It’s time for men to be honest about rape
The release of last week’s survey which showed the number of military women who say they were raped or sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers was disturbing, but it didn’t take long for the media to discover the open secret in the report—that more military men than women reported being sexually assaulted.
The truth about male rape victims has been right there, right under our noses. Men have worked hard to keep it a secret. Male-on-male rape and sexual assault has long been a punch line in society. The humor hid the fact that men, apparently, feel the fear of rape as keenly as women do.
Think about it—most every father, brother, and husband worries when a girl or woman he loves is in the company of men, or out alone, vulnerable to attack. Prior to the 1960s, when sexual assault was rarely talked about or reported, men knew how common an occurrence it was. They knew because they were acquainted with rapists and with male victims. Rapists were not just shady characters in dark parks, but also your dad’s best friend, your boss and your doctor.
Surely men have been being raped for as long as women have, but we rarely hear of male victims because we rarely hear about the crime. If last week’s reaction to the sexual assault survey is any indication, men and boys who lived with groups of men, at schools or the military knew quite well that rapists were among them.
Suddenly, the military’s response to allowing gays to serve openly in the military makes sense. Since the first hearings in the 1990s to the last hearings in the last decade, we heard testimony from inside and outside the military about how allowing gay soldiers to shower was a threat to unit cohesion. Most activist scoffed at the idea that our great and strong military could be felled by a gay guy in the shower; but we didn’t have all the information. The military was hiding something—grown male soldiers were afraid of being raped by gay men in the shower because they were already being assaulted. The only sexual orientation predators have is one of aggression, violence and opportunity. It’s easy to see now how the idea of introducing actual gay men into the mix terrified the military.
It’s also clear, although lamentable, why no male military victims came forward and said, “We’re being raped”. The military was also not going to say, “We have sexual predators in the military, so we are already worried about showers.”
As the nation rightly rallies around female assault victims and demands action from the military, it’s time for men to be honest about sexual assault. How often are men in the general public assaulted? How many sexual predators are among us?
And it’s time for society to stop making jokes about “dropping the soap” and treat male victims with the seriousness they deserve.