The Five Stages of Grief: Part One
Author: Caleb Byers
Author's Note: Although, current literature reports that the Kübler-Ross (1969) stage-model of grief is outdated for many reasons (that I will not go into), I have decided to use this model as it is simple to understand and is very well known.
Kübler-Ross (1969) Stage-Model of Grief
This model purports that five stages of grief exist; they are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Additionally, Kubler-Ross state that these stages may be experienced in: (1) any order and; (2) to varying degrees of duration (Kubler-Ross, 1969). For myself, my stages went something along the lines of; 1. Denial 2. Bargaining 3. Depression 4. Anger 5. Acceptance. I also want to note the fact that I went through the stages of bargaining, anger and depression multiple times before finally reaching the final stage of acceptance.
I had never talked to [my perpetrator] before, he picked me out as a vulnerable target, and started his grooming process. He came up to me and started a conversation. It lasted less than 10 minutes, but by the end of it he had my phone number and had invited me over to his apartment to "hang out" sometime in the future.
In the weeks leading up to my SA, I went over to his apartment multiple times. Whenever I went over there it was always just he and I. Additionally, there was always alcohol involved. I know now that these ffacts should have been major "red-flags" to me, but at the time thehy weren't for two main reasons. The first being at that point I trusted him, and viewed him as a father figure. Secondly, my consumption of alcohol inhibited my ability to "read" his intentions. He very quickly took advantage of these facts and in the weeks leading up to my SA had many intimate conversations with me. Through these conversations he learned what my vulnerabilities and weaknesses were. Furthermore, these conversations were used to further build up my trust in him. Once he felt as though I trusted him enough, he took advantage of me.
On June 7th, 2012, my life was forever changed. To this day, I don't know if he drugged me or just made my drinks much stronger than usual. What I do know is that, I was severely intoxicated, in shock and beyond terrified as to what was happening. Neither my brain or body could handle what was going on. My body froze. My mind chose to disassociate or "check out". I spent the next half hour of my life praying that this wasn't happening to me, and the following half hour desperately trying to figure out how I could escape.
Then, an idea hit me. I told him I needed to go to the bathroom, I grabbed my things and ran like hell. Once I got into my car, the sheer panic set in. I was hyperventilating and sobbing uncontrollably the entire time I was driving home. By some miracle I didn't hurt myself or any other individual. I walked into the apartment that I was living in with my twin brother, Lukas. He took one look at me and immediately knew that something was wrong. He asked me what had happened, and I just stood there searching for the words to say, and the courage to say them. When I finally found both and managed to tell him what had happened out loud, he, in shock and disbelief, started to laugh. I have long since forgiven him for his reaction, but at that point in time, it was the last thing that I wished to see. When I went to bed that night, I laid there for a long time watching the room spin, refusing to believe what had happened. The last thought that I remember having before I fell asleep was "This is just a nightmare, and I'll wake up from it in the morning". It wasn't.
I couldn't tell you more than a small handful of details about the following t hree months of my life. Between the excessive amounts of alcohol that I drank to cope and blocking that period of time in my life. There is a large gap in my memories. However, if I really wanted to I could describe my SA with second to second detail. I could tell you what the room liked like, and the feelings I experienced. This hour of my life has replayed like a video in my head thousands of times since that night, and they are forever seared into my memory.
The strongest of the many emotions that I experienced afterwards, was shame. It was as though I had the words "I was sexually assaulted by a male" branded into my forehead for the entire world to see. Shame defined my existince. I felt that I had somewhow "lost my masculinity". It affected everything about me, including my thoughts, how I spoke, how I perceived myself, and how I viewed the world.
Anger, Depression & Bargaining
In August of 2012, I attended the University of Iowa. But, in moving away from my hometwon, I abandoned the small support system that I had. My PTSD quickly spiraled out of control, and I fell deeper into depression. The second strongest emotion for me, was rage. I was intensely angry at myself, my perp, and if I could have burned the world to the ground with my anger, I would have glady done so with a smile on my face. But, at the end of it all, I was simply desperate. Desperate for a small relief from the mental hell that I was in. There were several nights that I laid in bed contemplating suicide so "I didn't have to feel this way" any longer. I would have done anything to feel "normal". I quickly found that the only way I could feel "normal", was in self-injuring multiple times a day. On the particularly bad days, I would carve smiley faces into my legs so that at least something about me could be happy. Most of my clothing from that time, had blood stains on them from from cutting over existing wounds and old injuries breaking open while walking. Needless to say, this was an awful time in my life.
