BY SAMALI BITALA
When anyone talks about rape, a mental picture of an unfortunate helpless female is easily conjured. It does not make it any better that our society falsely believes that it is only persons of the female sex who can be victims of rape, an act that can only be perpetrated by persons of the male sex. Females are encouraged to be home early, not to be alone while on a long journey on the road or by train, they are encouraged to have a chaperone –someone to look out for them lest they are raped.
The laws in place seem to be directed at the female person. Rape is defined as an unconsented to sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse in itself may be even a wider concept. Even when the media attempts to write a story of a man who has been raped, society often regards such a story a hoax or something to crack the readers’ ribs.
Such an attitude does not make it even viable for men to report incidents of rape where they have been victimized.
Rape is looked at a as a crime against women as has been historically. It is only of recent that public discussions about male rape have started coming up. However, in those discussions still, people openly dismiss the idea that a man can be raped.
On 26th July 2016, on my Facebook wall, I inquired: “What I seek to understand is why a woman would rape a man. Do men speak out when they are raped? Who looks out for the man who is a victim of rape?”
The views were very interesting. Some participants in the discussion agreed that indeed a man can be raped while others dismissed the whole idea that a man can be raped. Those who agreed that a man can be raped by a woman looked at it from the perspective that a man’s erection may be procured under undue influence or duress. Those who dismissed the idea of a man being raped did so subject to the belief that an erection signifies a man’s acceptance to have sexual relations and that as such, a man who penetrates a woman cannot claim he has been raped. It was also contended by the same dissenters that ejaculation undermines the assertion that a man has been raped.
However, participants in the discussion were quick to note that men erect even when they do not have any reason to be sexually excited and that most men even ejaculate in their dreams. This assertion was confirmed by a practicing medic who was part of the participants on the thread.
Those who agreed that a man can be raped also noted that men do not come out to talk about their victimization unless physical injuries are involved. Rape of males is regarded as a taboo and carries with it a negative connotation – that the man is a weak. In that case, physical injuries alone are reported and the sexual assault is never mentioned.
Rape has for a long time been a preserve of the female sex. Reports of male-victim rape started coming up about 30 years ago, mostly focusing on make children who were being coerced into underage sexual relations with older women.
It has not been until recent that other forms of sexual violence against men have been considered as a form of rape of males. For example, the use of force, intoxication or other means of coercion to make a man to penetrate a woman or another man are now considered as rape.
Men who are made to penetrate other men are often stigmatized. As such, men who are victims of such an act do not report the incident. In a society that does not accept homosexuality, victims fear to be branded as gay; and as such do not report such assaults.
It was noted in our discussion that victims of male rape do not have a support service/system to enable them to anonymously report such incidents. It is important to also note that our legal system is not well equipped to handle issues of men who are victims of gender based violence, and in particular, male rape.
Male-on-male rape often happens in the following circumstances:
1. Drug and alcohol abuse
3. Being underage
5. During incarceration
Rape perpetrated by females against male is rarely reported.
It is estimated that 9% of rape victims are male and that 1% of those victims are raped by a woman.
One man tells his story on the internet. Though the authenticity of his story cannot be validated, it can be used for illustration purposes. He says that in his early 20s, he was raped by a woman who was bigger and stronger than her. That she tightly held a part of his penis, which induced an erection.
He was traumatised. According to him, most of the people he has told about his experience have either disbelieved him or belittled him. He concludes sadly, “I am a man. And I was raped by a woman. So, I don’t matter”.
Another man tells of how he was raped when he was just a freshman at college by a girl he had just met. They were both drank and that he remembers saying “no” to the girl’s sexual advances. However, he ended up having sexual relations with the girl despite his refusal to consent. His story ends sadly too. He asks, “Why am I not allowed to be a victim? Is my privilege really so great that nothing bad can happen to me in the mind of society, no matter what happens?”
According to the America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a 2010 study of male rape prevalence, 93.3% male rape victims only reported male perpetrators. 4.8% of male rape victims reported being made to penetrate.
Where the perpetrator was female, 79.2% male victims reported that they had been made to penetrate. 83.6% reported that they had been coerced and 53.1% reported that the woman had carried out unwanted sexual contact.
Myths regarding male victims of rape
Males are not vulnerable,
Males always want sex
Males are less traumatized
Sexual orientation: it is only homosexuals who are victims of male rape.
Male victims enjoy it
Rape of males during armed conflict
Whereas it is women who are mostly victims of rape during armed conflict, there have been reports of males being raped during war.
For example, male refugees who fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo into Uganda are said to have been raped.
Also, during the armed rebellion by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda, civilian men were often attacked and raped.
According to the Sexual Offences Act 2006, section 3, a person commits the offence termed rape if he or she intentionally and unlawfully commits an act which causes penetration with his or her genital organs; the other person does not consent to the penetration; or the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind.
This definition in itself does not envision a man who is a victim of rape. The talk of one who does an act that causes “penetration with his or her genital organs” clearly excludes a female rapist.
The Sexual Offences Act further provides for the offence of attempted rape. Any person who attempts to unlawfully and intentionally commit an act which causes penetration with his or her genital organs is guilty of the offence of attempted rape and is liable upon conviction for imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may be enhanced to imprisonment for life. The offence of attempted rape as defined under the Act also does not envision a male victim.
Clearly, the laws themselves are discriminatory. This in turn makes it difficult for law enforcers to enforce the rape of male, or even for male victims to report this offence.
The international community has a more inclusive definition of rape. In the Akayesu case in 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal defined rape as “a physical invasion of the sexual nature, committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive”. From this definition, it can be rightly imputed that a man can be a victim of rape.
Our local legislation should also be mindful of the fact that men are victims of rape. Mechanisms should be put in place to protect the victims and to punish the perpetrators of the crime. Society must not be seen to be disregarding one sex against the other; after all, the constitution guarantees equal protection by the law.
This article was originally written for our newsletter, The Deuteronomy