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Blog | 02 May 2024

What Baby Reindeer tells us about male survivors?

Richard Gadd’s Netflix series is a springboard for conversations about male survivors. Read our thoughts.

Beware, spoliers incoming! 

Richard Gadd’s brave and thought-provoking autobiographical series “Baby Reindeer” on Netflix has opened up a much-needed discussion about male survivors of sexual violence. The series explores how grooming, stalking, and sexual assault can affect men, while also examining attitudes toward female perpetrators.

Gadd outlines the nuance of what it is to be a male survivor, the confusion, shame, self-blame and hypersexuality that can follow sexual violence and how men are often left in the dark when it comes to acquiring the tools needed to heal and recover. More often than not, we see that male survivors often reach a crisis point before seeking help.

We know that sexual violence and stalking mainly affect marginalized genders, but what happens when it doesn’t? Unfortunately, male survivors often face significant social barriers when trying to access support due to the lack of public awareness and stigma surrounding their experiences. Myths and stereotypes about male sexual assault further complicate the issue, making it difficult for men to have open conversations about their experiences and seek the help they need.

Baby Reindeer portrays the isolation, fear of judgement, and need for control that survivors experience with a gripping accuracy. However, the biggest takeaway from the series was that more men are affected by sexual violence than we think and that experiencing sexual violence does not “make you less of a man”. 

When Gadd’s autobiographical counterpart, Donny, discloses his questioning sexuality, his suicidal ideation and his sexual assault to his parents, he is met with empathy from his father, who alludes to his history as a survivor of sexual assault. The tension is shattered and both Donny and the viewer share a moment of realisation for the culture of silence that shouds the sheer scale of male sexual violence. 

We know that according to data from Mankind, 1 in 6 men have suffered sexual assault during their lifetime. Baby Reindeer shows us that, as a society, we need to encourage conversations around male survivors and acknowledge the scale of the issue while providing safe and accepting environments for male survivors to seek support. 

At Survivors’ Network, we support and believe male survivors and even have our own specialist men’s ISVA (independent sexual violence advisor). We collaborate closely with ManKind (1in6.uk) to reduce the stigma around male survivors, improve men’s services, and provide training on how to best support them.