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Survivor shares his story to shed light on the fact that men can be victims of sexual violence, too

Posted at 3:25 PM, Feb 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-27 06:42:04-05

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TULSA -- In light of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, many women are feeling much more comfortable coming forward to share their experiences with sexual violence, but one survivor is sharing his story publicly to remind people that men can be victims, too. 
Evan Newpher said other survivors coming forward with their stories gave him the desire to speak about what happened to him. 
"I was able to survive what happened to me and be able to come through on a better end," Newpher said, "but I think it was my time to kind of come forward and try to make it a comfortable place for other people." 
Newpher said he survived sexual abuse by someone he considered a close friend. It happened when he was a student at Oklahoma State University in 2012. He awoke one night to find his roommate of two years, Nathan Cochran, forcing himself on him. 
"I laid there until it finally stopped," Newpher said. "It's almost like that fight or flight instinct. I know I always have a lot of fight in me, but it's in those moments of just sheer terror and you don't know what's happening that you just go stiff as a board and you don't know what to do." 
He did not report the abuse until a year later when he, unfortunately, heard that Cochran did the very same thing to several other students. 
"To come forward isn't to be a tattle tale or a narc," he said. "It's to make sure that it doesn't happen to someone else because I wasn't able to ensure that." 
Their courage, though, led to Cochran's arrest. He ended up pleading guilty to three counts of sexual battery. He received no prison time and instead got seven years of probation and had to register as a sex offender. 
This incident opened the eyes to many that men are not only perpetrators of sexual violence, but they're also victims. 
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reported that one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives, but Sgt. Jillian Phippen with the Tulsa police sex crimes unit said that statistic is incredibly inaccurate. 
"More people are definitely coming forward," Sgt. Phippen said. "However, we still know that we're missing a large portion of our community in men that are victims of sexual assault." 
She hopes that a non-reporting tool available to victims in Tulsa might make more men feel compelled to come forward. Victims can have a sexual assault exam at no expense to themselves, then the evidence will remain with police in case the victim ever wanted to file an official report. 
"You can always come talk to us about it and figure out if you want to file the report," Sgt. Phippen said. "I think it's really important to file it because we know that sexual predators are not typically individuals who commit one crime." 
College campuses have come under particular scrutiny about the handling of sexual assaults and harassment. The case against Cochran brought changes to the OSU campus back when it happened several years ago. 
The University of Tulsa has also had several reported cases of sexual assaults in recent years. A grant helped TU hire Kelsey Hancock as the university's violence prevention program coordinator. She now works to spread awareness about violence prevention on campus as well as talks to students about consent and healthy relationships.
"I have more young men signing up for our bystander programs than I have seen in the past," Hancock said. "More young men who are willing to discuss even the idea that sexual violence is a problem, and I can help." 
There is still much more work to be done, particularly in addressing obstacles that prevent many men from coming forward and reporting. Experts said men do not report for many reasons. Those include the fear of being disbelieved, ridiculed, accused of being weak or, in the case of heterosexual men, being perceived as gay. 
Newpher is gay, but he was not out publicly when the abuse happened. He said that affected his willingness to say something. 
"I know when it happened to me, I was not out," he said. "Nobody knew that I was gay, and that made me hide and be more shameful about what happened as well. But it doesn't matter if you are straight or if you are gay and this happens to you, it's still a problem." 
He hopes sharing his story may now inspire someone else. Since his traumatic experience, he has now gotten engaged, has thrived at his job and has found a trusting circle of supportive friends. 
"You can fight through this as long as you surround yourself with people and don't hide yourself away," Newpher said, "because you can push through it." 

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