“Domestic Violence and sexual abuse have traditionally been understood as crime perpetrated by domineering men against defenseless women.”
This post is dedicated to all those men who are so wrongly victimized and don’t have a voice… yet… and to my friend whose rightfully placed anger needed assuaging…
As I said before, I was prompted into deeply thinking about this by one of my very angry friends… But rightly so… He said that there is absolutely no protection for men anywhere in the world, especially against women. At first, I was appalled; being a woman, naturally the first thing in my mind was how much women suffer, all across the globe- rape, domestic violence, forced free labor, prostitution, abduction, suicide etc. The next thing he said, threw enlightenment at me like a brick on my face. He said that men too suffer from every single one of these crimes, and its just that they don’t get the due importance. I realized how painfully true it was.
Then, I started looking for more information on this subject. What I found out chilled my spine. Of course, I already knew that these crimes were being being committed. What I didn’t count on were the alarming statistics… not just in India, but men throughout the world are and have been victims of all the above mentioned crimes and not in small numbers!
Undoubtedly, men commit more violent crimes than women. Around 85-90% of convicted murderers are men, a majority of the domestic abusers and almost all those committing sexual assault are, as is generally acknowledged, men. But the fact that over twice as many men are murder victims is quietly ignored. Over two-thirds of murder victims, 68%, are men. Its true than women are victims of domestic violence, But, it is not exclusive to women. The ONS statistics for 2011-12 show that while 1.2 million women were the victims of domestic violence, so were 800,000 men. Another study (http://www.theguardian.com/)revealed that women accounted for 7% of all convictions for domestic violence last year will come as a surprise to many. But what is not clear is whether the growing numbers of women convicted – a 150% increase in five years – represents a rise in actual cases of female-perpetrated domestic violence. Now, this was a number I did not expect to see… A 1994 University Of Iowa paper by veteran criminal lawyer Allan Dershowitz reported that over 40% of US spousal murders are perpetrated by women(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/). Even when sexual abuse comes into the picture, men are at a numerical disadvantage. But they are victims nonetheless. In the US alone, 14% of reported rapes involve males. 1 out of every 4 reported rapes is a boy and 1 out of every 25 reported rapes is a man (http://www.endsexualviolence.org/where-we-stand/male-victims). A book named “Betrayed as boys: Psychodynamic treatment of sexually abused men. Guilford: New York” also reports that in a 1996 study of 600 college men, 28 per cent of those surveyed reported some form of sexual abuse as a child.And these are just the reported numbers. I can’t begin to imagine the condition of those men whose cases and stories go unreported and untold.Until very recently, the issue of sexual violence against those in prison has not been seen as critical. In 2001, Human Rights Watch brought this issue into sharp relief with the publication of its 378-page report, “No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons,” in which it reported that prison rape is widespread and brutal. Right across the spectrum from global conflicts to solitary depression, violence is committed chiefly against men. The male rate of suicide is three times that of women, and rising. Suicide in men in their forties and fifties has risen 40% in ten years.
Okay, these are international statistics. Many, of us will think what has this got to do with us. Unfortunately it does. In India,The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) under the home ministry tabulates crime against men under various categories of kidnapping and abduction for variety of motives including illicit intercourse, prostitution and marriage. According to NCRB 2012 data, 175 men have been kidnapped and abducted for the purpose of illicit intercourse since 2009. The cases have been registered under Sec.363 to 369, 371 to 373 of Indian Penal Code (IPC). The NCRB report also shows that since 2009, 995 men were either kidnapped or abducted for forceful marriage. Most of the kidnappings and abductions of men for the purpose of getting sexual favour have been reported within the age groups of 18 to 30 years and 30 to 50 years (http://zeenews.india.com/exclusive/sexual-crime-against-men-is-no-myth_6885.html).
THE POSSIBLE REASONS
The main reason why this is not given its due importance is because of the sociocultural stereotypes that men are not vulnerable and are dominating and violent, and that women are passive, meek and perpetual victims of all kind of abuse and heinous crimes. While male victims experience similar effects of sexual violence as female victims such as shame, grief, anger and fear. A recent 32-nation study revealed that more than 51% of men and 52% of women felt that there were times when it was appropriate for a wife to slap her husband. By comparison, only 26% of men and 21% of women felt that there were times when it was appropriate for a husband to slap his wife. Murray Straus, creator of the Conflict Tactics Scale and one of the authors of the study, explained this discrepancy: “We don’t perceive men as victims. We see women as being more vulnerable than men.”
In many cases, Men were also unlikely to view their own victimisation as either domestic violence or a criminal assault, and so were unlikely to seek help. Male victims may also have issues surrounding their sexual and/or gender identity after a sexual assault. Issues of reporting and talking about their experiences, challenges for all victims of sexual violence, may be especially difficult for male victims because of gender socialization issues.
Another reason may be the feminist movement. Feminism took up the cause of domestic abuse of women in the 1970s, with the world’s first women’s refuge being opened by Erin Pizzey in 1971. Feminism understood domestic violence as the natural extension of men’s patriarchal attitudes towards women, leading men to feel they had the right to control their partners, using violence if necessary. This activism and advocacy led to governmental and public acceptance that “domestic violence” was synonymous with violence against women.
A very strong reason is that all victims of sexual and domestic abuse are not seen as equal under the law. Atit Rajpada, men rights activist and ex president of Men’s Rights Association in India said, “The irony is that sexual abuse of men is not treated equally under law.” He wants the government to accept the Association’s charter for changes in the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act to ensure men are treated at par on the issue.
Another reason for this lack of grass-roots action to support male victims of sexual violence, is that many healthcare and social workers are not sufficiently trained to recognise the signs of sexual assault in men. The stereotype that sexual violence can only be inflicted on women also influences these workers.
One of the most important reasons is the victims don’t report it at all mostly because of the readiness of the police to assume that the male is always the aggressor and perpetrator. Also because, the society either ends up perceiving them as unmanly or makes a mockery out of their abuse or doesn’t believe them at all.
The media! Very rarely has the media sided with male victims to bring their perpetrators to light. Whether it be movies or articles or news reports. In many cases they have mocked the life out of the already hurt victims. Or the victims end up being portrayed as heinous, or mentally unstable or the agressor.
I could go on all day about all the necessary steps that were taken, and those that had to be taken and all. But the need of the hour is to accept and understand that men are vulnerable. They face far more stress than we women know. At least, female victims have a voice. Just imagine, men who are raped also go through the entire range of emotions that women do but they can’t talk about it all. Not only because they’re ashamed or feel guilt or are traumatized, but also because there is a very real possibility that no one will believe them and they might be degraded further. I have brothers and I am scared for them like I am scared for my sisters or daughter. Maybe more so for my brothers because of all the above reasons. Our society is still very immature. It needs time to digest the fact that male life has as much value as that of a female; that males go through a lot more than they let on… that this problem needs to be addressed the way it deserves…
I completely disagree if anyone says that women don’t deserve any compassion. I strongly oppose those who say that women don’t have any problems in today’s day. I could pulverize those who use this reason as an excuse to degrade women further or exploit them in any way, with my bare hands. But its not a game of all or none. Men and women victims both equally deserve our sympathy and understanding. I just want everybody to understand the gravity of this situation. That does not, at all, mean that I care less about females who are traumatized in any way. I am a woman myself. Its because I understand us that I am able to understand for men. There are perpetrators and victims on both sides. We cannot and should not label any one side as aggressive or weak or some such. Compassion is not a zero sum game, after all.