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Where sexual assault is concerned, nearly half of the population goes largely unrecognized; this portion of the population is male victims. The male population makes up a considerable number of sexual assault and rape victims, the effects of which are damaging and long lasting. There is a lack of research on the subject, but even less research on how sexual assault can affect academic performance, and an even greater lack of research on how it affects the academic performance of males. Sexual assault causes harm to those who are victims of it, and because male victims are largely unrecognized, they receive minimal, if any treatment, causing lasting, damaging harm. Harm may include a reduction of academic performance in higher education, academic performance being primarily concerned with grade point averages, and dropout rates (Baker, et al., 2016).
Because there is so little research on the subject, statistics concerning the prevalence of sexual assault in the male population and in the college population vary considerably. Some studies of college victimization put prevalence rates at anywhere from 20% to 51.2% of male college students having experienced at least one type of sexual victimization (Baker, et al., 2016; Turchik, 2012). Other studies of the general population have put male victimization rates between three and seven percent. This compares to a rate of between 13.5% and 22% in the female population (Bullock & Beckson, 2011).
Apart from prevalence rates, there are several common topics of discussion between pieces of literature. These include things such as myths surrounding male victimization, the lack of resources available, and the psychological effects of victimization and the similarities therein between male and female victims. One of the greatest myths addressed throughout the literature is that a male cannot achieve and sustain an erection, and cannot ejaculate, unless he is consenting to sexual activity and enjoying the assault. However, research shows that males can experience involuntary arousal. They can obtain and sustain an erection, and even ejaculate, as a result of anxiety and fear experienced during the assault. This high level of physiological arousal has been cited to elicit involuntary erections and ejaculations. (Coxell & King, 2010). Myths such as these exist in the medical field, are perpetuated by the media, practiced in law, rampant throughout the military, and effects prevalence of sexual assaults in incarcerated settings (Turchik & Edwards, 2012). As a result of these myths, prejudices and stereotypes abound. These prejudices and stereotypes can be found in those who provide services to sexual assault victims (Bullock & Beckson, 2011). The culmination of these factors leads to psychological ailments in male victims, comparable to that of female victims. Male victims, like female victims, may experience shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual problems, and trouble forming relationships (Coxell & King, 2010). In addition to this, males can experience confusion and distress regarding sexual orientation due to their physiological responses during sexual assaults. They often experience accusations of being homosexual when assaulted. In cases where the perpetrator is male, accusations are due to their physiological responses and general homophobia in society. When the perpetrator is female, the male assaulted is considered gay because he did not enjoy sex with the woman, as men are expected to always want sex all the time (Turchik & Edwards, 2012).
Where academic performance is concerned, there is little research on how sexual assault affects males’ academic performance. Female academic performance concerning sexual assault also contains a limited amount of research, but there is a greater amount than research on males. In these studies, grade point averages decrease with severity and number of assaults (Jordan & Smith, 2014). Overall, sexual victimization is correlated with lower grade point averages and a significant increase in dropout rates (Baker, et al., 2016). Male victimization may follow this same pattern, but more research is needed.
There are still deficiencies in the literature that does exist on the subject of male victimization and how it affects academic performance, especially concerning the research itself. Perhaps the largest obstacles regarding research in this area are the general lack of studies and the absence of representative samples (Turchik, 2012; Davies, Pollard, & Archer, 2006). More research is needed in many areas involving male victims of sexual assault and on academic performance of this same group (Baker, et. al., 2016). It would be beneficial to this end to obtain larger, more representative, more diverse samples (Turchik & Edwards, 2012). In the majority of existing literature, the data of the prevalence of sexual assault are obtained only from small samples at universities. This is sufficient for the purpose of research on college academic performance, but overall information on the general population would allow for comparisons between the general populace and college students. Perhaps studies focusing on racial differences would lead to diverse populations receiving improved, culturally sensitive services (Kearney & Rochlen, 2012).
It would aid the study of male victimization to focus on the psychological difficulties experienced after or as a result of victimization, and what the most effective treatments would be for male victims (Davies, Pollard, & Archer, 2006). Psychological effects have been shown to be similar in males and females, with manifestations of unique problems between the two sexes. Further research on the psychological effects of victimization on males would be beneficial to overall research and treatment. Additionally, research of the differences regarding psychological maladies between males and females as a result of sexual victimization would aid in understanding how this affects rates of reporting. Observing how responses to different types of treatments vary between males and females would be beneficial, as it would aid in helping male victims (Coxell & King, 2010).
Perhaps an increase in research on the subject of psychological effects and treatments would increase the education and training service providers. To further this, an examination of service provider attitudes towards male victims of sexual assault should be conducted. Stereotypes and myths concerning male victims abound in society, even in settings such as hospitals, treatment facilities for victims of sexual assault, crisis hotlines, and law enforcement. Understanding the perceptions and attitudes of service providers will allow for identifying and correcting attitudes that will negatively affect treatment (Davies, Pollard, & Archer, 2006). Additionally, it may help to examine whether the gender of the therapist or service provider affects the treatment and outcomes of male victims (Coxell & King, 2010). Studies addressing these topics will bring knowledge and efficiency to many service providers that may come in contact with these populations. Information concerning how effective specific treatment options are will aid crisis centers, hospitals, and therapists in providing services to male victims of sexual assault (Coxell & King, 2010). Studies of racial differences in prevalence and perceptions towards sexual assault (Kearney & Rochlen, 2012), and how the gender of the service provider affects outcomes will also be beneficial to these areas (Coxell & King, 2010).
A general increase in studies of how sexual assault affects males’ academic performance in college could aid schools in becoming aware and in developing services at these institutions. Examining additional areas of academic performance may help to increase understanding of what is affected and what services should be developed to aid males who have been victimized. In addition, it may provide overall information on what services should be developed for both males and females (Baker, et al., 2016).
The present study will be focusing on providing further research to the area of male sexual assault and how this affects academic performance. The study will seek to address the deficiencies of past literature by studying a large sample over several different colleges. An examination of academic performance will expand to include not only grade point averages, but the test scores of individuals on their final examination, as well as attendance as reported by the universities. Correlations between sexual assault and academic performance will be examined in terms of severity of the assault.
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