Once you see someone suffering through a flashback, you never forget it. It isn’t like a dream. You can’t shake them out of it; you can only watch. A close friend of mine went through this again and again for three years after he was raped at the age of 15, and he was afraid to seek help because he was male.
Because of gender paradigms that tell us men are too strong to be victimized, we believe that men can’t be raped. When men speak out about their experiences, we react with disbelief, shock or even disdain, delegitimizing their experience and deeply hurting them. This discourages men from reporting when they are raped. Between 90 and 95 percent of male rape survivors remain in the shadows, but anonymous surveys have found that as many as 38 percent of rapes have male victims. The official statistics of reported sexual violence against males hovers between 5 and 10 percent.
So what can we do to help the men and boys who are suffering in silence?
First, we need to stop discouraging boys from feeling emotions that we perceive to be weak: sadness, compassion, empathy, grief. Without the capacity to grieve, nobody can recover from a devastating, terrifying violation such as rape.
Secondly, we need to let male rape survivors know that we are there for them. Nobody should feel like they are an anomaly or that by being raped they are somehow less of a man or less of a human being.
Stand up for ALL survivors of sexual violence. Our VOICE (a local rape crisis center) has a program that specifically meets the needs of male rape survivors. This program once served men from North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Now, it is struggling to find funds.
To support this program, call Our VOICE Inc. at 252-0562, visit them on the Web at www.ourvoicenc.org or fax them at 252-8601.