloses-sexual-assault/100012520

https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/men-ipvsvandstalking.html#:~:text=before%20age%2018.-,Intimate%20Partner%20Violence,intimate%20partner%20during%20their%20lifetime.

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