Within a month of moving, I was reported to the police by a TA who feared that I was a danger to myself, and to others. Two police men came knocking on my door on August 25th, 2012 at 11:34PM. They took me to a private conference room in the dorm that I was living in and talked to me for almost an hour. After which, I finally consented to go to the hospital for a psych evaluation. Looking back, I now see how uncomfortable they were in talking to me, a male survivor. It was written as plain as day on their faces. They didn't know what to think of me, or even how to act around me. At the hospital, I was seen by any number of professionals, from Social Workers to M'D's.
That night was a turning point for me in two different ways. The first being my realization of the fact that I couldn't keep living like this. Thus, I decided to make a change and to focus on my own recovery. The second and most important thing was the conversation that I had with the Social Worker while I was in the hospital. Out of the many individuals I saw that night, she was the only one that didn't looked at me in fear, shock, and/or pity. That meant the world to me. She simply wanted to help me to get to a better place. I don't remeber her name and sadly she will probably never know that the conversation we had laid the groundwork for my decisition to pursue a career in Social Work.
Pressing Charges & “Re-Victimization”
In January of 2014, a year and a half after my SA I decided to press charges against my perpetrator. To be honest, I wish I hadn't. The entire process was just as traumatizing, if not more so than my actual assault, as I was faced with an overwhelming attitude of minimization, dismissal, and outright disbelief of my experience. Ultimately, my case was dropped due to a "lack of physical evidence". But, in reality, the primary reason that my case was dropped is due to the many myths, stereotypes and false beliefs that surround male sexual assault in our society today.
In the months following my attempt to press charges, I struggled with the idea of making a video publically disclosing my sexual assault in hopes that I would no longer feel defined by my experience. On November 26th, 2014, I did exactly that. I made the video, fully expecting to receive a hundred views at most. I've never been so wrong in my life! I had several hundred views within the first hour and was receiving dozens of messages from people that I didn't even know and they were sharing their own stories or offering their support. I was absolutely blown away. Fast forward a few weeks to December 16th 2014, I was sitting in the library studying for my finals, and the idea of creating a website popped into my head and by the end of the day, wearenotpowerless.com was born. It looks much different now, than it did 1.5 years ago, but my mission of educating the general public of the experience of a male sexual assault survivor, in addition to providing resources, advocacy and encouragement to my fellow survivors to find their own voice has never changed.
My life has been far from perfect since making my website. I will be the first to admit that. But, more importantly, I am no longer defined by my experience. Yes, I am continually being shaped and molded by it, but I have found my reason for being on this earth. For that, I am forever grateful.
Kübler-Ross, E. (1969). On death and dying. NY, NY: Tavistock Publications.
The Stages of Grief 1.5: Luke's Perspective
Author: Lukas Byers
Caleb and I often get some strange looks when we tell them we have lived together for 22 of our 23 years alive on this planet. What they don’t understand is that Caleb and I share an intense bond that started in the intensive NICU unit on January 18th, 1992. Growing up we were always each other’s closest friend. I can count on one hand the number of times we have gotten into a serious argument. Sure, we get pissed and annoyed with one another. But who doesn’t? We are basically married in every sense of the word, we share the finances, we come to one another when we are having a difficult time (usually), and we can read one another like an open book.
Through each of our own struggles with depression, anxiety, self-injury, substance abuse, severe parental mental health issues, divorce, and now this experience, we have forged a deep, connective bond tempered by fire, forged like steel, pressurized into diamonds, which can only be described as twinning.
Stage 1: Denial
June 7th, 2012 is a day I will never forget. I still can close my eyes and bring myself back to the apartment on Dillman Drive. I knew Caleb was with his future assailant, so I had spent the evening sitting there watching movies. It was just after 10 P.M. when Caleb walked into the door, he was frantic, out of breath, with tears streaming down his face. I was sitting on the sectional couch we had at the time, and asked Caleb what happened. It took him a while to collect his thoughts and then he finally forced out: “He assaulted me.” I laughed.
