April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but the public discourse surrounding this controversial issue focuses exclusively on one gender.
Unfortunately, there is a perception that rape is purely a gendered phenomenon and that it is rare for men to be sexually assaulted, particularly by women. When we look at the data, though, these assumptions are exposed as inherently flawed.
The 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey broadened the definition of rape to include being “forced to penetrate,” where a male is forced to sexually insert his penis into someone else. According to this definition, 1.267 million men claimed to have been raped, compared to 1.270 million women.
Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 46 percent of male victims reported a female perpetrator.
Finally, we should consider that these findings don’t factor in prison rape, where one study found that 89.1 percent of sexual assaults against boys in jail were perpetrated by female guards.
The data doesn’t stop with rape and sexual assault, though. In the United Kingdom, for example, 40 percent of domestic violence cases are perpetuated by female spouses against their male partners, correlating with findings in the United States. This is despite the fact that there are only 60 refuge places for male victims in
England and Wales, compared to 7,500 safe havens for women — at least as of 2010.
Not only do male victims lack these resources, but they are discouraged from reporting the crime. A study from the Florida State University Law Review found that men are three times more likely to be arrested if they called the police against their abusive spouse than if a woman called 911.
There is also a societal misunderstanding on the mere fact that a man can be raped by a woman at all. This is because erections are mistaken for sexual desire and inherent consent, when, in fact, this isn’t always the case; if a man is “forced to penetrate,” his penis is stimulated without his consent.
Now, the contemporary feminist movement holds the most political clout when it comes to sexual assault issues. This is perhaps best reflected in California’s recent passage of “Yes Means Yes” legislation, as well as feminist public awareness campaigns that are present on nearly every college campus.
When asking some fellow feminists about this issue, though, they often claim that it’s too rare to worry about, argue that it’s impossible for a man to be raped or say that it’s mostly guys who rape other men so males are the ones truly at fault. This shows that even many progressives and feminists hold misconceptions on rape and sexual assault.
It’s up to us to spread the word to policymakers that rape against men is not only possible, but that it is a public safety epidemic that must be addressed.