by Jonathan O’Connor and Nikki Igbo
Prior to 2012, the definition of forcible rape was “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” It wasn’t until then that the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report redefined rape to include the male as victim, “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
Research on rape tends to focus on one side. When looking up rape statistics for men what is often found is research on how many men attempt or complete rape in their lifetime. Seldom is the case that you will find studies that focus on the male as victim. In this environment, only women can be the victim of rape. While the studies are harder to find, there is some evidence to counter this claim.
The Ohio State University Rape Education and Prevention Program’s “When Men Are Raped” details what many of us don’t think about. While men are seen as physically powerful and able to take care of themselves, the publication highlights a simple fact: men get raped, too. “The rape of adult males has been so largely neglected and collectively denied that its invisibility has given rise to the notion that it just does not occur in our society.” The study goes on to highlight male on male rape, why 90-95% of male rape victims do not report, and the severe psychological side effects for men who have been raped. Although this study shows us that men can and do get raped, it points to men as both victim and culprit.
The CNN article, “Against his will: Female-on-male rape,” posted earlier this month, sheds light on the other side, with the female as the aggressor. In it, psychotherapist Elizabeth Donovan talks about how “gender roles dictate that males are expected to be strong and self-reliant — men are viewed as those who seek sexual conquests instead of those who ‘fend them off.’” It tells the story of a young intoxicated man who was taken to a motel room by a pregnant woman that said that if he put up a fight, he could hurt the baby. It took him years to realize that he had been raped.
The fact that anyone was surprised at my desire to take a R.A.D. course was shocking at first, but when I stopped and looked at everything we are told about rape, I can understand why. Let’s be clear, I am not discounting the research on male-on-female rape, but what needs to be addressed is that anyone can be a victim, anyone can be the aggressor and everyone should be prepared.
Earlier this month, SCAD offered all students an opportunity to learn self-defense techniques through the Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) Systems program. R.A.D. Systems specifically teach anyone, no matter his/her level of physical skills training, to be more aware of dangerous circumstances and/or combat a potential attacker. As a woman who is always armed with pepper spray, I appreciate programs like R.A.D. Systems.
On the other hand, I regret we live in a society where these programs must exist. And according to a recent study conducted by JAMA Pediatrics, American rape culture is only getting worse. The study found that 1 in 10 youths between the ages of 14 and 21 reported some type of sexual violence perpetration in their lifetime. Sixteen years old is the most common age for behavior. Both sexes perpetrated sexual violence, with females more likely to perpetrate against older victims and males more likely to perpetrate against younger victims. The study also revealed that aggressors commonly blame the victim and don’t seem to care about the consequences of their actions.
Just what is it about our society that makes us, and our youth, want to be sexually violent? Doctors, therapists and droves of other experts say that rape is more about power and anger than about sex. If this is the case, then why do so many of us feel so powerless, so angry? Admittedly, I want to go ballistic every time I think of Congress or literacy rates or the way George W. Bush pronounces “nuclear.” However, I’ve never desired to sexually violate someone. Rape is like murdering a soul and leaving the body to make sense of its own emptiness. It’s like being possessed with a demon of fear and with no hope for exorcism. It’s like a bloody sight that can’t be unseen, a nightmare without promise of sunrise. To know that women, who have been most victimized by this crime, are also now “getting in” on this horrible action makes my heart hurt.
I did not have the opportunity to take R.A.D. Systems training, but Self-Defense Awareness and Familiarization Exchange (S.A.F.E.) Training is coming up again soon at Spring House. Counting the R.A.D. Systems and a previous S.A.F.E. Training session held on Sept. 24, these sessions will have been offered three times in a five-week period. As the year progresses, I’m sure that SCAD will continue to offer many more. The unfortunate detail is that the R.A.D. Systems program is the only training session that offered a course for men as well as women.
I’d like to believe that attitudes and conditions will eventually improve, but I’m neither stupid nor naïve and I know how to pronounce “nuclear.” Rape is a nuclear issue, and if we don’t act to educate ourselves, and work toward prevention on both the aggressor and victim side of it, we’re all going to get burned.
Self-Defense Awareness Familiarization Exchange (S.A.F.E. Training) takes place on Thursday, Oct. 24 at Spring House from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. To register and receive more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.