If the magnitude of the problem with regards to rape of women and girls is barely acknowledged, the rape of boys and men is even more maligned.
Rees Mann, himself a survivor of rape and sexual abuse, is the founder of South Africa’s first registered organisation to support male survivors of sexual abuse and rape.
South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse (SAMSOSA) was launched in 2012. Mr Mann points out that of the sexual offences against adults in that year, 19.4% were male victims.
“One in five adult males are the victims in sexual offences and this figure could be much higher as a male is 10 times less likely to report a sexual violation than a woman. This could mean that South Africa could have the highest number of adult male victims in the world,” he said.
To those who have spoken out, he said: “We believe you, you are not alone, and recovery is possible.”
An American study conducted by the National Crime Victimisation Survey (NCVS) in 2002 reported that one in eight rape victims in 2002 were male.
Research conducted in the United Kingdom showed that one in six men will have been sexually abused or raped, in their lifetime.
The vast majority of male rape and abuse victims do not report their trauma.
This is due to a lack of awareness, and misconceptions around male sexual abuse; as well as the lack of support services available specifically for men.
Mr Mann is trying to change that.
Although physically based in Johannesburg, his organisation serves men across the nation.
“We see about eight men a week for peer to peer support. We offer support to about another 12 men every week via email, social media and personal calls,” he said.
Mr Mann believes that men may be even more damaged by the rejection and reluctance of society, to accept their victimisation.
“The belief that men are stoic and strong has caused men to put up with their abuse alone, and in silence,” he said.
“The long-term effects of male sexual abuse are detrimental to both men and women and causes serious suffering and trauma for any victim.”
He points out that boys and men of all sexual orientation can, and do, become victims of sexual abuse, rape and violence.
He is direct about issues that are unique to same-sex rape.
“In no way,” he said, “is an act of sexual abuse related to your sexual orientation and your choices. Sexual abuse is a criminal offence and in no way can it make you gay or bisexual. You may feel confused due to the traumatic nature of the event, but it cannot change your beliefs.”
The SAMSOSA website also states that rape and sexual abuse is an act of violence, control and aggression, and not one of sexual gratification.
A rapist’s primary motive is to hurt, humiliate, destroy, cause pain, insecurity and hopelessness in the victim.
Adolescents are more often targets for male sexual abuse and the biggest reason given for not reporting a male sexual assault is the fear of being seen as homosexual. Typically, most men disclose their rape after 20 years.
Mr Mann says that the subject is still taboo because men are seen as the perpetrators of sexual assault – and because men are supposed to be able to protect themselves; people will not believe them.
SAMSOSA lists feelings of numbness and a lack of emotion as being common experiences which many sexual abuse survivors face.
This numbness acts as a coping mechanism to deal with the trauma.
Its role is to protect you from hurting until you are ready to allow yourself to open up and feel again. “Becoming numb has its purpose, but it is an incorrect way in dealing with your pain in the long run,” Mr Mann
“Male sexual abuse is a reality that needs to be addressed at all layers of society from government legislation, training of social support services and professionals, to an understanding in homes across the country to make our sons as aware of possible abuse circumstances as our daughters,” Mr Mann said.
Mr Mann said that it is between five and 10 times more likely that a victim of sexual abuse would commit suicide.
“The rape and sexual abuse of both adult and young men around the world has been so greatly ignored, disrespected and discounted for, that it has created a major misconception in many that such an occurrence does not exist. The first step is recognising that men are victims of sexual violence,” he said.
He stressed that the vast majority of male rape and abuse victims will never report their trauma.
So then; how can women in turn support their men, those who have had the courage to speak out?
“Believe them; don’t be judgemental; assist them to look at their options; listenand be empathetic,” he said.
He said that it was interesting to note that here, compared to the rest of the world, 70% of the men who make contact with SAMSOSA do so because of the intervention of a woman.
Contact SAMSOSA on 071 280 9918 or www.samsosa.org
Other helplines include:
SADAG Police and Trauma Linel: 0800 20 50 26
LifeLine (Trauma Counseling): 0861 322 322 or www.lifelinejhb.org.za
Police Child Protection Units: Emergency number: 10111
Crime Stop: 08600 10111
Rape Crisis counselling
lines: 021 447 9762 or www.rapecrisis.org.zaorwww.