For full poll re­sults and in­ter­views with 50 vic­tims, go to wash­ing­ton­ | Unique chal­lenges for male sur­vivors,

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY SU­SAN SVRLUGA, STEVE HEN­DRIX, NICK AN­DER­SON AND EMMA BROWN su­san.svrluga@wash­ steve.hen­drix@wash­­der­son@wash­ emma.brown@wash­

Daniel Epis­cope reg­u­larly saw guys in col­lege ag­gres­sively pur­su­ing women, like the time he saw some­one at an­other school drop some­thing into punch for a party. He wor­ried about his fe­male friends get­ting into bad sit­u­a­tions and be­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted.

But along the way, some­thing else sur­prised him: “It goes both ways,” he said. Things hap­pened to guys, too.

For all the in­ten­sity, emo­tion and per­va­sive­ness of the de­bate about sex­ual as­sault in col­lege, there’s an el­e­ment that’s of­ten lost and un­heard: men’s sto­ries.

Though sex­ual as­saults on men are rarely re­ported to au­thor­i­ties, a Wash­ing­ton Post-Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion poll of cur­rent and re­cent col­lege stu­dents found that 1 in 20 men said they were sex­u­ally as­saulted while in school.

Some of the in­ci­dents were ter­ri­fy­ing. Oth­ers, like one Epis­cope de­scribed, left the men in­volved con­fused, some­times won­der­ing how they could have lost con­trol.

One night in Shang­hai, when Epis­cope was a sopho­more study­ing abroad, he helped some new ex­change stu­dents get set­tled in. That night at a party, the women un­ex­pect­edly started pour­ing him shots, and one told him she was go­ing to thank him for all of his help.

By his ac­count, “Sud­denly they were like, ‘Drink, drink, drink!’ ” he said. He didn’t have much ex­pe­ri­ence drink­ing, and he soon found him­self ham­mered. He was drift­ing in and out of a black­out, he said, when he re­al­ized one of the women was hav­ing sex with him.

He’s con­flicted about what hap­pened, and he kind of laughs it off. “A guy is like, ‘Yes, tie me up, take ad­van­tage of me — grab that whip!’ ” For a woman it would be down­right scary, he said, then added: “It is kind of scary.”

It was trou­bling, know­ing he hadn’t in­tended to do it, know­ing he couldn’t walk away. But— echo­ing some other men who had un­wanted sex­ual en­coun­ters but also don’t know quite what to make of it all — he said he wasn’t trau­ma­tized but was mostly con­fused. “For me it was like, ‘ This re­ally shouldn’t be the way I should be get­ting some.’ ”

In in­ter­views with men who par­tic­i­pated in the poll, they de­scribed a wide range of un­wanted sex­ual ex­pe­ri­ences— some blurry, some vi­o­lent, some con­fus­ing, some ter­ri­fy­ing. Some joked about it or blamed them­selves. Oth­ers are tor­tured by the mem­o­ries.

One man de­scribed an in­ci­dent with a fra­ter­nity brother — his room­mate — that es­ca­lated un­ex­pect­edly. “He was re­ally drunk that night, and he started hit­ting me,” the stu­dent re­called. “I wasn’t drunk at all. He kept try­ing to take off my pants. He tried pin­ning me down and grop­ing me. It was a re­ally bad strug­gle. I hit him as hard as I could, and I got out of it.”

He found an­other place to stay, but he didn’t want to tell any­one what had hap­pened. “I had ner­vous panic at­tacks. . . . I al­most dropped out,” he said.

If he were a woman, he said, he might have told peo­ple or asked for help. “Since I’m a guy, it’s a lot harder. If some­thing hap­pens, guys aren’t sup­posed to be vic­tims. We’re sup­posed to be manly.”

An­other man, a stu­dent at a South Carolina school, went to talk with his ex-girl­friend on her cam­pus af­ter their breakup. He thought it was just a talk. But in her dorm room — where he thought her room­mate would be — she forced him into sex.

“I was raped,” he said, not­ing that he tried to re­sist, but she seemed not to no­tice. “It’s hard to speak when you’re in phys­i­cal pain.”

He felt hor­ri­fied, ashamed and be­trayed, and he later had night­mares and flash­backs.