To this day, I still feel terribly about my first initial reaction when Caleb told me he had been assaulted. I don’t think I will quite ever forgive myself for laughing. Looking back now, I know that this is what I do when I get uncomfortable in a situation. . . Still though, it hurts. To this day, I still have never seen Caleb’s assailant in person. Thank God, I know I would wrap my hands around his throat and squeeze until the life receded from his body, and even then, I would be hesitant to let go. Words cannot describe the deep, animalistic, sheer, bitter rage I hold for this man. No one fucks with my brother.
It took me about 20 minutes to realize that Caleb was not joking and my laughing quickly faded. Then the panic started to set in, I literally had no idea how to even comprehend what happened never mind help Caleb in any way, shape, or form. I sat there in silence with Caleb the remainder of the night.
Caleb was at work already when I got up the next morning, I remember pacing around our apartment trying to process what in the hell was going through my head. I didn’t know what to do…
The next few weeks are a blur for me; I have forced them out of my brain because it’s too damn painful to bring myself back. I remember working a lot and trying to keep my own self sane for Caleb.
Stage 2: Anger
I was angry for a long time. I remember sitting there in my free time thinking of creative ways I would hurt and kill the man who had hurt my brother so much. I remember talking with our friend Cody about ways we would get even: slashing all four tires on his car, bashing in his windows, in a desperate attempt to make him feel the slightest bit of pain and anguish that he had caused Caleb.
For some reason, Caleb’s assailant would always text him on the rare night that we would go out. It was like he knew Caleb was out drinking, trying to numb the pain. I would always instantly be able to tell when that text came. Caleb would stare at his phone, paralyzed by fear and I would grab it and respond with some derivative of this: “Don’t fucking talk to my brother you piece of shit. He doesn’t want to talk to you ever again. I will fucking kill you if I ever see you. Fuck off and die a painful death you motherfucker.”
The months passed and the anger started to recede, with many painful talks with my counselor whom both Caleb and I call our “Angel.”
Stage 3, 4, and 5: Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance
I remember talking to our Angel. . . asking her why Caleb of all people had to go through this terrible ordeal. I pleaded and begged her to help me take some of his pain away. I felt it was my duty as his twin to somehow undertake this impossible task.
For a brief period of time, I wished it would have been me that had been assaulted. At least then, he wouldn’t have to deal with the pain.
The depression set in when Caleb left for Iowa City. I had some of my own issues going on at the time and getting a text from Caleb saying that he was self-injuring nearly broke me. Having been there myself – I knew exactly how dark, deep, and impossible that pit was.
When Caleb came back for a weekend I remember hugging him so tight and balling as he left my dorm room because I knew he was going to his own personal hell in Iowa City. I remember talking with my angel expressing my concern for Caleb, I didn’t know if he was safe to be by himself. I feared that he would eventually take his own life. That would destroy me so deeply I physically shudder even now as I write out that fear. To lose half of me would be beyond devastating. . .
When I found out Caleb was in the hospital I cried for the first time in a long time. I was terrified that he had to go in there. I had been there and done that before him too. But, at the same time it gave me hope that he would receive some of the help he so desperately needed in that hellhole called Iowa City.
The months passed and I slowly started to accept the fact that this was Caleb’s cross to bear alone. While it was a tragic ordeal, I knew he would be a better, stronger person for it. It makes me so fucking proud to watch Caleb’s video. It brings me to tears every time to see just how far he has come since June 7th 2012. I personally saw his deep, indescribable pain and the immense work he had to go through to get to this point.
Even now, I can tell when things will trigger him and bring him back to that night. He will get quiet, the veins in his forehead will pop out and he will physically pull himself into a ball. It pains me to see, and I always do my best to change the subject and get his mind off of it.
I am honored and thrilled that he is allowing me to write this out for his website. It means the world to me to be a part of this advocacy work that he is doing for male sexual assault. Caleb, you are an amazingly strong person and I give you immense props for all of the effort, money, and hours that you and now I have poured into this website.
Together, we can make a small difference in this immense world.
You are not alone.
There is always hope.
You are not powerless.
