Director of Counseling Services Janell McGruder talks about why men are less likely to report sexual assault. (Julia Volpe/TKS)
Alum Marvin X. Marshall ‘15 had to work up the nerve to ask a girl to dance at a Knox house party during his freshman year. This was the beginning of a seemingly innocuous college romance. As the relationship progressed Marshall started to notice signs his partner was emotionally abusive. The emotional abuse turned into sexual abuse.
“At first, I thought I was doing the right thing as a good boyfriend. Just making compromises, but those compromises turned into coercion to do things I didn’t want to do at the time,” Marshall said.
He recalled an incident where during finals period he needed to study for a chemistry test, but his girlfriend insisted on having sex. Marshal said he didn’t want to. She told him she thought he was lying about the chemistry final as a way to avoid having sex with her.
“[She would say] ‘you don’t think I’m pretty or you might be talking to someone else,’ or some other nonsense. Then I’m coerced into having sex with her just to prove her doubts wrong,” Marshall said.
Marshall had a tough time telling friends about this, many of them made jokes about his situation.
“I said my girlfriend raped me and they were like, ‘you shouldn’t be saying all that, you should be happy a girl wants to fuck you.’ It kinda got to me. Those events while dating my girlfriend were really triggering,” Marshall said.
For Marshall, creative outlets such as writing and poetry became a refuge. Marshall said he was dealing with a lot of anger and depression. He explained that he also started to act in a much more misogynistic way because he lost trust in women.
“For that I apologize. I think feminism needs to be talked about more because it teaches men not to sexually harass women and teaches women not to do the same,” Marshall said.
Director of Counseling Services and Sexual Assault Advocate Janell McGruder states that aggression is a common feeling for male identifying assault victims.
“There is numbness that happens [as] a way to get back to normal. When that numbness happens it can lead to depression and anxiety,” McGruder said.
McGruder tells individuals that any reaction they have to trauma is attuned to their individual life experience. For men of color, McGruder sees a higher level of stigma around reporting assaults.
“If they’re an individual of color and have had interactions with the police those are not seen as safe places to go to,” McGruder said.
In 2015, Marshall was walking home from work when a woman randomly groped him. Marshall, a black man, said that a police officer saw what happened. The officer told Marshall if he reacted he would be the one in trouble.
“I was like ‘damn, I’m the one getting assaulted but you’re gonna try to arrest me?’ I walked home depressed,” Marshall said. “I tried telling my mom about it and she didn’t believe me.”
McGruder stated that a common cultural perception is that men can’t be raped. This can lead to male victims not being believed.
According to The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted in 2010-2012, one in nine men in America have been sexually assaulted. In comparison, one in four women have been sexually assaulted. The survey estimates that 19,522,000 men in America have had some sort of sexual violence committed against them.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates that one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.
“After that I kind of feel the way women feel when they’re just randomly harassed and catcalled. They’re trying to live their everyday life as human beings. They can’t do that because the way society is shaped, women are viewed as objects,” Marshall said.
Title IX Coordinator Kim Schrader was not comfortable sharing how many men at Knox have reported sexual assault, but shared that the college makes sure to use language that is gender inclusive.
“It’s important that we are doing all we can to remove barriers to reporting so that people can have access to information about their rights [and] resources,” Schrader said. “I think the number of reports we get is a reflection on the work we’re doing to remove barriers.”
Schrader said that the reporting process at Knox looks exactly the same for all genders. Schrader states that she isn’t sure if there has been a specific effort by Knox to reach out to male identifying students. However, she believes it’s an important part of the conversation.
“We have the conversations with people of all genders. We do training and education with single gendered groups and mixed-gender groups,” Schrader said.
Schrader encourages students to look up the resources Knox has to offer them. A list of resources can be found at www.knox.edu/respect. Students can contact counseling services at 309.341.7492
McGruder isn’t sure if the #MeToo movement, a national movement to talk about sexual assault in the United States, has increased the number of students coming to counseling. However, she believes the culture is stepping in the right direction. Marshall himself was inspired to post about the hashtag as a survivor.
“We’re here, we want to hear from you,” McGruder said.
Marshall, an academic tutor and advisor for struggling high schoolers, believes that putting energy into your goals in life can be a huge way to heal. He will also start going to therapy for the first time this year.
“I would say, the best thing is talking about and airing whatever grievances you have. I would really advise people to seek therapy. Hopefully it comes with a positive outcome,” Marshall said.