Male Rape Part 4 — Causes and prevention

malerape[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 final article in a 4-part series, DIANNE STEVEN considers root causes of rape and prevention measures.[/notice]

Most people agree that rape and violence is a serious social problem in South Africa. But it seems there are many knee-jerk views on how to tackle the problem. Educate men to respect women and children, stricter gun control and castration of perpetrators of rape are some such proposals.

So what is the solution? How can we prevent – or at least start reducing this crime? In our quest for lasting solutions we need to try and identify the root of the problem by looking at why people commit the crime of rape. In the context of this series of articles we are especially interested in the shadowy crime of male rape.

Click banner for more info

Although there is some debate around the characteristics of the victims and the assailants that are involved in male rape, it appears that it is a crime that does not discriminate on the grounds of age or sexual orientation, thus rendering all males potential victims. Rape by male or female heterosexual offenders is slightly more common than by homosexual offenders.

 Karen Bachar MA, Research Specialist Senior, University of Arizona Prevention Center, focused her research on ‘causes’ around two areas: – vulnerability to victimisation and characteristics influencing the behavior of both male and female offenders.

 Risk factors for victimisation:
Assaults by heterosexual males tend to target strangers. A further characteristic of this form of assault is that, although the victims’ age is not a factor, their vulnerability is. This type of attack is further characterised by a possible need to humiliate and control, which could be motivated by feelings on the part of the offender of unresolved sexuality, gay hatred or difficulties with peer acceptance (Hodge & Canter, 1998, p. 229).

According to Hodge and Canter (1998, pp. 229-231), homosexual assault is one that is more likely to involve individuals in an established relationship and can entail a higher degree of psychological manipulation, rather than physical control. The victims of this form of assault are generally between the ages of 16 and 25 and subject to manipulation by older offenders.

Factors linked to a person’s likelihood of being raped include: passivity, hostility, low self esteem, alcohol and drug use, differences in education or income (Karen Bachar).

Researchers have examined personality traits and attitudes that could increase vulnerability to rape. Recent studies found no specific characteristics that would make certain women more susceptible to violence than others (Pittman & Taylor, 1992).

 Factors influencing behavior of offenders:
There is no single theory that conclusively explains the motivation for rape; the motives of rapists, both male and female, can be multi-factorial and are subject to debate.

 Nicholas Groth, a clinical psychologist and author of ‘Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender’, says all sexual assault is an act of aggression, regardless of the gender or age of the victim or the assailant. Neither sexual desire nor sexual deprivation is the primary motivating force behind rape. It is not about sexual gratification, but rather a sexual aggressor expressing power, hate and control; it is a violent demeaning act of gross violence against the victim.

 Denov (2004) states that societal responses to the issue of female perpetrators of sexual assault “point to a widespread denial of women as potential sexual aggressors that could work to obscure the true dimensions of the problem”.

 Motivation of perpetrators:

  • The legalisation of porn and an immoral, lust-saturated media has poured fuel on the fires of an already sexually immoral society. Porn is a manual for rape and child abuse.
  • Entitlement: “There is a sense that people can demand sex whenever they want it.”
  • Endemic unemployment, causing boredom, addictions and hence rape.
  • Dysfunctional families: If females and males have themselves been sexually abused in childhood, they are more likely to rape. Boys that grow up in single parent families don’t have a healthy male role model. Without the role model of a strong father and a lack of Biblical teaching on manhood, many males have come to believe that part of being a man means accepting violence and dishing it out.
  • Lack of legal deterrents: Rape survivors are frequently unable to convict their attackers. Medical Research Council research shows that just 6% of reported rape cases in Gauteng are successfully prosecuted.  The Bible says in Eccl 8:11 “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.”

 Prevention measures

  • According to Karen Bachar’s research sexual violence affects all parts of society and the prevention of sexual violence should be categorized under individual approaches, health care responses and community-based efforts.
  • Sexual assault may be prevented by secondary school, college and workplace education programmess for males and females. At least one programme for fraternity men produced “sustained behavioral change”.
  • The complainant or witness must be informed of protective measures that will be instituted, to encourage more rape victims to report their cases. Where there is a delay in reporting the matter or, no previous consistent statements were made, the court must not be allowed to look at it in a negative way when making judgement. The court must take into consideration the surrounding circumstances and impact of the sexual offence. The National Director of Public Prosecutions should decide whether or not a police investigation should be discontinued, not the investigating officer.
  • More stringent measures should be taken against investigating officers. The loss of documents must not be allowed to continue as this helps the rapists. No bail should be allowed for alleged rapists whatever their gender. The law must be swift at all times to punish rapists! Justice delayed is justice denied.
  • The public must have a sense that justice is being served by avoiding leniency in sentencing through having minimum mandatory sentences. The civil government is called to be a minister of God’s justice to punish those who do wrong. Their primary duties and responsibilities are the protection of law-abiding citizens.
  • By failing to prevent sexual violence from taking place inside prison walls, automatically the whole nation is placed at risk, as prisoners exposed to violent unprotected sex who become infected with HIV carry it into the community.
  • Boys are not taught their rights and how to respect the rights of others, or how to say “no” to abusive clergy, scout-masters, coaches, and other potential perpetrators.
  • Church leaders, community Leaders and traditional leaders should take the initiative in leading young boys and men to become role models for the next generation and stop hiding behind tradition and culture.
  • Gang rape has become a game where gangsterism is a way of life for young men who don’t work but sit around taking drugs and alcohol which play a large role in rape and violence.  

Unresolved anger
Vineyard pastor Alexander Venter writes that 2000 years ago a young Jewish rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, gave an incisive diagnosis to the issue of violence and to the human condition in general. He taught that anger, if not resolved, leads to contempt and even hatred, which in turn results in rage, violence and murder (see Matt 5:21-26). In his teachings – Jesus first addresses the issue of anger and forgiveness in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’. It’s the foremost issue in human relationships – in personal morality and social reality. Just think of it: if all the unresolved anger were taken out of human relationships the world would be entirely different.

He points out that Jesus deals with the problem of anger ahead of lust – lust as in sexual sin and brokenness – the use and abuse of others for our gratification (see Matt 5:27-30). Rape is not about sexual lust per se. It’s about violence due to unresolved anger, stemming mostly from deeply broken masculinity in terms of disempowerment or powerlessness. Rape is one of the oldest weapons in human history – along with murder – used by so-called men to humiliate, punish and destroy, for feelings (and reasons) of power and control.

 Unresolved anger in women can presumably also lead to the type of violent behavior that Venter describes for men.

 Dealing with the deep-seated anger of men and women should therefore lead to a reduction in all types of rape.

 Male rape victims can go to the following links for assistance:

or, contact ‘Rape Crisis’ in your area.


Gender researcher Lisa Vetten, the M.R. C’s Professor Rachel Jewkes, Sonke Gender Justice’s spokesman Mbuyiselo Botha and People Against Women Abuse counselor Tiny Moloko and Africa Christian Action

- Advertisement -

Comments are closed.