Keith Smith (shown above) was 14 when he was raped by a driver who picked him up after a hockey team meeting. He had hitchhiked home, which is why, for decades, he continued to blame himself for the assault.
While most experts agree women are raped far more often than men, 1.4 percent of men in a recent national survey said they had been raped at some point. The study, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that when rape was defined as oral or anal penetration, one in 71 men said they had been raped or had been the target of attempted rape, usually by a man they knew. (The study did not include men in prison.)
And one in 21 said they had been forced to penetrate an acquaintance or a partner, usually a woman; had been the victim of an attempt to force penetration; or had been made to receive oral sex.
Other estimates have run even higher. A Department of Justice report found that 3 percent of men, or one in 33, had been raped. Some experts believe that one in six men have experienced unwanted sexual contact of some kind as minors.
But for many men, the subject is so discomfiting that it is rarely discussed — virtually taboo, experts say, because of societal notions about masculinity and the idea that men are invulnerable and can take care of themselves.
“We have a cultural blind spot about this,” said David Lisak, a clinical psychologist who has done research on interpersonal violence and sexual abuse and is a founding board member of 1in6, an organization that offers information and services to men who had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences as children.
“We recognize that male children are being abused,” Dr. Lisak said, “but then when boys cross some kind of threshold somewhere in adolescence and become what we perceive to be men, we no longer want to think about it in this way.”
Much of the research on the sexual assault of men has focused on prisons. But men are also raped outside of prison, usually by people they know, including acquaintances and intimate partners, but occasionally by complete strangers. They are raped as part of violent, drunken or drug-induced assaults; war crimes; interrogations; antigay bias crimes; and hazing rites for male clubs and organizations, like fraternities, and in the military.
In one study of 3,337 military veterans applying for disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder, 6.5 percent of male combat veterans and 16.5 percent of noncombat veterans reported either in-service or post-service sexual assault. (The rates were far higher for female veterans, 69.0 percent and 86.6 percent respectively.)
A Pentagon report released on Thursday found a 64 percent increase in sexual crimes in the Army since 2006, with rape, sexual assault and forcible sodomy the most frequent violent sex crimes committed last year.
Some studies have reported that the risk of rape is greatest for men who are young, are living in poverty or homeless, or are disabled or mentally ill. The C.D.C. study found that one-quarter of men who had been raped were assaulted before they were 10 , usually by someone they knew.
And young men raised by poor single mothers are especially vulnerable to male predators, said Dr. Zane Gates, an internist who cares for low-income patients on Medicaid at a community health center in Altoona, Pa.
“You’re looking for a male figure in your life desperately, and you’ll give anything for that,” he said.
–From The New York Times, Men Struggle for Rape Awareness