Harry Bishop delivers an emotive argument calling for more support for male victims of sexual abuse.
Warning: Content deals with topics (rape, abuse) that may be disturbing to some
We have a rape crisis in the UK and sadly it looks as if the sounds of rape deniers ring truer than any logical voice. It’s sad, since Rape Crisis England & Wales quote 85,000 women and 12,000 men being raped in the U.K. every year. To put that into perspective, it’s around 11 rapes an hour (of adults alone).
The conviction rates for rape are some of the worst in the UK too, at just 5.7%. That’s diabolical. So, let’s work this out, if there are 97,000 victims of rape in one year, you’d assume more than 5000 are telling the truth, because otherwise that would make 91,471 rape-inventors… annually. Do people really believe that 91,471 are lying about being raped each year?
Surely not, but people hear the trusting voices of Huw Edwards and Fiona Bruce telling them somebody has been found ‘not guilty’ and the country suddenly loses its mind, skim read Law for Dummies (£13.48 on Amazon right now), plans to remodel the justice system, and writes an angry Facebook status.
The voices we should be listening to are being ignored. Nobody cares about all of the other victims of rape – they only care about that one who accused a celebrity, because those are the ones who are easy to lambast with victim-blaming defamations. Suddenly, the whole country comes out as Rolf Harris’s biggest fan, because surely he wouldn’t, would he? Until they’re convicted of course, then everyone crawls back under their Twitter trolling rocks. They reaffirm their deep knowledge of British law after reading a misleading headline in The Sun by Tweeting ‘All these ‘victims’ jumping on the Saville bandwagon, they all just want money #AnimalHospital’.
If only these Twitter trolls knew what a court case is really like. Then they’d know this isn’t about compensation. It’s about having a voice – a voice that we are silencing yet again.
The way our society silences rape victims is a matter close to my heart, but I’m especially worried by the hidden male rape crisis. Our society’s futile obsession with constructing uncompromising ideals of masculinity means that men don’t feel as if they are allowed to be victims of rape and sexual abuse. 1,000 men report being raped to the police every year but the government admits that this is likely to be less than 10% of the real number. Figures from the Office for National Statistics tell us that 11% of boys under 16 are victims of some form of sexual abuse, which at the current population is around 700,000 victims and in excess of 2 million adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. In adulthood, 3.5% of men have been sexually assaulted, constituting 905,000 assaults and 120,000 rapes. That’s a lot of statistics to wrap your head around but, put simply, what I’m illustrating is that male rape happens, and on a much larger scale than any one of us could imagine.
Undeniably, we have a rape crisis here in the UK. But for male victims who feel ostracized and voiceless we have to understand that rape isn’t just about sex – if at all – it’s about power. In my experience, it knows no gender, class, race, sexuality, or ability. There is no evidence to show any correlation between homosexuality and male rape. Men and boys are being sexually assaulted but they are too afraid to talk about it and understandably so.
Provisions for sexual abuse charities to support men and boys are exceedingly thin, and funding for charities to give counseling is targeted towards women and girls. The already small male rape support fund was cut back in 2015, and charities hoping to support male rape victims do not get government funding. Though this is trying to deal with a very real issue of women being the victims a higher proportion of the time, it also means that the majority of rape and sexual abuse counseling that exists in the UK cannot be offered to men and boys. It is undeniable that there are male victims of sexual assault who need this support.
Even the male rape charity SurvivorsUK can only support males over 18 years old. So, what if you’re a 12-year-old boy who has been sexually abused and raped? Who do you talk to? Where do you go? These were the questions I had to ask myself. Nobody is talking about the rape problem in the UK but worst of all, we’re not even acknowledging that male rape happens.
I was the victim of sexual abuse and eventually rape, on Christmas Eve, at the age of 12 by a family friend. I woke up at 5am on Christmas morning and sat on the edge of my bath, not excited about presents but feeling sick with confusion and pain. At that exact moment I felt so alone and afraid. But I’m not alone, there are thousands of men and boys who haven’t had the counseling and support they need. Men and boys, who are ashamed of how this might infer connotations about their masculinity and sexuality. Men and boys who are suffering in agonizing silence because they’re taught to believe that rape can’t happen to men.
4,624. The number of men who took their own life in the UK in 2015. Suicide is the biggest killer of men in the UK under 50. Why is that? I can think of at least one reason. This unbending ideal of masculinity is killing men and it’s time for us to start listening to every victim of abuse, to the men and boys who are being raped, sexually assaulted, and abused who feel like nobody is ready to hear their story. Eventually, I was lucky enough to have the support of my family and friends but not everyone is as lucky as I am. We could all be doing a little less Daily Mail reading and a little more listening.