Originally posted on July 17, 2011
Every month there is a report, essay, or article about how women are raped in war-torn countries, yet few of those reports mention anything about male victims. Male victimization remains a taboo subject in most countries, but more so in many Africa countries, particularly those engaged in war. Many of those cultures place such limits on men that male victims of rape cannot come forward for fear of losing their friends and family. Often the support services that help women will not help men. Should any men come forward, they also risk retaliation from the authorities, especially if the men are refugees.
All of this leads to a woeful lack of accurate data about the frequency of rape against men. It is unfathomable to think that any army that would torture and brutalize a populace would abstain from sexually assaulting men. Regardless of the social stigmas, in war no act of violence is ever used just against one group. There are thousands of boys and men who have been raped and forced to keep it secret because of social stigmas and misandrist policies that deny male victimization.
However, photographer and writer Will Storr provides a glimpse in the horrors that many men face in war-torn countries in Africa. He produced an audio slideshow recounting the stories of several men. He also wrote an article:
One of the few academics to have looked into the issue in any detail is Lara Stemple, of the University of California’s Health and Human Rights Law Project. Her study Male Rape and Human Rights notes incidents of male sexual violence as a weapon of wartime or political aggression in countries such as Chile, Greece, Croatia, Iran, Kuwait, the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. Twenty-one per cent of Sri Lankan males who were seen at a London torture treatment centre reported sexual abuse while in detention. In El Salvador, 76% of male political prisoners surveyed in the 1980s described at least one incidence of sexual torture. A study of 6,000 concentration-camp inmates in Sarajevo found that 80% of men reported having been raped.
I’ve come to Kampala to hear the stories of the few brave men who have agreed to speak to me: a rare opportunity to find out about a controversial and deeply taboo issue. In Uganda, survivors are at risk of arrest by police, as they are likely to assume that they’re gay – a crime in this country and in 38 of the 53 African nations. They will probably be ostracised by friends, rejected by family and turned away by the UN and the myriad international NGOs that are equipped, trained and ready to help women. They are wounded, isolated and in danger. In the words of Owiny: “They are despised.”
Because there has been so little research into the rape of men during war, it’s not possible to say with any certainty why it happens or even how common it is – although a rare 2010 survey, published in theJournal of the American Medical Association, found that 22% of men and 30% of women in Eastern Congo reported conflict-related sexual violence. As for Atim, she says: “Our staff are overwhelmed by the cases we’ve got, but in terms of actual numbers? This is the tip of the iceberg.”
Storr goes on to tell Jean Paul’s story. Jean Paul’s father was accused of aiding the enemy and was killed. Jean Paul ran, but was caught by the army. He was raped nearly a dozen times the first night and every night, along with several other men, for over a week. He managed to hide one day under the roots of a tree, and remained there until the searchers gave up. Jean Paul was so violently raped that even with medical treatment he still bleeds when he walks.
That is the reality of rape against men and boys. People avoid talking about what boys and men actually go through. No one wants to hear it and few would believe it, yet Storr gives an account of the kind of rape men and boys face endure. Fair warning, it is graphic: Continue reading