Like the other men who spoke to The Post, he didn’t re­port the in­ci­dent — or even se­ri­ously con­sider re­port­ing it.

“It’s one thing to deal with the af­ter-ef­fect of be­ing raped, but it also was a sec­ondary hit for me — ‘Oh, you’re a guy, how could you be raped by a woman, that makes no sense,’ ” he said. “I was afraid to talk to any­body about it be­cause of the stigma.”

It’s very com­mon for men to feel con­fused, ashamed and cer­tain that no one will be­lieve their ac­counts af­ter they are sex­u­ally as­saulted, said Jim Hop­per, an ex­pert on psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma who is a con­sul­tant and part-time in­struc­tor in the depart­ment of psy­chi­a­try at Har­vard Med­i­cal School. Though coun­ter­in­tu­itive, there can be a phys­i­cal para­dox that ex­plains how men can get an erec­tion even though they are emo­tion­ally un­will­ing to have sex, Hop­per said.

“The phys­i­ol­ogy of how a pe­nis re­sponds to be­ing grabbed can run in par­al­lel with fear,” Hop­per said. “Just be­cause you’re ter­ri­fied doesn’t mean you can’t have an erec­tion.”

It’s rare that men do re­port an in­ci­dent, he said. “Any ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing dom­i­nated, over­whelmed, ex­ploited, as­saulted — es­pe­cially sex­u­ally— whether by a male or a fe­male is go­ing to be some­thing that males are pro­grammed to not want to talk about,” he said.

The sto­ries men told The Post cover a wide range of types of as­sault, in­clud­ing men who were too drunk to con­sent, those who were phys­i­cally forced into sex and one who was at­tacked while at a bar.

When a bar­tender found the 22-year-old sopho­more from the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin-Eau Claire passed out in the back room of her Min­neapo­lis bar, she as­sumed he was drunk. But when the man took a Breath­a­lyzer test, bar se­cu­rity found he hadn’t had any al­co­hol at all.

He thinks he had been drugged and then raped af­ter some­one slipped some­thing into his soda while he was dis­tracted.

“I’ve been drunk once inmy life, and I’ve never done drugs,” the man said. “And I’m a big guy. The fact that this could hap­pen to me means it could hap­pen to any­one.”

The man, now 26 and a law stu­dent in Mil­wau­kee, had trav­eled to Min­neapo­lis for Pride Week. He’s less naive now, he said. And less trust­ing.

“It’s hard enough to be gay in Wis­con­sin,” he said. “A gay bar is sup­posed to be a com­fort­able, safe place.”

Epis­cope, who was co­erced while study­ing in China, still wor­ries about women on cam­pus. But af­ter hear­ing trou­bling sto­ries from a cou­ple of his friends— one of whom broke down, dev­as­tated, whenhe told of los­ing his vir­gin­ity to a woman whohe thought in­ten­tion­ally got him black­out drunk— he’s now more apt to think there might be two sides to the story.

He had an­other un­wanted en­counter a cou­ple of years later, back on cam­pus at the Uni­ver­sity of the Pa­cific. He stopped by a party at his fra­ter­nity house and was chat­ting with a woman he knew slightly. He said good night to her and his friends and went up­stairs to crash. About 15 min­utes later, he said, she ar­rived at his room, very drunk and very clearly in­ter­ested in him.

He was tired, sober, had a girl­friend and had ab­so­lutely no in­ten­tion of hav­ing sex with her.

He asked her to leave, but she wouldn’t go. So he told her again, then took her arm and led her out into the hall­way.

At that point, he said, she sud­denly screamed: “No! I’m not go­ing to have sex with you!” and dropped to the floor, look­ing around to see if any­one was watch­ing.

His heart stopped, think­ing: No one would be­lieve me.

“Ihave yet to for­give that girl for that,” he said. Who, he won­dered, would take his word over hers? “I could have faced much big­ger is­sues than what I would rather do or not do.”


Daniel Epis­cope, who says he was taken ad­van­tage in China while drunk, is con­flicted about what hap­pened, and he kind of laughs it off. “It kind of scary,” he said.

Video: Mom, daugh­ter dis­cuss be­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted decades apart at­er­daugh­ter.

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