Content Warning: This column contains references to sexual violence.

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It was the winter of 2017 and the News was putting on a gala. As a columnist, I sat beside other members of the Opinion desk. The featured guests at the gala were the journalists behind the inspiration for the film “Spotlight.” “Spotlight” is a complicated and heavy movie. Set in Boston, it explores an epidemic of child abuse inflicted by Catholic clergy on a large scale. The movie is often hard to watch: there are scenes of victims with needle marks in their arms and clips where older priests admit to doing wrong. 

“Spotlight” witnesses many heroic scenes, but my favorite takes place towards the end of the movie, when a journalist interviews an older man with a successful career who was abused as a child. The older man went to the same high school as the journalist, but he never confided the abuse to his wife, children or anyone else. “You’re the first person I’ve ever told,” he says. 

The scene in “Spotlight” begs a much larger question to ask: has the Me Too movement encompassed enough men’s voices? The short answer is no. Very few men have come forward with their experiences of abuse: among them are Terry Crews, Michael Gaston and Alex Winter. Far more women have come forward, and for good reason: women’s voices — and those of other genders — deserve to be heard, because they have been silenced for decades and centuries, and have faced the cruel brunt of sexism for that long of a time as well. 

When men, or anyone, don’t address their history of abuse, that unaddressed trauma can lead them to self sabotage in relationships and engage in addictions. It can also lead many men into incarceration. College campuses need to encourage men to speak up about their experiences as soon as possible. This is a public health crisis that needs fixing right away. 

As someone who has experienced sexual trauma, and also as someone who has lived as both a woman and a man, I feel as if men are socialized to internalize abuse differently than women. Of course, anyone who experiences sexual trauma will share many of the same intense feelings of guilt and shame associated with their traumatic events. But there is an acute epidemic of silence among men who have been abused that needs to be addressed immediately. 

Statistics show that one in six men have been either sexually assaulted or harassed in their lifetime, yet studies show that men are far less likely to report abuse than women. So what accounts for the difference in reporting statistics? 

From a young age, boys are taught to show strength and power. Any event that trespasses their bodies is viewed as an incident of vulnerability and weakness. Men and women do not internalize sexual assault in different ways because they were born with opposite chromosomes. It’s not a biological phenomenon. Men internalize it differently because of the way they were socialized growing up. Being abused, as a man, can be embarrassing. And there is heightened stigma around it as well. Some women are taught to seek strength in others, while men are taught to preserve their own strength and rarely seek help. 

People who subscribe to looking and acting like a typical male presenting person are suddenly faced with a new image that society prescribes: stoic, often reserved, unemotional, strong in their stature and avoidant of admitting weaknesses. Often they feel as if they have to cave to this image. But caving to this image heightens feelings of shame and embarrassment when something like a sexual violation “ruins” their reputation.

While I was an undergraduate student at Yale, I heard horrible stories about female students being violated in all sorts of ways. These stories filled my stomach with disgust. There was the notorious DKE chant that took place in October 2010, where fraternity brothers changed “no means yes, and yes means anal.” There was a whisper network, mostly of women, at Yale, during my time there, who spoke of potential aggressors behind closed doors in an effort to prevent rape from happening. And rightly so. Yet I felt that this whisper network was not spread enough among potential male victims. Or other genders. I didn’t hear enough men’s stories. But I’m sure that their stories existed too. 

Asking if the Me Too movement encompasses enough men’s voices might seem offensive to some, as women are statistically discriminated against more. It might also seem offensive to only speak of women’s and men’s voices, when all sorts of other genders exist. But the only reason I’m centering this piece on men is because I have only lived out a binary gender experience, and do believe that, whether we like it or not, stereotypical men are still socialized differently from women and nonbinary people. 

Make no mistake: the Me Too movement should flourish without limit. The women who confronted Harvey Weinstein and other monsters should be treated like heroes. Their speeches deserve plaques. But men speaking up and women speaking up and any other gender speaking up are not mutually exclusive in their benefit and power: in fact, they complement each other in unforeseen and beautiful ways. Men who have a past history of experiencing abuse can bond with women over this. The same goes for nonbinary people. 

More needs to be done on college campuses, including Yale, to get college-aged men to open up about their histories of assault. I’m not sure yet what dimension that would take. Having been removed several years from campus life, new groups have probably sprung up on campus that can address this issue. Consent educators are one avenue to engage in this conversation. But any extracurricular group can ask about trauma, and how to address pain. 

Returning to the touching scene in “Spotlight,” it is clear that men face an epidemic of silence around assault. It’s time that changes. Doing so will greatly improve the lives of victims but also drastically improve the lives of others as well. I know too many men who can’t speak up about their pain. 


ISAAC AMEND is a former YDN columnist and 2017 Yale College graduate, having majored in Political Science. As a transgender man, Isaac was featured in National Geographic’s “Gender Revolution” documentary. He is now a writer based in the DC area. You can reach him on Instagram and Twitter at: @isaacamend