In her article It’s not just women who get raped, Eve Fensome writes about the forgotten victims of wartime sexual violence: males. According to Fensome, the UN did not count sexual violence as a “weapon of war” until 2008. Yet the UN forgot to count male victims in those numbers. As Fensome states:
If you were inclined to wade through UN Security Resolutions pertaining to sexual violence during conflict, you will find the term: ‘gender-based violence’ more times than you could (or indeed would want to) shake a stick at. ‘Gender-based violence’ is one of those slippery, insidious and politically loaded terms, which for what it lacks in clarity, makes up for by being blessed with numerous definitions. It could mean: any violence enacted upon a person on account of their gender, but it has come to mean violence enacted upon women (and girls), which in turn has come to encompass all sexual violence.
Fensome notes that people justify this gendered language based on the assumption that the vast majority of victims are female. However, some of the actual numbers suggest otherwise:
For instance, a study of 6,000 concentration camp inmates in Sarajevo found that 80 percent of males reported that they had been raped during their detention. Another study shows that of all the Sri-Lankan males seen at a torture treatment centre in London, 21 percent reported sexual abuse. A 2010 survey found that in Eastern Congo 30 percent of women and 22 percent of men reported conflict-related sexual violence. We might also remember that the most conspicuous aspect of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq was the use of sexual abuse as part of the ritualised humiliation of inmates by American forces.
The problem is not that sexual violence against males does not happen, but that few organizations track it, talk about it, or reach out to male victims. In my previous posts about male victims of wartime sexual violence, I mentioned that organizations that provide support services often turn away male victims. They not only refuse to provide male victims with counseling and psychological support, but also will refuse male victims medical support. It is an embarrassment and a travesty, yet little is done to address the problem.
That likely comes down a lack lobbyists for male victims. No prominent groups with any real political power push for organizations to recognize and aid male victims. Worse, many of the organizations are affiliated with or run by women’s groups or feminists who have little interest in shifting their message from “women, and only women, are victims of rape.”
Fensome goes on to write:
The international feminist community set out to remove these prejudices, and yet a policy which focuses purely on women results in their continued existence, to the detriment of both sexes. The international community must grasp that feminism will not be realised by women becoming the powerful oppressors, but by removing the oppression of rigid gender roles. The UN must realise that the global gender issue is not a zero-sum game. If we put one sex before another the result will always be a loss, if, on the other hand our strategy is equality, everybody wins.
That is perhaps the grandest irony of all this: feminism perpetuates these prejudices by painting women as only victims and men as only oppressors. Feminists peddle that message so much that many governments and political organizations accept it without question. It never occurs to any of them to ask whether men and boys are victims of rape and sexual violence. We ironically end up with the people who claim they want to rid society of “rigid gender roles” keeping those roles going in order to support their political agenda.
And it is male victims who bear the brunt of that zero-sum political game.