Sexual assault and domestic violence are neither gender specific nor about sexual preferences
Shocking statistics reveal that, according to a survey by Mumsnet, one in 10 women have been raped, and more than a third subjected to sexual assault.
If that is not bad enough, such is the stigma attached that more than 80 per cent of the 1,600 respondents said they did not report the assault to the police, while a staggering 26 per cent said they told nobody at all. The facts of the assaults, as well as the frightened silence surrounding them, are morally outrageous and the issue needs to be debated on and dealt with.
Rape and sexual assault are universally considered to be women’s issues – the victims are female, the perpetrators are male. Statistically, this is indeed overwhelmingly the case. However, as Michael Amherst explained in ‘Rape is not just a women’s issue’ (The Guardian 17 March 2010), the Stern Review published that week drew some surprising conclusions.
According to the Stern Review, male rape victims make up about 8 per cent of all recorded rape cases. “The unrecorded figure is thought to be far higher,” Amherst writes, “UK charity Mankind suggests that three in 20 men are victims of sexual violence.” These figures do not include rape in prisons. “Male rape was only recognised in English and Welsh law in 1994,” he continues, “and as a result there is little statistical history, with what there is varying wildly.”
One predominant reason given as to why very few men report rape or sexual assault to the police is that they do not want to feel less of a man, or do not want the associations with homosexuality. Three years later and as public and political attitudes to same-sex relationships and sexual activity are progressing, it is nevertheless true that homophobia remains a grave problem in society, especially on the political right. Traditional Tory voters, angry at Prime Minister David Cameron’s support for same-sex marriage, may turn to UKIP which has a homophobic subtext.
Michael Amherst pushes the male rape discourse further to an area still taboo in society: female-male rape. Summing up the Stern Review’s report as being essentially concerned with male-male rape, “in line with the definition of rape as found in the law,” he goes on to point out:
“This would suggest that the existing law, which always views the man as the agent in sex, makes it almost inconceivable for a man to report a sexual assault by a woman.
Yet it does happen and denying it not only discriminates against the victims of female-male rape but also maintains a masculine discourse in which “real men” are agents and never victims. Furthermore, by always portraying the man as the agent and denying that men can also be anxious, passive or vulnerable, society prescribes a masculine behaviour that is distinctly aggressive.”
I know of what he writes because I have been sexually assaulted by a woman. I have also been savagely attacked by a female partner in the past so I speak from painful experience.
Sexual assault is therefore neither gender specific nor about sexual preferences. It is not, exclusively, a subject of the feminist preserve.
Furthermore, the plague that is domestic violence does not uniquely concern women suffering at the hands of men: 50 per cent of men suffer abuse inflicted by their female partners. In his article, A Hidden Crime: Domestic Violence Against Men Is a Growing Problem (February, 2010), Bruce Watson writes:
“Beyond its brutal physical and psychological costs, domestic violence against men exacts a cruel economic toll at the personal, societal and national levels. For the most part, the media, authorities and average citizens see domestic violence as a crime that is committed by men and victimizes women. Consequently, funding to combat the problem has overwhelmingly been spent on programs that support women…”.
As with female-on-male rape, the low level of reporting of domestic violence by women against men is often attributed to the fear that men have of appearing to be weak and unmanly. Under peer pressure to be masochistic, men are even more reticent than their sisters to come forward and report violence done against their person by a woman. No man wants to be dubbed “a big girl’s blouse”.
No government on earth has any funding, system or support strategy in place to address instances of men being raped or beaten up by women, whereas billions of dollars are dedicated to reporting, counselling and prosecuting in the case of male violence and sexual abuse against women. Men, it seems, can look after themselves and dare not say otherwise.
Image from: http://www.buzzfeed.com/spenceralthouse/male-survivors-of-sexual-assault-quoting-the-people-who-a
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