In the Chronicles of Spartak—Rising Son, a female law enforcement officer takes a young man into custody and rapes him at the police station while other officers snicker and look away. He meekly submits, as he had before, because she has power over his family in the dystopian America of 2116. I did the scene to take us out of our comfort zone, to think more broadly about this horrendous crime of violence.
Is that a ridiculous scenario? Do men get raped?
Yes, both male-on-male and female-on-male.
A UCLA Law School think tank, The Williams Institute, issued a study in April, 2014:
“The Sexual victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions.”
Based on the analysis of large-scale federal agency surveys, it found that men experience a high prevalence of sexual victimization, in many circumstances similar to the prevalence found among women.
A Center for Disease Control report in 2010 (“The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey”), found: “Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 7 men (1.4%) have been raped at some point in their lives.” For women, this translates into almost 22 million victims. For men it would translate to about 1.6 million.
And it is not new.
The New York Alliance Against Sexual Assault reports on its web site that there were 4,890 known cases in 1994, quoting the Bureau of Justice statistics, and 123,000 over a ten-year period beginning in the 1980s. It goes on to say, “An estimated 13% of women and 6% or men have experienced sexual coercion in their lifetime in a nonphysical way.”
Musings on facing up to sad realities.
What is surprising is that not all states have updated their sexual violence laws. Some still exclude men as victims. Until 2012, the FBI defined rape as the “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” It had been in place for 85 years. The Penn State scandal of coach Jerry Sandusky raping young male students would not be counted as rape under that definition.
According to USA Today (1/6/12), the new FBI rule defines rape as any kind of penetration of another person, male or female without the victim’s consent, including use of objects to penetrate their victims. Vice President Biden is quoted:
“Rape is a devastating crime and we can’t solve it unless we know the full extent of it. This long awaited change to the definition of rape is a victory for women and men across the country whose suffering has gone unaccounted for over 80 years.”
National Geographic carried a story on October 9, 2013, quoting a new report from JAMA Pediatrics:
“Ten Percent of U.S. Youths Cause Sexual Violence–Females are just as likely to be perpetrators as males.”
More from that article: “Perhaps the most controversial part of the study is that males, traditionally thought of as the perpetrators of sexual violence, are not the only ones responsible for sexual violence—females are too….Not long ago, males were asked the perpetrator questions and females were asked the victim questions,” researcher Michele Ybarra (of the Center for Innovative Public Health Research) noted. “We never appreciated the fact that males could be victims and females could be perpetrators.”
The researchers drew this conclusion from CDC data:
“The study found that females and males had carried out sexual violence at nearly equal levels by the age of 18. Of the survey respondents who reported being perpetrators, 48 percent were female and 52 percent were male. Interestingly, females tend to assault older victims, while males are more likely to choose younger victims. Females are also more likely to engage in “gang rape” types of activity and act in groups or teams (1 in 5 females reported this type of activity, compared with 1 in 39 males).”
Men are often confused and embarrassed when they are victims, questioning their own manhood; circumstances are sometime murky, involving drugs and alcohol. Police are known to laugh and refuse to take charges seriously according to the Alliance and other sources. Friends are often unsupportive and disbelieving. Why face the humiliation?
The New York Alliance reports on its website: “Society is becoming increasingly aware of male rape. However, experts believe that current male rape statistics vastly under-represent the actual number of males age 12 and over who are raped each year. Rape crisis counselors estimate that while only one is 50 raped women report the crime to the police, the rates of under-reporting among men is even higher.”
The JAMA research states, “It is not uncommon to believe that a man cannot be raped by a woman. Gender stereotypes can make it difficult to imagine a dominant woman coercing or forcing an unwilling man to have sex. Accordingly, male victims of female perpetrators are judged more harshly than male victims of male perpetrators. Moreover, the same behaviors perceived to be sexually aggressive when committed by a male can be perceived as romantic or promiscuous when committed by a female. Nonetheless, physiological data suggest that men can be raped; an erection does not necessarily mean sexual arousal and can be reflexogenic.” (i.e., something done automatically, a reflex).
Despite it all, an increasing number of men are stepping forward with their own accounts of female on male rape. In the Chronicles of Spartak, the male victim seethes with anger at times but is mostly silent, holding it inside until he opens up and his friends step forward.
The web site Reddit recently invited comments about women assaulting men and got hundreds of replies on its web site.
The Williams Institute
Center for Disease Control study
New York Alliance Against Sexual Assault
The JAMA Network