The Stages Of Grief: Part II
A Scientific Look at Male Sexual Assault
Author: Lukas Byers
Hey, I’m Luke. I happen to be the better half of my twin Caleb. I kid… I have immense respect for what he is trying to accomplish with his website and the advocacy work he is doing on Social Media. It is not easy to continually push his agenda when it is extremely sensitive, personal, and triggering material.
A little bit about me, just so you know my background and I don’t sound like a complete stranger to whoever visits and reads the content on this site. As I have already mentioned, Caleb and I are twins. Besides the apparent awesomeness of being a twin, I have had the privilege to grow extremely close to him through experiences that life has brought in our short 22 years.
I too, have the same career aspirations as Caleb. Through my own experiences I have learned that I was destined to help people in any way I can, as is Caleb. I am currently in the last semester of my undergrad degree (Bachelors of Science in Social Work.) I will graduate in the spring of 2015 with every hope and dream of being accepted into the Masters of Social Work program with a Clinical Concentration so that I can eventually practice therapy.
Very recently a friend of mine was raped. As she was describing her feelings on what happened a light bulb turned on for me. What she was exactly describing was the Five Stages of Grief.
Ross & Kessler (2005) describe the stages of grief as:
- Stage 1: Denial
- Stage 2: Anger
- Stage 3: Bargaining
- Stage 4: Depression
- Stage 5: Acceptance
For those of you that are not familiar with the 5 stages of grief, let me explain a little bit. In any traumatic experience such as rape, sexual assault, death, parental divorce, and break-ups the individual goes through the process of grieving. The interesting part, if you will, is that there is no neat progression from stage to stage. A person may start in the fourth stage (depression) and then go into the first stage (denial.) The length of each stage is also dependent on the individual, there is no set time limit for each stage – I believe that after three months of being in stage two; I’ll go directly into stage three for exactly 31 days. There is no such thing!
As a survivor of sexual assault, you are immediately assaulted with different emotions that make absolutely zero sense. The experience itself is overwhelming, but the aftermath is even more so. I am very close with Caleb and lived with him at the time of his assault. I saw firsthand the trauma and grief that he (and I) experienced in the following weeks. With this being said, the plan for the next few weeks is for both Caleb and I to discuss the 5 stages of grief that he went through, each from our own unique perspective at that point in time.
It is our hope for those that may find this website who have been a victim of sexual assault in the distant past or even in the past week- help gain a better understanding of what the long and arduous healing process will/has entail(ed).
Above all, always remember that you are not powerless. You are not alone. You are not without hope.
The Male Aspect:
There is a severe gap in knowledge in existing research of the dynamics involved in male sexual assault. Due to the sheer amount of factors involved, it would be impossible to discuss every single aspect of sexual assault. As a result; in this section I will touch on three unique parts. First, how often male sexual assault occurs according to existing literature. Second, I will discuss some of the problems that men face in assault, as well as common myths about male survivors. Last, I will discuss from a scientific standpoint why victim arousal is a common occurrence.
In order to get a better understanding of male sexual assault, we first need to know how it is defined. It is important to note, however, that male sexual assault does not have a universal definition across legal jurisdictions, and research studies. This is just one example of one complication victims will face in the process of healing, disclosure, and possible legal involvement. Kilpatrick, Resnick, Ruggiero, Conoscenti & McCauley (2007) defines rape as “sex obtained by force or threat of force when victims are mentally incapacitated and unable to consent.”
Stermac, Sheridan, Davidson, & Dunn (1996) first reported that approximately 7% of males in the U.S. general population have experienced some form of sexual assault. Bullock & Beckson (2011) cite 13 different articles (Sorenson, Stein, Siegel, (1987); Elliot, Mok, Briere, (2004); Coxell, King, Mezey, (1999); Rigs, Houry, Long, (2000); Hillman, Tomlinson, McMillan, (1990); Frazier, (1993); Stermac, Del Bove, Addison (2004); Ernst, Green, Ferguson, (2000); Ernst, Green, Ferguson, et al., (2000); Pesola, Westfal, Kuffner, (1999); Lacey, Roberts, (1991); Kaufman, Divasto, Jackson, (1980); Coxell, King, Mezey, (2000); 18 U.S.C. 2242, (1986); Singh, (2004)).
