Yesterday I read the account of a rape victim. He wrote very eloquently about being raped by a woman. I have not been able to stop thinking about him since I read his story. You see as a woman when I think about rape I think about it as something that men do to women. I have written post after post detailing the horrible violence that men commit against women. It is something that pains me more than I can possible express in words.
When I read what happened to James Landrith one of the things that really made me pause is the realization of the way that I have gendered the victim in my mind. Before reading his account yesterday, I never once thought to write about male victims of sexual violence. In my mind they (read: males) were the evil enemy, and not the ally for which I should weep tears of compassion, and solidarity with. I have experienced true shame since realizing this truth about myself. I am 100% against rape, and yet I created a group of victims as invisible, and thus marginalized, and ignored their experiences. Thank you for sharing James, you have opened my eyes in many ways.
One of the greatest fallacies with my reasoning was the thought that because a man had to get an erection to penetrate a woman, he must of have enjoyed it on some level. I am so ashamed to admit to this as I have often fought against this same sort of stereotype when it comes to womens physiological reactions towards rape. Getting an erection, or ejaculating during a rape is not an indication of pleasure, it is an involuntary physiological reaction. To those that think as I once did the following statistics will be eye opening.
- About 3% of American men – a total of 2.78 million men – have experienced a rape at some point in their lifetime (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2006).
- In 2003, one in every ten rape victims was male. While there are no reliable annual surveys of sexual assaults on children, the Justice Department has estimated that one of six victims are under age 12 (National Crime Victimization Study, 2003).
- 71% of male victims were first raped before their 18th birthday; 16.6% were 18-24 years old, and 12.3% were 25 or older (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2006).
- Males are the least likely to report a sexual assault, though it is estimated that they make up 10% of all victims (RAINN, 2006).
- 22% of male inmates have been raped at least once during their incarceration; roughly 420,000 prisoners each year (Human Rights Watch, 2001).
In feminist circles much time is dedicated to issues that stop women from reporting rapes. The Curvature is an excellent example of a blog that daily posts about rape, and its effects. When I think of the hardships that women face getting rape to be treated seriously by the authorities, I cannot help but wonder how much harder is it for men, who have very few support networks in place? How much harder is it for men, if they can be publicly ridiculed when they share their accounts?
Men who are raped by other men fear being labelled homosexual even though rape is a crime about power and not about sex. "People will tend to fault the male victim instead of the rapist. Stephen Donaldson, president of Stop Prisoner Rape (a national education and advocacy group), says that the suppression of knowledge of male rape is so powerful and pervasive that criminals such as burglars and robbers sometimes rape their male victims as a sideline solely to prevent them from going to the police." It makes one wonder how many are suffering in shame and silence, afraid to talk about their experiences? This is something we need to start addressing and creating support networks for. No matter the gender, rape is a violation of the worst kind. Rape crisis counsellors estimate that while only one in 50 raped women report the crime to the police, the rates of under-reporting among men are even higher (Brochman, 1991).
We think of men as always strong and therefore there is this understanding that they should be able to protect themselves in all situations. Women hold take back the night rallies, but do we stop to think that darkness may be just as dangerous to men? A predator, is a predator and if they seek to assault an individual, gender may not play a role on who is victimized. Men are taught to hold in their emotions and not express their pain. How many suffer because they feel it is the "manly" thing to do. How many ignore their pain because we have taught them as children that males don't cry when they are hurt, they simply move on to the next task?
The research that I have done is very preliminary but it has been enough to open my eyes. As an advocate to stop sexual violence I will no longer perceive victims the same way. I will have to begin to think of the gendered language I use to talk about rape because making an entire group of victims invisible by privileging the female experience is wrong. If we can accept that rape has little to do with sex, then we should also accept the idea that it may have little to do with gender as well.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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