Sexual assault resources & info for queer men
Rick Goodwin, MSW RSW, is a social worker who has focused on men’s mental health issues for over 30 years. He’s the director of training for 1in6, a national organization that provides information and support resources for men who have had unwanted abusive sexual experience, and also is the founder of the Men & Healing clinic in Ottawa, Canada, which helps men address a variety of mental health issues.
Goodwin spoke with BETA to share his expertise on sexual assault and what queer men should know if they’ve been victimized.
Am I a victim?
It can be difficult for men to figure out when to step forward and seek services for sexual assault, said Goodwin. Historically, our culture has thought of rape and sexual assault as something that largely affects girls and women, not boys and men. We have defined rape as a penetrative crime. And, masculinity norms shape an environment where men have difficulty identifying as a victim of assault—even if they have the lived experience.
This understanding of sexual assault excludes entire communities that may be affected by sexual assault and rape: men and queer men, transgender people, queer men, non-binary people, to name a few. Clinicians, social workers and others are now turning to more encompassing definitions of rape and sexual assault: Rape can include forced penetration or being forced to penetrate; sexual assault can be experienced by people of any gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
No means no, but context matters
“The bottom line is that ‘no means no,’ no matter who you are or where you are,” said Goodwin. “It applies to everyone. Regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation. Period.”
But context—our environment—can make this difficult. “It’s not about taking responsibility away from the offender, but the ‘no is no’ and expectation of explicit consent can change dramatically depending on the situation.”
Goodwin is referring to the difficulty some people can have navigating situations where it may be more difficult to say ‘no’ outright—or make it clear that ‘no’ is really what you mean. It’s easier to say ‘no’ to someone when you’re sober, for instance. Or when you’re in your own home, compared to the home of a stranger. It may be more difficult to make it clear that you don’t want to have sex with someone if they’ve already bought your drinks, or dinner. Or if you’ve had sex with them in the past. The list goes on.
What help is available for people who have been sexually assaulted?
If you or someone you know has been victimized, get help. We’ll provide a list of resources at the end of this article.
Generally, there are three types of support that people who have been victimized will need, said Goodwin.
The first is health care. Sexual assault can be violent and many people sustain injuries from sexual assaults. And even if it’s not violent, people who have been victimized still might want to speak with a health care provider about sexually transmitted infections, HIV and more. Most communities have hospitals with sexual assault response centers that provide medical care and do a forensic examination. If a person has potentially been exposed to HIV, they might receive counseling on post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which prevents HIV infection if taken very soon (usually within 48 hours) after an HIV exposure.
People who have been assaulted may also need services to prevent revictimization. “The goal is to look at issues of safety and safety planning,” said Goodwin. “Is the person still at risk? If they’ve been assaulted by their partner, do they need to find alternate housing? Do they wish to involve the police?” Usually, case management services by organizations that offer support to victims of sexual assault provide these services if they work with men.
The third type service people usually need after a sexual assault is mental health care and follow-up. Talk therapy can be very useful to help a victim or survivor heal and move on with their lives after an assault. For additional resources on where to find these services, check out the list below.
National and Bay Area resources:
Access Center for Family Law and Self-Help Service offers walk-in legal help for people who need to file a domestic/dating violence restraining order. Visit http://www.sfsuperiorcourt.org/self-help or call 415-551-5880.
Bay Area Legal Aid offers legal advice pertaining to partner violence. Visit https://baylegal.org/ or call 800-551-5554.
Communities United Against Violence is a San Francisco-based agency that provides support groups and advocacy based peer support counseling to LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence. Visit http://www.cuav.org/ or call 415-333-4357.
Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse is a San Mateo County agency serving intimate partner violence survivors. The organization serves all communities and is inclusive of LGBTQ survivors and men. Services include: crisis intervention (including a shelter/safe house), family support services and legal services. Visit https://www.corasupport.org/ or call 1-800-300-1080.
The Love is Respect Hotline is an LGBTQ-friendly hotline for people who have been sexually assaulted or who are in an abusive relationship. Call 1-866-331-9474 or visit www.loveisrespect.org.
Lyric is a San Francisco-based center for LGBTQQ youth, and offers mental and medical health services for young queer people. Visit http://lyric.org/ or call 415-703-6153.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline will help refer you to a local rape crisis center. Call 1-800-656-4673 or visit https://ohl.rainn.org/online/.
The Network La Red serves LGBTQ, poly and kink/BDSM survivors of BDSM with support in English and Spanish. Call 617-742-4911 or visit www.tnlr.org/en/.