Lets Talk About It

When a man is raped

Rape, a violent act against a human being, should never take place in any society. A rape victim can be a spouse, child, teenager, single adult, or elderly. For many years, we only heard about females being raped. Even when rumors did circulate that a male was raped, it became one of the greatest kept secrets of our times. In fact, most did not believe it and often made jokes about it.

The folklore of many cultures suggests “males cannot get rapped … it is impossible”. It suggests that because of the physiological makeup of women, it is “expected” that women can be raped, but not men. This is a myth. Psychologist Margret Roberts, in her book, “When a man is raped: a survival guide”, states, “…male rape happens more often than most people believe … When we hear the word ‘rape’, our mental image is usually that of a male perpetrator and a female victim. But men do get raped. Just as several decades ago, the rape of women and children was neglected and collectively denied, so also has the rape of men.”

Sadly, many believe that male rape is only possible between homosexual males or among prisoners. This is another myth. Many also believe that rape is only possible by a male perpetrator on another male or female. The truth is that anyone, male or female, can be a perpetrator or victim of rape. Yes, women can rape men and it does occur. Please don’t get in an argument with me about the subject. Just accept the facts. Perhaps, those who argue that women cannot rape men may also have difficulty agreeing that a husband can rape his wife. As one author said, “If someone does not agree to have sex with another and a sexual act is forced upon them, that is called rape.” The sexual act does not have to be penetration. It can be forced oral sex or the use of an object in any cavity.

Margaret Roberts makes it very clear in her book about men who rape men. Let us read: “Perpetrators of male-to-male rape have an average age of 26 years. They commonly identify as heterosexual and are usually involved in consensual sexual relationships with others. Many men who rape men state that the gender of the victim does not matter to them. They rape to: conquer and control, act out feelings of revenge, resolve conflicts about their own sexuality, and gain status among similar men by being an aggressor.”

We must become more compassionate and understanding to all victims of rape. The effects of sexual assault are serious. Let me share with you what is considered the “Checklist of Universal Reactions to Sexual Assault”:

1. Emotional Shock: I feel numb. How can I be so calm? Why can’t I cry? Or get angry?

2. Disbelief and/or Denial: Did it really happen? Why me? Maybe I just imagined it. It wasn’t really rape.

3. Embarrassment: What will people think? I can’t tell my family or friends.

4. Shame: I feel completely filthy, like there’s something wrong with me. I can’t get clean.

5. Guilt: I feel as if it’s my fault, or I should’ve been able to stop it. If only I had…

6. Depression: How am I gonna get through the next few days? I’m so tired! I feel so hopeless. Maybe I’d be better off dead.

7. Powerlessness: Will I ever feel in control again?

8. Disorientation: I don’t even know what day it is, or what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I keep forgetting things.

9. Flashbacks: I’m still reliving the assault! I keep seeing that face and feeling like it’s happening all over again.

10. Fear: I’m scared of everything. What if I have herpes or AIDS? I can’t sleep because I’ll have nightmares. I’m afraid to go out. I’m afraid to be alone.

11. Anxiety: I’m having panic attacks. I can’t breathe! I can’t stop shaking. I feel overwhelmed.

12. Anger: I feel like killing the person who attacked me!

13. Physical Stress: My stomach (or head or back) aches all the time. I feel jittery and don’t feel like eating.

14. Remembering past assaults: I’m getting back memories of what happened to me as a child, since the rape. They won’t go away.

We must do all we can to ensure that all persons who rape are brought before the courts and found guilty of a serious crime. This would include a married partner who rapes his/her spouse, a stranger, family members, friends, or acquaintance. Rape is rape.

When it comes to rape by a spouse, it is not wise to use the term “marital rape”. It is best to say rape by a spouse or spousal rape. This is only to identify who did it and who was raped. This is like the term acquaintance or stranger rape. The term marital rape suggests more than who did the rape and implies roles and structure and feeds into the idea that such rape is impossible. Remember, rape is rape.

• Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist. Send all questions or comments to question@soencouragement.org or call 242-327-1980 or visit www.soencouragement.org.

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