In early January, Crown Prosecution Service jailed the most prolific rapist in British history. Police think he may have attacked up to 190 men. One common theme was that victims were scared to speak up over fears of questioning their masculinity. It’s a serious issue right now that men are sexually assaulted, and then either do nothing about it or are terrified of revealing it because they don’t want the police to disregard them, or their friends to joke about them. The average male sexual assault victim takes three decades to come forward. That’s three decades dealing with pain and trauma and even then, what support could they get? There’s not even a specific government strategy for male rape, it’s folded into the government’s ‘Violence against Women and Girls’ agenda. How can men feel supported when the government doesn’t even seem to care?
It’s also a serious problem when even when men are sexually assaulted by women, it can’t be legally called rape because rape is considered penetrative. It affects many men when they find out that what’s happened to them can’t even be called rape because it doesn’t fit the nonsense legal definition.
Yes, I’m aware that women are raped and sexually assaulted at a higher rate, but that doesn’t invalidate what happens to men. It’s genuinely horrifying that you can’t talk about men being raped without having to qualify it by pointing out what happens to women too. This is a genuine criticism people use, it’s not something that I’ve made up. Even when discussing this article with people, I’ve heard ‘oh but it’s not like what happens to women’, and that’s just not relevant. One group’s suffering doesn’t invalidate another’s.
One of the worst elements is the treatment that young men and boys get when an older woman sexually assaults them. Just this week, I heard a group of men laughing about young boys who were assaulted by a teacher, and saying they should be thankful for the “opportunity”. Even when the numerous stories come out about teachers assaulting boys, the conversation always turns to how attractive the woman is. It’s absolutely disgusting and contributes to the prevailing opinion that men have to want to have sex, and aren’t allowed to not want it or say no.
So, when they think about going to the police or for support, the shame and stigma is so intrinsically within the male psyche that most people can’t do it. They can’t bring themselves to do anything.
It all links together, people just don’t care about issues facing men. You can say it’s because of the ‘damn patriarchy’ and that men rule the world so who cares about men having issues, but one in six men in the UK face sexual violence and it seems like almost no one cares. When the most prolific rapist in British history is finally jailed, it gets talked about for a week, probably less. But no one is going to care in a month or a year. It’s despicable.
As much as people want to claim that life is simply fantastic for men, it’s just not. Three-quarters of all suicides are men, it’s the biggest killer of men under 45. 84% of homeless people in the UK are men, and they receive much less sympathy and support than women. Men work longer hours, are 22 times more likely to go to prison, are less likely to receive custody of children. 35% of domestic violence sufferers are men, but there is massive underreporting and almost no help or support. The fact is that a huge percentage of the population has internalised sexism against men.
It’s very easy for me to say in this article: “please support people, please help change the culture around male sexual assault”, but I just can’t see inherent disregard for the male victims of rape changing. I hope it does.