These studies showed that 3 to 7 percent of men report a history of sexual assault during adulthood as compared with 13.5 to 22 percent of women. All studies report that a high percentage of assaults (18-74%) involve forced anal or oral penetration. Additionally, all studies reported that male sexual assault occurs most often with younger victims being in their twenties or early thirties.
Choudhary, Gunzler, Tu & Bossarte (2012) estimate that sexual violence victimization may affect as many as 3.1 million U.S. men each year, with as many as 2.1 million being victims of forced sexual intercourse at some point in their lifetime, and an additional 978,000 experiencing some form of unwanted sexual activity in the past 12 months. The author’s note that victims tend to be younger, White, and non-Hispanic, and assert that the true prevalence may be much higher. The authors conclude their study by expressing “an urgent need to examine other data sources such as criminological databases to provide a more complete understanding of male sexual assault.”
Although this is not directly related to the prevalence of male sexual assault, I feel that this is important to include: Choudhary, Gunzler, Tu & Bossarte (2012) report that male victims in comparison to female victims are more likely to sustain physical injuries. The authors cite Monroe et al. (2005) that in their particular sample, 41% of males reported being physically injured.
Bullock & Beckson (2011) found that perpetrators were more likely to be heterosexual with assaults being motivated by power, and anger.Choudhary, Gunzler, Tu & Bossarte (2012) provide additional support for Bullock, et al. in their findings that male perpetrators are likely to report their sexuality as heterosexual.
Various Effects of Rape/Sexual Assault:
Chapleau, Oswald, & Russell (2008) cite a 1999 study showing that men are 1.5x less likely to report a rape than women. The aftermath of a rape/sexual assault is devastating for both men and women for obvious reasons. The authors cite (Goyer & Eddleman, 1984; Groth & Burgess, 1980; Mezey & King, 1989) in describing the aftermath. “Sexual assault is emotionally devastating for men . . . Like female victims, men can experience vulnerability, depression, suicidal thoughts, sleep disturbances, social isolation, sexual dysfunction, and confusion about their sexual orientation.”
King, Coxell, & Mezey (2002) further explore the impact in symptomology of male abuse survivors. King et al. surveyed 69 participants and ran multivariate analysis on five different variables related to abuse: physiological factors (depression, anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, or any other psychological disturbance), sexual problems, self-harm, substance misuse, and ‘any of these problems.’ They discovered that unwanted sexual experiences in adulthood were strongly associated with physiological disturbance, and self-harm.
One of the things that Caleb especially struggled with was Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), since I am interested in trauma I decided to study a little bit. According to the DSM 5, PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs with exposure to one or more traumatic events where actual or perceived death, sexual injury or sexual violation occurs. Symptoms are separated into four different diagnostic clusters: re-experiencing, avoidance, negative cognitions and mood, and arousal (fight or flight).
King, Coxell, & Mezey (2002) explored Rowan & Foy, (1993) found that 21-50% of sexual abuse survivors develop symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Martinson, Sigmon, Craner, Rothstein, & McGillicuddy, (2013) discuss the impact of PTSD on sexual abuse survivors. Martinson, et al. (2013) found that for survivors with a current diagnosis of PTSD required more time to process intimacy-related words. These results suggest that individuals with PTSD require more attentional resources to process intimacy because the brain first registers it as a threat. They go on to say that survivors of sexual trauma and PTSD develop difficulties in emotional intimacy and sexual functioning.
Ullman & Filipas (2005) further discuss the differences in coping between men and women. They found that abuse survivors coping strategies varied according to their gender. The authors cited a 1990 study by Gomes-Schwartz, Horowitz, & Cardarelli who found that men were more likely to act out violently in comparison to females. Additionally, Saladin et al., (2003) was cited by the authors, in this (2003) study the authors found that substance use and abuse was found to be more common in men than women.
So now that we know about the ‘aftermath’ of sexual assault, where does that lead us? Survivors of sexual abuse, regardless of gender require access to services such as mental health therapy, and medication management. Donnelly & Kenyon (1996) investigated the gender stereotypes in post-crisis intervention services for male and female victims, attitudes of the workers towards male assault victims, and the services that were available for men.
