Study of victims of male rape

 A study which could lead to a better understanding of the victims of male rape and improved support services, is being undertaken by a University researcher.

Miss Stephanie Chester (pictured left), a D.Phil. student at the Centre for Criminological Research, has so far interviewed more than 50 adult male victims of rape.

`There is no systematic information available about men who have been raped, nor about the experiences of this group within the criminal justice system, nor about the response of the social and welfare agencies,' she said.

`While date rape, rape within marriage, incest, and paedophilia have all hit the headlines, sexual assault of men remains largely hidden.'

A common theme emerging from interviewees has been feelings of bewilderment, disbelief, shame, and guilt about what has happened to them. Victims often question whether they could have done any more to avoid the assault and whether they contributed in some way. Initial findings also suggest that in some cases heterosexual men did not get the support and reassurance they needed when they confided in their partners or wives. Some questioned whether the victim was experimenting with homosexuality; others chose not to continue the relationship with a man they felt was `emotionally vulnerable'. Long-standing partners of homosexual victims questioned whether or not the victim was having an `extra-marital' affair that somehow went wrong.

`The culmination of all this is that men find it difficult to admit they have been raped; many try to forget it ever happened to them,' Miss Chester said. `But this denial frequently leads to self-harming behaviour including alcohol and drug addiction, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, offending, aggression in subsequent relationships and at work, and sexual impotency.'

The full extent of male rape is unknown as victims are reluctant to report sexual crime. However, there is evidence to suggest that male rape is more prevalent than previously thought.

Earlier studies suggested heterosexual men often fail to report sexual assaults by other men for fear of being labelled gay, whilst homosexual men may fear an unsympathetic response from the police. By identifying the types of support victims find helpful, Miss Chester hopes it will advance the development of effective policy and practice in this field.

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