Male rape 'still a taboo subject'

  • Deborah Condon

Male rape continues to be a taboo subject and is ‘the most under-reported crime of sexual violence in our society', experts have said.

According to Dr Maeve Eogan, medical director of the sexual assault treatment unit (SATU) at the Rotunda Hospital, and Deirdra Richardson, a midwife and sexual assault forensic examiner, male rape is rarely spoken about.

"Men are generally portrayed as being strong and not as a vulnerable population. Internationally male rape and sexual assault is still a taboo subject. There is a dearth of research available on it," they said.

In 2011, there were 351 attendances for forensic examinations at the Rotunda's SATU - 7% of these were male.

Dr Eogan and Ms Richardson pointed out that in society, there are perceptions and stereotypes associated with this issue. Male rape has ‘negative connotations with regard to heterosexual and homosexual behaviour'.

"As a result, some male victims have considerable difficulties when seeking care following a rape. Some men experience some forms of psychological/emotional distress, but the effect on men's sense of sexuality, masculinity and sexual identity may encourage them to suppress the event and delay disclosure," they noted.

They pointed out that society expects men to display traits such as dominance, toughness, independence and aggressiveness, ‘whereas qualities such as submissiveness, emotionality and compliance are not consistent with social norms'.

Dr Eogan and Ms Richardson said that the general public needs to be educated about this issue.

"Providing education can help to increase awareness of male rape and also to dispel myths. Education can be delivered not only to adolescents, but to religious clergy, the military, prison officers and legal professionals involved with victims of rape," they suggested.

They noted that while men and women go through similar feelings of distress following a rape, feelings of intense anger tend to be more common in men.

Sexual assaults on men also tend to be more violent than on women. Common injuries, aside from genital injuries, can include abrasions to the throat, black eyes and broken bones.

"There is no typical response following a rape or sexual assault. Emotions range from calm, composed, relaxed to a complete emotional breakdown. They may feel shame, embarrassment, stigma and hostility following the assault," Dr Eogan and Ms Richardson said.

Only 5-10% of make victims report the crime to the Gardai. Many ‘fear rejection and disbelief from authorities', while others think that society believes a man ‘should be able to resist'.

Currently in Ireland, there is no dedicated service for male victims, however all six SATUs in Ireland cater for both men and women. These are located in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Galway, Mullingar and Donegal. There is also an out-of-hours service available in Limerick.

Dr Eogan and Ms Richardson noted that disclosure of male rape is on the increase, however it is still much lower than the reporting of female rape.

"Undoubtedly, raising awareness about attitudes towards care after male rape should be introduced into communities. Male rapes continues to be under-acknowledged, under-reported and under-managed," they added.

They made their comments in Modern Medicine, the Irish Journal of Clinical Medicine.


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