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Photo Credit: Netflix

More than just a show: “Baby Reindeer” has given male sexual assault survivors the courage to speak up, seek help. (Op-Ed)

Netflix’s Baby Reindeer is a heavily anxious and emotional retelling of Richard Gadd’s sexual assault, stalking, and intense struggle with mental health and sexuality. Gadd, who portrays himself in the show, has fearlessly given the world insight into a topic that is often ignored: male sexual assault. In a post on Instagram, We Are Survivors, a Manchester-based organization supporting males affected by rape, sexual abuse, and exploitation, proudly announced that “Since the launch of Baby Reindeer on Netflix, we’ve had an 80% increase in ‘first-time callers’ to We Are Survivors asking about the support we offer male survivors.” Gadd’s incredible story, as well as this smash hit Netflix show, have had a great impact on male survivors who may have felt too afraid, too emasculated, or too unsupported to come forward with their stories.

“It’s very emotionally true, obviously,” Gadd told the Guardian upon the show’s release, “I was severely stalked and severely abused. But we wanted it to exist in the sphere of art, as well as protect the people it’s based on.” Gadd has changed the names of those involved in his story to protect everyone involved, but the story presented in Baby Reindeer is based on a true story.

“It was tough, I can’t deny,” Gadd said in an interview with Variety, “I mean, who in their right mind wants to revisit the worst thing that ever happened to them? The worst period of their life? Of course, it affects you and leaves a bit of an imprint on you. But at the same time, I do sometimes feel that revisiting pain and re-experiencing things can lead to a better understanding of them.” As Gadd has processed his trauma through art, more male survivors are given the strength to seek help.

Male survivors of sexual assault have many fears when it comes to reporting crimes against them. There is an incorrect belief in society that a man cannot be raped by a woman; in fact, many men will say that male survivors should feel lucky. For male survivors who have been raped by men, they feel a great sense of fear that they will face sexuality-based hatred. These fears all contribute to men staying silent and suffering in isolation.

Art has the power to inspire and heal. Baby Reindeer is far more than just a show about a quirky man being stalked and assaulted, self-destructing, and dealing with a police force unwilling to help him, it is a beacon of hope and community for male survivors of sexual assault.

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