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Men too: Sexual assault is not gender-specific

The conversation about sexual assault and aggression seems stuck on the narrative where men are always the perpetrators and women always the victims. Is this true?

This is not the case. A recent FOI sent to King’s reveals that actually reveals that they receive more sexual assault complaints from men than women.

Since 2010, there have been eleven cases where men have been victims of sexual assault.  Women have been victims in seven cases. Still, when discussing sexual assault, we more often than not picture the victims as female.

Statistics from King’s College London.

The case at our university is not the norm UK wide. A 2015 study found 96% of male sexual assault cases go unreported. Men face even greater stigma surrounding sexual assault and harassment. Should he be brave enough to step forward, his masculinity comes into question. Should he not be strong enough to protect himself? Why didn’t he fight the perpetrator off?

Survivors UK, a UK charity working to help male survivors of sexual crimes, list the most common misconceptions on their website. People perceive sexual assault as something that happens to gay men and is done by gay men. Women cannot be perpetrators. These myths play into the patriarchal structure of our societies.

Should a man fall victim to a feminized crime, he must be gay, emasculated or less of a man than the rest, bringing into full display the misogynist culture we continue to live under.

Male rape moreover continues to be a source of humour in popular culture. Out of all the offensive jokes in Friends, the episode where Chandler tells Joey his tailor is touching him inappropriately, remains one of the darkest turns in the series. We have become so sanitized to male sexual assault being the punchline that we barely notice it. Jokes about “dropping the soap”, are so common they need no explanation. These jokes humiliate victims of male sexual assault, silencing those who have experienced it.

There are numerous examples showcasing how lightly we treat male rape, although one 2016 case remains particularly harrowing. In 2016, Stephen Port was convicted of raping and murdering 4 young men in Barking, London, after making contact with his victims on dating app Grindr.

Dagenham police face credible accusations of incompetence and neglect in how they handled the case. They did not identify the deaths as murders until the last body was found.

This isn’t to say female victims of sexual assault are not also victims of stigmatization. All too often women are asked what they wore or drank, or where they were.  This is inappropriate -  the perpetrator should be the one questioned. Furthermore, it remains obvious that on most statistics, women fall victim to sexual assault and violence more than men do. However, in recent years, campaigners have done much to shed light on the battles women face. This has excluded men from the narrative.

Although it goes uncontested that it is men who overwhelm the statistics of sexual perpetrators, it is clear male sexual assault should be on the agenda. They too can fall victim to sexual violence in all forms, in addition to facing more stigmatization than women face. If it is true that men on our university’s campus actually make up the majority of on-campus victims, then this speaks volumes for the work that needs to be done to ensure empowerment goes both ways.

Equality is never equality when one gender falls behind.

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