The harmful effects of silencing male abuse victims

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Graphic by Kash Patel

Actor Brendan Fraser recently revealed that he was a victim of sexual assault at the hands of former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, HFPA for short.

Fraser, who has been in many notable movies, including The Mummy and George of the Jungle, revealed the details of his assault in an interview with GQ.

He said the assault occurred in public, but despite this he felt stuck, and was overwhelmed with panic and fear, leading to inaction in the situation. 

Fraser’s story isn’t a one time thing. Hollywood is rife with abusers who take advantage of actors and actresses in positions of subordination. Fraser’s abuser denied all allegations though, despite there being witnesses who reported the groping. 

I originally read his account of the assault on a Facebook post, and while I read many comments that sympathized with him and commended him for his bravery in speaking out, I still saw a fair amount of posts saying things like “men can’t be assaulted” or “be a man and fight back.” Another comment said he acted like a “girl” for not resisting. 

These comments are problematic for many reasons. First, men can be assaulted and it’s not as uncommon as might be believed. One in 6 men is reported to have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime; this number is not far off from female assault rates. 

Sexual assault has nothing to do with “being a man,” because being a man does not grant immunity from assault. 

The notion of men being hyper-sexual all the time works to let assaulters off the hook, under the assumption that the victim must have “wanted it.” 

The commenter who said Fraser was acting like a “girl” for not fighting back implied that he was being unmanly, but also implied that girls are supposed to be passive and willing victims. 

Open dialogue in an industry that works to protect abusers from punishment is exactly what should be happening. If survivors don’t speak up, abusers are excused.

Fraser said he was inspired to come forward after seeing women at the Golden Globes in January wearing all black. This movement was named #AskHerMore, in solidarity with the #MeToo movement.It was done to inspire interviewers to ask women about more than just what they wore to the event, as a protest to gender inequality in the industry. 

After Fraser came out publicly with the allegations, the HFPA investigated their former president and ultimately found him not guilty, making the assault out to be nothing more than a friendly joke, to which Fraser said “I don’t get the joke.”

Neither do I. Whether the former president was joking or not, intention doesn’t matter. What matters is the impact it had. 

Fraser isn’t the only male actor to come out and bravely speak on their assault. Terry Crews recounted his assault at the hands of an unnamed Hollywood agent back in 2016. 

When Crews, a former NFL player, was asked why he didn’t fight back he said that violence would only have worked to hurt his reputation and career. Still, he reported the assault but nothing came of it. 

Even though Crews’ report was ignored, he has continued to testify on his experience and speak out for other victims of assault, both male and female. 

He spoke out before a Senate hearing for a proposed legislation known as the Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights. He told the committee “the assault lasted only minutes, but what [my assaulter] was effectively telling me … was that he held the power. That he was in control.” 

One committee member referred to Crews as “big and powerful,” failing to understand why he was unable to resist being violated. But size, power or gender has nothing to do with it when someone else is in a position of control. 

This is where peoples’ concepts of masculinity fail them. Societal expectations of what a man should and shouldn’t do or be only works to disarm men against abuse and pain. 

Crews has also called on both victims and perpetrators to speak more openly about sexual assault in order to lessen the stigma faced by survivors.

Open dialogue in an industry that works to protect abusers from punishment is exactly what should be happening. If survivors don’t speak up, abusers are excused. 

Vulnerability in this sense does not equate to weakness. It takes strength to speak up against your abuser in front of the whole world. If men aren’t given allowance to speak on their experiences, good or bad, then society has failed them.

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