The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 recognised in law, for the first time, that rape, a dreadful and devastating crime, could be committed against, not just by, a man. Previously it was an offence that could only ever see men as perpetrators and not victims. The recognition that men could also be victims of such an offence has gone some way towards breaking down some of the old taboos in our communities; it has served, to a degree, to break down some of the myths and stereotypes that so often beset our society and make it difficult for us to progress along the journey leading to inclusion and equality.
A few weeks ago we saw male rape hit the headlines. Two Libyan soldier cadets were convicted and sentenced for the rape of a man in Cambridge; both received twelve years imprisonment. The case, for a variety of reasons, made national headlines and has, perhaps, served to highlight an issue that is still, twenty years on, something of a dark and not often talked about subject.
Last year over three and a half thousand victims of reported violent sexual assault and rape in the UK were men (many thousands more go unreported). That means that thousands of men have had their lives turned upside down and gone through one of the most traumatic experiences imaginable; it’s more than a statistic, it’s a stark reminder that for some our society feels far from safe. And for those of us who haven’t been subjected to such an ordeal the test is in the response; how do we react and what do we do when presented with such evidence?
For years many have been calling for a better response from the criminal justice agencies to victims of rape and sexual assault, current and historic. And alongside a better, more sensitive and empathic response, there have been voices articulating the need to match this with resources aimed at supporting those victims, helping them to cope and recover. Rape Crisis Centres, Sexual Assault Referral Centres, helplines etc. All these vital resources are needed if the cultural changes in the CJS, where victims of rape and sexual assault are believed and properly supported through a system that was often inflexible and, on occasion, hostile are to achieve their desired result: justice for victims.
Yet we aren’t seeing this need for vital resources being met when it comes to supporting victims of male rape. And that is worrying. Survivors UK, the UKs biggest male only support group, has had its funding slashed to zero. It’s hard to see how support can be offered without much needed resources.
We rightly talk about the need to look after the vulnerable in our society and the need to make sure that there are sufficient resources available to meet their needs. Vulnerability takes all shapes and sizes and our strategies and responses must do likewise. We now have a strategy for tackling the abhorrence of violence against women and girls; it’s not perfect but it is there and recognises there are serious issues to address.
But we don’t seem to want to come to terms with the fact that there are male victims of sexual violence (and domestic abuse) who are just as much a part of the better society we all want to see, who also need better support. The paucity of funding to support male survivors of sexual violence and the recent case of the rape victim who wasn’t believed by the police demonstrate how far we have still to travel.
So let’s hope that those who need help and support as a result of the most intrusive, aggressive and awful crimes are not left to fend for themselves and that the support they need, and deserve, is actually delivered. That’s the only way we can ever hope to see a more open, tolerant, inclusive society – strategies and policies become no more than good intentions if not matched by actions and resources to deliver those actions.
Shows importance of need to change culture as well as policy and process in our criminal justice system http://t.co/oI7sqGzpJJ
— Supporting Justice (@SupportingJust) May 22, 2015