Trigger warning for wartime rape.
The Guardian has a horrific story about the underreporting of rape in African wartime conflicts, in which it is endemic, and the complete lack of support for male survivors.
It is for this reason that both perpetrator and victim enter a conspiracy of silence and why male survivors often find, once their story is discovered, that they lose the support and comfort of those around them. In the patriarchal societies found in many developing countries, gender roles are strictly defined.
“In Africa no man is allowed to be vulnerable,” says RLP’s gender officer Salome Atim. “You have to be masculine, strong. You should never break down or cry. A man must be a leader and provide for the whole family. When he fails to reach that set standard, society perceives that there is something wrong.”
Often, she says, wives who discover their husbands have been raped decide to leave them. “They ask me: ‘So now how am I going to live with him? As what? Is this still a husband? Is it a wife?’ They ask, ‘If he can be raped, who is protecting me?’ There’s one family I have been working closely with in which the husband has been raped twice. When his wife discovered this, she went home, packed her belongings, picked up their child and left. Of course that brought down this man’s heart.”
Stemple’s findings on the failure of aid agencies is no surprise to Dolan. “The organisations working on sexual and gender-based violence don’t talk about it,” he says. “It’s systematically silenced. If you’re very, very lucky they’ll give it a tangential mention at the end of a report. You might get five seconds of: ‘Oh and men can also be the victims of sexual violence.’ But there’s no data, no discussion.”
As part of an attempt to correct this, the RLP produced a documentary in 2010 called Gender Against Men. When it was screened, Dolan says that attempts were made to stop him. “Were these attempts by people in well-known, international aid agencies?” I ask.
“Yes,” he replies. “There’s a fear among them that this is a zero-sum game; that there’s a pre-defined cake and if you start talking about men, you’re going to somehow eat a chunk of this cake that’s taken them a long time to bake.” Dolan points to a November 2006 UN report that followed an international conference on sexual violence in this area of East Africa.
“I know for a fact that the people behind the report insisted the definition of rape be restricted to women,” he says, adding that one of the RLP’s donors, Dutch Oxfam, refused to provide any more funding unless he’d promise that 70% of his client base was female. He also recalls a man whose case was “particularly bad” and was referred to the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR. “They told him: ‘We have a programme for vulnerable women, but not men.'”
“They ask me: ‘So now how am I going to live with him? As what? Is this still a husband? Is it a wife?’
So, uh, how’s all that male privilege and rape as a tool of domination of men over women doin ya?
Huh? It may be my headache, but did I do something wrong?
Oh, sorry, Em. That wasn’t directed at you. 🙂 More at my frustration with certain “men are never oppressed!” aspects of feminism…
” Ignoring male rape not only neglects men, it also harms women by reinforcing a viewpoint that equates ‘female’ with ‘victim’, thus hampering our ability to see women as strong and empowered. In the same way, silence about male victims reinforces unhealthy expectations about men and their supposed invulnerability.”
Ozy’s Law strikes again. This is so unbelievably horrifying.
And shame on those people trying to restrict rape to female victims. Shame, shame, SHAME on them.
How can we say we’re morally better then any of these people when *we* decide who are ‘worthy victims’ and who aren’t and preferentially give aid?
More and more I agree there is a ‘patriarchy’; and I think it’s a lie that’s told to men to accept a position of overt inferiority in which they can be sent to the knackers should they ever fail to preform to the correct standard.
Typhon: I think that’s a very cogent point, actually– in patriarchy, men have the “power”, but that means that if a man is ever powerless (and in a very meaningful way rape is the ultimate powerlessness), he either has to hide it and not get the support he needs/deserves or be considered no longer a man.
Ozy, I could kiss you right now. I was wracking my brains trying to figure out if I’d made a jokey comment that had gone too far and I was panicking I’d be thrown out. Thankee.
And to go from relief to sad again, I can’t imagine how… broken that man must have felt when his wife said that. I feel awful for her too, of course, but oh God.
“I think that’s a very cogent point, actually– in patriarchy, men have the “power”, but that means that if a man is ever powerless (and in a very meaningful way rape is the ultimate powerlessness), he either has to hide it and not get the support he needs/deserves or be considered no longer a man.”
What kind of power is it if you can’t use it when you need it?
It sounds like men are rendered _powerless_ by having to maintain their ‘power’ in a patriarchy.
Here’s where I really part ways with most feminists. I don’t think the male role has ever been (bar maybe Ancient Greece or Rome) a better deal then the female. The good parts, maybe; but the bad parts are so horrifically bad…
“I feel awful for her too, of course, but oh God.”
I don’t know. I don’t feel awful for her at all.
I mean if I heard about a man who said to his wife, ‘you were raped, you are no longer a good woman, how can I be married to you?’ I don’t think I’d say that I felt awful for him.
@Typhon I think my feeling sorry for her is mostly due to her fear that if her husband can get raped, then who would protect her. That mindset has got to be hammered in somehow, if that makes sense? It’s a shameful thing she did and I can’t really explain my pity, but I apologize if I came off as defending her. Believe me when I say that wasn’t my intention.
No, I get that.
However that’s an unrealistic expectation of hyper-potency she has for her husband. Sort of like a man saying ‘as soon as my wife looses her girlish figure and gets a few wrinkles, I’m divorcing her.’
It’s sad that she has to fear rape, though.
Just checking something.
Christ on a sidecar, zero-sum thinking strikes again. Why is it that every asshole from every angle keeps falling back on that same basic conceptual structure? For fuck’s sake, people, compassion is a renewable resource. We’re not going to run out of human feeling if we extend it to more people.
The AMA study mentioned in the article can be found here.
I blogged about war-related rape of men – this time in Liberia – here.
Compassion is more like a muscle, the more you exercise it the stronger it becomes.
But I think it’s more about preserving traditional notions of femininity and masculinity. Women are vulnerable objects, men are invulnerable agents. People tend to defend to the death certain thought systems.
No, but some people will have to change their worldviews in order to acknowledge male victims. People like change when it benefits them, but they hate it when they have to change something about themselves.
From personal experience, some of those people do genuinely believe that if they help male victims female victims will get ignored. I cannot think of any instance of this ever happening, but plenty people convinced themselves that it will happen.
I’m pleasantly surprised to see this in the Guardian. One can’t help but think that Julie Bindel spat up her morning tea reading this one. That or snickered… she really is a terrible example of the second-wave.
Do a google search. She’s a one woman Misandry Brigade who writes for an influential paper.
Those people tend to consider their focus to be on the greater evil. That is why so many of them cite statistics “proving” most victims are female. Logic would suggest that whoever suffers the most should be helped first. Once people have it in their mind that one group suffers worse than any other it is difficult to change that. I have looked people in the face, watched the shock roll over them as all the emotion drained from my face and voice as I described what I went through as a child, and those people still could not care less about sexual violence against boys. If a person standing in front of them cannot change their minds, no report or article stands a chance.
Yes, my brothers are “slightly” attuned to MRA stuff. But when I tried pointing out what i linked on your blog about the erasure of male victims he seemed to not want to hear more and was sure that helping females would lead to help for males because men are not sympathetic enough victims 😦
@DMB You can read about Julie Bindel on Wikipedia — seem to be your standard-issue 2nd-wave misandrist transphobic feminist and, bizarrely, vegetarian-hating.
She’s also anti-sex-worker, co-authoring a report on sex work that was “criticised by 27 leading academics involved in sex work research, claiming that the report was carried out without formal academic ethical approval, without acknowledgement of existing sources, and co-authored by a journalist with anti-prostitution views”.