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Miami cannot ignore existence of male sexual assault

By Carleigh Turner, Web Designer

On Nov. 6, students received a crime alert email notifying them a male had been sexually assaulted near Cook Field and that the male perpetrator was still at large.

After staring at the email and spending some time wondering if the victim was okay, I wondered what he was to do next.

One in 33 men will experience rape in their lifetime, as opposed to one in four women on college campuses, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). Because men are statistically less likely to be assaulted, I wondered who this man would turn to, or if his friends would understand.

Miami currently has 16,387 undergraduate students, 8,746 of whom are male. Which would mean approximately 265 male students at Miami have been sexually assaulted or abused at some point in their lives, if RAINN's statistics hold true on this campus.

I began to research the support group options for male survivors at Miami and found there were none.

If a man is sexually assaulted on Miami's campus, they may seek out resources, including Miami's counseling services or an advocate at Women Helping Women. However, there are no male-specific sexual assault survivor support groups at either locations.

Laura Wonsik, case manager for counseling services at Miami, said at an It's On Us event on Nov. 10 that Miami does not have a male support group because it has not been requested frequently enough.

Miami currently has one support group for female sexual assault survivors called "Circle of Hope" that meets Mondays from 3:00 p.m to 4:30 p.m.

I believe Miami University would benefit by taking a hint from Field of Dreams.

"If you build it, he will come."

If support groups are at least made available to these students, it may make them feel more comfortable in getting adequate psychological support, hopefully minimizing the potential for developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to an article by Ellen McGrath in Psychology Today.

The effects of PTSD can be devastating. Intrusive flashbacks, dissociating, hypervigilance and terrifying nightmares are just some of the common symptoms of PTSD.

Although men are less likely to develop PTSD than women, it does not give anyone license to ignore the male population that will develop the disorder by not providing support groups due to a lack of demand.

Miami cannot sweep male sexual assault under the rug any longer. As of Nov. 6, the student population knows a man was brave enough to come out and share he was sexually violated. It is now the university's time to respond.

Miami does have sexual assault awareness groups on campus, like WAVES and MARS. However, they do not provide the psychological support that group therapy offers.

In group therapy, male identifying and female identifying survivors are able to see they are not alone and, with the help of a licensed psychologist, are able to work through the painful memories of a sexual assault.

For survivors that may not feel comfortable going to group therapy, or do not have that option available to them, studies have shown that processing trauma through writing has actually improved immune function.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), in a study conducted by Josh Pennebaker and Keith Petrie, 37 patients were asked to write about negative experiences or about their daily schedules. The patients who wrote about their life experiences had improved immune functioning better than the control group. Their writing helped decrease their stress related to being diagnosed with HIV.

Pennebaker also said that suppressing trauma-related thoughts compromises immune functioning, and those who choose to write about their stressors visit the doctor less often.

That being said, if the university is not able to provide male sexual assault survivors with a support group, then they should provide them with a journal and some writing utensils.

The university should be focusing on taking care of all its survivors, not just the majority.

When we deny male students the opportunity to receive the benefits of group therapy, we are saying we do not care about what happened to them. We are letting down our community, and it needs to stop.