Male sexual assault is a serious crime that is often “hidden” from the publics view for a number of complex sociological reasons. For some this blog entry will be stating the blindingly obvious, for others it might be the first time they have thought about this issue. For others however, I hope it will begin to break down some lingering myths around male sexual assault.
Male rape is not a new phenomenon, but it is only just beginning to be fully recognized by our legal system. It only became a specific legal offence in 1994.
Some people refuse to believe that male rape (or sexual assault) happens regularly enough for it to be considered as a serious policy issue. This is far from the truth. Although men are disproportionately the perpetrators of sexual offences, recorded crime shows that men are also victims of it.
There is an on-going myth that male sexual assault is somehow related to either the perpetrators or the victim’s sexuality. Firstly, it should be noted that the majority of male sexual attacks are undertaken by heterosexual men on heterosexual men. Secondly it should be noted that rape, in the act itself (whether it be on a women or a man) has been shown to be about control, power and dominance not about sex or sexuality.
Men are often considered to be in a better situation to “get over it” than women because they are more robust and do not risk pregnancy. Rubbish, men have the same potential to feel shame, self-blame and guilt as women. For some men, being sexually assaulted can lead to serious long-term consequences that should not be underestimated. Whilst being assaulted some men experience erections and sometimes ejaculations. This can lead to the victim questioning their sexuality; it can result in erection problems or an inability to ejaculate. It can lad to the victim questioning whether they might have sub-consciously “wanted it”. None of the physical reactions imply there was consent or even genuine sexual arousal.
It is often said that women do not assault men. Rubbish again. Although the majority of male sexual assault cases reported are men attacking men, women can, and do attack men. Often men find it hard to report such a crime for the stigma attached to it.
People often think about male sexual assault in a stereotypical sense with it only occurring in prisons or Catholic churches. People find it harder to interpret the rugby initiations sessions, or the other “normal” activities as potential locations that can lead to male assault. Male rape, like raping a woman is disproportionately likley to be undertaken by someone the victim knows. As a man, you are very unlikely to be raped, but incredibly unlikely to be raped by a stranger.
Male rape remains an exceptionally large taboo. The likelihood of a victim reporting an incident remains low. The likelihood of the police taking the victim seriously and then undertaking a proper investigation that is not plagued by false assumptions and prejudices remains lower. If someone confides in you remember it has taken a lot of courage for them to tell you. Do not assume that the victim “has to tell police” but hand power back to the victim by offering them help by simply asking what you can do. You can always refer them to the specialist help centres set up to help people through such terrible incidents.
www.survivorsuk.org.uk or ring Survivors UK on 020 73576677