Opposed to popular belief, men and women can both be victims of rape. According to a support group for male victims of rape, approximately 1 in every 6 males are sexually assaulted or abused before the age of 18. Yes, the percentage of men who are raped is smaller in relation to the percentage of women; however, that doesn’t diminish the the problem of male rape victims. Men and women look different, sound different, and are treated differently. This is especially true in the way that are treated differently by society after they are labeled as a rape victim.
When women are victims of rape, they are subject to the phenomena known as victim
blaming. Julia Wood, author of Gendered Lives, describes victim blaming as the act of holding a harmed person responsible for the harm that another person has inflicted. An example of this may be attributing the way a woman was dressed as a reason why she was raped. Other ways women are victim blamed may include attributing her rape to her prior sexual activity, the amount of alcohol she consumed, or the way she was acting or dancing.
Some phrases you might hear from people who blame the victim could be, “Well she had it coming, look at how she was dressed,” or, “Well she is a slut anyway, what did she expect.” I want to stress that no person ever desires to be raped. If you think about it, it is impossible for a person who really did want to have sex to be raped. If that person really wanted it, then it would just be sex.
Women are often afraid to report crimes like these due to how they believe society, family, and friends will react. According to the National Center for Victims of Crimes, about 1 in 50 women who are raped actual report the crime. If a girl confesses that she has been raped, the last thing she wants is people questioning her, bringing her sexual activity into question, and assuming that she wanted it because of the way she was dressed.
In a study entitled, “Rape Victim Blaming as System Justiﬁcation: The Role of Gender and Activation of Complementary Stereotypes”, it was found that when the situational aspects of a rape are manipulated men are more likely to blame female victims than females are. This directly contributes to the horrifying 1 in 50 women who actually report their rape to authorities. When you know that your story will be questioned or disregarded you are far less likely to feel comfortable or safe to discuss what happened to you–even if you know it was wrong.
Another factor that affects a victims decision to report the rape or not can be the fact that the rapist was a person that victim knew. According to Julia Wood intimate partner violence is defined as physical, mental, emotional, verbal, or economic power used by one partner against the other partner in a romantic relationship. She goes on to explain that nearly three-fourths of all rapes are committed by a person known to the victim. The picture to the right breaks down the percentages of the
type of rapist in relation to the victim. It can be very daunting to accuse a person of rape, especially when that person is someone you know on a personal level. You can see from the graph that nearly 75% of all rapes are committed by friends/acquaintances, intimate partners, and other relatives. It is my belief that these statistics directly effect the overall number of reported rapes.
When men are raped, it is a whole different story. Another, more frightening statistic provided by the National Center for Victims of Crimes, details that the reporting of male rape far exceeds that 1 in 50 statistic for women. However, males aren’t necessarily victim blamed in the same way. They are called “weak” and “unmanly.” I don’t think I have ever heard someone say about a male rape victim, “Well look at how he was dressed, he was obviously asking for it! male rape is more of a joke to society than an actual crime.
Men are socialized to think that sex is the number one goal when talking to a woman. Sex is all that matters; her personality is just an added bonus. As Paul Kivel teaches in his article, “The Act-Like-A-Man Box” even from a young age boys are forced into this box where success, sex, toughness, and muscles are expected of men. Guys are supposed to want sex every second of every day. So according to this information, can a man even be raped? It isn’t rape if both people involved want it, and according to society men always want to have sex.
There is currently a campaign being launched in London to raise awareness for male rape victims. The “Real Men Get Raped” campaign wants to challenge the attitudes toward rape and the victims of the crime. The photo to the left is an advertisement that is running in London. It depicts that manliness of a tough, contact sport like rugby while at the same time making it seem manly to stand up and talk about being raped.
In a study conducted by Emma Sleath and Ray Bull, Male Rape Victim and Perpetrator Blaming, attitudes toward male rape victims are more focused on how the man was reacting during the alleged crime. It was found that nearly 47% of male participants felt that the extent of a man’s resistance should be a major factor in determining if he was raped. In other words, whether or not the man was actively fighting against his attacker should be examined in order to determine if he was actually raped or not. Attitudes like these are what affects male victims’ acceptance of what happened to them. When people are constantly calling into question their ability to protect themselves, it becomes an embarrassing, shameful act to admit to being raped.
Up until a couple of months ago forcible rape was only defined as a male forcing sexual activity onto a female. However, the national government is expanding the definition of forcible rape to include a wider range of victims, and sexual acts. This new definition will make it possible for a male or female to be raped vaginally, anally, or orally, and will include people who cannot physically give consent to sex. Rape is a very hard crime to define. no one else really knows what happened during the assault other than the victim and the perpetrator. It becomes a he-said-she-said argument over what actually happened. However, the broadening of this definition will hopefully encourage more males to realize that they can be raped, and that it is acceptable to admit to being a victim.
When a woman is raped, she is criticized for her attire , her past, and her actions while a man is criticized for his weakness and his desire for other things in life–not just sex. It is important to understand that a man is no less a victim than a woman. It is not right to blame a harmed person for something they never asked for; this applies to all people.