Male Rape: Part 1 — It’s more common than you think

[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.

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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.

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  1. …and Jesus wept…

  2. Superb article, Dianne. Its time for men to speak up!


    South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse (SAMSOSA) is a Not for Profit Company 2012/176739/08 that offers support for professionals working with male survivors of rape and sexual abuse in the form of professional development conferences, workshops and referrals. Male survivors are supported through a weekend workshop that provides the participants with the tools required to move from survivor to thriver.


    WORKING WITH MALES OF SEXUAL ABUSE is a one day professional development workshop for people working with men in both the professional and voluntary sector. It will be held in Johannesburg on the 17th September 2013 at the GIBS Business School and in Cape Town on the 25th September 2013 at Backsberg Estate. The cost is only R895 which includes all refreshments, lunch and notes

    MALE SEXUAL VICTIMISATION CONFERENCE to be held in Johannesburg on the 18th September 2013 at the GIBS Business School. The purpose of the conference is to provide professionals, volunteers and male survivors with the Knowledge, skills and insight that will enable them to provide appropriate interventions and strategies. R795 includes refreshments, lunch and speakers notes.

    VICTIMS NO LONGER is a weekend recovery workshop for non offending male survivors, 20 – 22 September 2013 at the Ngomo Safari Lodge, Cradle of Humankind. The purpose of the weekend is to provide support and strategies that will move the male survivor through the process of healing from victim to survivor to thriver in a safe, controlled and supportive environment. As a professional in the field of mental health you may have treated or become aware of adult male survivors that would benefit from the intervention. We appeal to you to forward the information to the individual. If a male survivor is financially unable to meet the costs of R995 including accommodation, meals and handouts, application can be made to SAMSOSA for financial assistance by contacting SAMSOSA via email

    The weekends, conferences and workshops will be facilitated by Mike Lew, an internationally renowned specialist from Boston, USA and author of the book “Victims No Longer: The Classic guide for Men recovering from Sexual Abuse”.

    As a male survivor, I have experienced the reality of rape and sexual abuse. A tipping point in my recovery as a survivor of both sexual abuse and rape, was when I travelled to Scarborough in the UK to attend a “Victims No Longer” weekend. Facilitated by author Mike Lew a world renowned expert in this field of recovery, I was afforded the opportunity for the first time ever to interact with other male survivors. I did not have to explain my feelings as the men there experienced first-hand the pain and trauma I had gone through. I am no longer a victim or a survivor; I can now proudly say I am a thriver. It was with this motivation that I founded SAMSOSA and have worked to make it possible that South Africans do not have to leave the borders of our country to derive the benefits of this life changing experience.

    Please find attached more details about the events mentioned above. Please pass this onto your associates. For further information on the organisation and helpful resources visit our website

    If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact me personally.

    071 280 9918