More on war, rape, and the invisible victims

Last week I wrote about Will Storr’s article concerning rape against men in war-torn African countries.  He gave an interview with Al Jazeera about his report. Chris Dolan, Louise Aubin, and Lara Stemple also participated.

The interview expounded on the critical points from Storr’s article, namely that NGOs and the UN do not help male victims, and few international human rights groups even recognize men and boys as potential rape victims. The language and the efforts are so gendered that services turn away male victims. As Stemple and Storr noted in the interview, the prevailing picture is that men=bad and women=victims. There is simply no attempt to address this problem, despite that the rate sexual violence against men in these areas is almost on par with the rate of sexual violence against women.

Louise Aubin, the deputy director of international protection at the UNHCR, gave a bunch of non-answers to the question of why UN organizations do not help male victims. When asked how any organization can take this issue seriously if they do not even recognize male victims, Aubin went off on tangents about age groups and refugees. It was rather telling because she kept falling back on the phrase “sexual and gender-based violence.” There appeared to be a tacit unwillingness to admit that her organization and many others do very little to help male victims.

The numbers listed in the interview show that sexual violence against men is very common during wartime, very common against inmates, and very common against males in the general population. No one discussed female-perpetrated sexual violence, but had they included it the numbers would be higher.

The main issue is that the UN and human rights groups do nothing to acknowledge male victims. They use heavily gendered, feminist-inspired language, and as a result male victims can get no help. Cultural biases against homosexuality also keep men from telling their families for fear of getting  ostracized. These are issues we can address if people take the time to address them. But if people keep presenting sexual violence as something only men do to only women, more boys and men will get raped and have nowhere to turn.

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4 thoughts on “More on war, rape, and the invisible victims

  1. Some of your points are very valid, although I feel the interview was a “setup”. Let’s bash the UN again for what they are not doing or let’s blanket the who UN when the interviewee was clearly a representative of the UN Refugee agency. She was being constantly asked to answer for all agencies, and was professional enough to state on several occasions that UNHCR do this do that and that she could not answer for the UN as a whole. I also felt it particularly unfair (actually, straight out bad journalism) to run comments such as “The UN are not doing so and so” at the bottom of the screen while the UN person was answering a question. To my knowledge UNHCR offer equal protection to all peoples of concern. Raped women and men included. Can improvements be made- certainly and it is in working with victims, NGO’s, and UN agencies “on the ground” where this will happen. Perhaps Al Jazerra should even up the playing field next time and ask critics what they think the UN or UNHCR as it was in this interview are doing well and how they think improvements can be made. A more intelligent way to advance real debate. This bash, bash, bashing is not conductive to finding a better way forward. In my opinion It’s tiring and time wasting in finding swifter protection or assistance to victims.

  2. Pingback: War’s invisible victims | Toy Soldiers

  3. Pingback: G8 announces initiative to tackle sexual violence in conflict | Toy Soldiers

  4. Pingback: Male rape victims in Uganda speak out | Toy Soldiers

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