[notice]Male rape has, for a long time, been almost completely unacknowledged, rarely reported and often scorned. How, after all, can a man possibly be raped? In the first article in a 4-part series, DIANNE STEVEN uncovers some surprising facts about the prevalence of male rape in South Africa. [/notice]
South Africa is often described as the rape capital of the world, but what often goes unmentioned is the high incidence of male rape in the country. Male rape is far more common than we think.
Melvin came to me for counsel when he was serving a prison sentence for rape. He had been gang raped as a five year old by three men. When he went home bleeding and told his mom, she ignored him and told him not to be silly. He then closed up and spoke to no-one, but carried the pain, anger and bitterness around for years until one day he violently raped a woman and then his wife. In prison he met Jesus Christ and found healing.
Johannes was rejected by his family when only four years old. He ended up sleeping on the Cape Town Station where he was raped. After that he found an axe which he used for protection over the years, until eventually he was arrested for an axe murder and sentenced to prison, where I met him, and where he met Jesus Christ.
Males reluctant to report rape
Rapes on males are under-reported by a very large margin as compared to rape and sexual assault on females. Male survivors are less likely to report the crime and seek help, largely because of society’s expectations regarding the role of men and boys. Men are encouraged to concentrate on competition, physical strength, and leadership. Male victims of sexual assault may feel ashamed because they were overpowered or dominated, and shame may contribute to feelings of isolation and reluctance to seek professional help.
Several studies also argue that male-male prison rape is quite common and may be the least reported form of rape. Male rape is rife in South African prisons. It often goes undetected as victims’ lives are threatened by fellow inmates.
Most rape research and reporting to date has been limited to male-female forms of rape. Research on male-male and female-male rape is beginning. According to psychologist Dr Sarah Crome, fewer than one in 10 male-male rapes are reported. As a group, male rape victims often get minimal of services and support, and legal systems are often ill equipped to deal with this type of crime.
Shocking statistics on male rape
About one in 30 men in South Africa have been raped by a man, according to a study by the Medical Research Council. The study shows that almost 10% of South African men have experienced sexual violence by another man.
The findings presented at the annual Sexual Violence Research Initiative in Cape Town, are based on a household survey conducted among about 1 740 men in two of South Africa’s nine provinces – KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
In July 2008 IOL News reported that two out of five male South African pupils say they have been raped, according to a study suggesting sexual abuse of boys is endemic in the country’s schools.
The survey, published in BioMed Central’s International Journal for Equity in Health, showed that boys were most frequently assaulted by adult women, followed closely by other schoolchildren.
Attacks on boys
“This study uncovers endemic sexual abuse of male children that was suspected, but poorly documented,” Neil Andersson and Ari Ho-Foster of ‘The Centre for Tropical Disease Research’ in Johannesburg wrote.
The findings underscored the need to raise awareness about the rape of male children, and they urged further efforts to prevent sexual violence in South Africa, the researchers said. “Sexually abused children are also more likely to engage in HIV high-risk behaviour,” they wrote.
The survey carried out in 1 200 schools across the country asked 127 000 boys aged between 10 and 19 if they had ever been sexually abused and, if so, by whom. The findings were shocking:
- Forty-four percent of the 18-year-olds said they had been forced to have sex some time in their lives.
- About 33 percent said they had been abused by males, 41 percent by females and 27 percent said they had been raped by both males and females.
- Abuse by fellow males was more common in rural areas, while attacks by women happened mainly in cities, the study found.
The researchers say the findings may actually understate the level of sexual violence against boys.