Donnelly et al. surveyed 41 crisis centers, with a follow-up interview with 30 of them. Of the 30, 11 did not provide services to males, 19 were ‘amenable’ to the idea, of the 19 only 4 had provided services to male in the past year. Five more centers had in the past, and 10 of them could ‘theoretically’ do so. Attitudes towards male survivors tended to be negative, with one law enforcement representative laughing and saying “Honey, we don’t do men . . . men can’t be raped.”
A newer study by Du Mont, Macdonald, White, & Turner, (2013) surveyed 38 male survivors over a 12 month period over the utilization of services. Every one of the 38 used at least one service, and 86% of them used five or more services. The most common services utilized were healthcare related, such as post-crisis counseling, treatment of injuries, and referral for follow-up care for supportive counseling, injury redocumentation, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Du Mont, et al. concluded their study with highlighting the need for more gender-sensitive services available for men, and an even greater need for evidence-based best practice treatment for male survivors.
We frequently hear about sexual assault with a female, and rarely about sexual assault on men. Why? Light & Monk-Turner (2009) express that gender of the perpetrator may play a key role in this. It can be said that the general assumption of men who are assaulted or raped by a male perpetrator are gay.
Bullock & Beckson (2011) strengthened Light & Monk-Turner’s (2009) assertion that male victims are homosexual. In addition to this the authors expand on more common myths, stereotypes and unfounded beliefs about men who have been sexually assaulted. These included the belief that male non-institutionalized adult sexual assault simply does not happen, the myth that men are responsible for their assaults, that male victims are less traumatized by sexual assault, and that ejaculation is an indicator of consent on the part of men.
Chapleau, Oswald, & Russell (2008) explore more myths regarding male survivors. In addition to the myths provided by Light & Monk-Turner, and Bullock & Beckson, Chapleau, et al. note some additional myths: being raped is synonymous to losing your masculinity, men are incapable of sexual functioning unless they are aroused, men are ready for any sexual encounter that comes their way, and lastly; a man will defend himself in the case of assault.
Chapleau, et al. (2008) analyzed rape myth acceptance by gender. Participants in the study took measures of male rape myth acceptance, female rape myth acceptance, ambivalent sexism toward men, adversarial sexual beliefs, and acceptance of interpersonal violence. The authors used ANOVA to analyze the data and discovered that men were generally more likely to believe rape myths. A strong correlation was found for male and female rape myth acceptance. This indicates that if you believe one ‘set’ of rape myths (male & female) you are more likely believe in rape myths for both genders.
Bullock & Beckson (2011) explore the reasoning for these myths. They blame ignorance, attribution of blame, and homophobia as being responsible. Historically, most all clinical research has focused on men being the perpetrator and females being the victim. This mindset of the general population has proven difficult to change.
Survivor Arousal and Related Factors:
The last aspect I want to touch on is the science behind victim arousal; this section will be short and sweet compared to the last two. Hang in there! Levin & Berlo, (2004) wanted to determine if arousal could occur during sexual assault or rape. It has been discovered that two parts to arousal; it is as much a physical, as it is a mental experience. It is entirely possible for men and women both to become physically aroused, but mentally disengaged.
It has been established in the realm of female sexuality that here are ‘gateway controls’ that women put in place to control arousal. However, in situations where there is a threat, violence, hypnosis, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or prescription medication, the socio-sexual controls normally in place turn off. Ringrose, (1977) found that women have about a 5% chance to achieve an orgasm during the case of rape.
Ramsey, (1943) found that punishment, fear of punishment, boxing and wrestling, being scared, anger, harsh words, being yelled at, and fear of bigger boys were all factors that could produce an erection in pre-pubescent boys. Kinsey, et al. (1953) hypothesized that boys produce an erection to a variety of different stimuli (anger, fright, pain, etc.) Kinsey et al. proposed that boys condition themselves by their teens to become aroused by only direct physical contact.
Levin, et al. (2004) finished their review by confirming the claim that arousal and even orgasm in both men and women can take place during sexual assault and rape. They concluded by stating that a perpetrator’s defense relying solely on the principle that arousal or orgasm as a sign of consent to the perpetrator - should not be used in court, and the case thrown out.
As with any issue you may want to take advocacy efforts on, education is the most important piece to the work that you do. Thank you for taking the time to read this paper that unintentionally became longer than it should have! Your time and support are greatly appreciated by Caleb and I.
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