I’ve known a lot of men in my life. Good, bad, in between and yes I have known some who were rapists. We’re not reminded frequently enough in the field of sexual assault services that they aren’t all rapists. It’s a very small percentage yet over time I am noticing that the men I know now are feeling the sting of those rapists actions.
Those of us working for change spend too much time reading stats, reports, watching videos and basically saturating ourselves in who got raped, who did the deed and how we can try to change the environment to promote more reporting by those who have been victimized. We go to training and workshops, review programs and look for innovative practices which means we hear a lot about how men are rapists and how evil they can be. All true but a steady diet of this begins to make the men around me who are trying as hard as the women to improve things feel a little squirmy and weird.
In a survey answered by hundreds of rape and sexual assault support agencies, it is estimated that 93.7 % of rape perpetrators are male and 6.3 percent are female. (Greenberg, Bruess and Haffner, 575) (http://ifritah.livejournal.com/211376.html)
Does that 6.3% mean that it’s really that small an amount of females who rape? No.
We know our culture has a much harder time accepting that there are female perpetrators especially with regard to the sexual abuse of children. When we hear about we try to dismiss it, reject the information and disbelieve the child as it flies in the face of what we believe about women and mothers and how they are supposed to behave. Given that men come forward to report even less frequently than women it’s no surprise that we don’t have any idea how many women are perpetrators of forcing unwanted sexual contact on males.
It’s easy to assume, if you’re caught up in the myth of stranger rapists or that rape can only be violent, that a female would not be strong enough to overpower a male but consider this: a male who is his family’s sole source of income exploited by a female boss, a female professor who holds a male student hostage through emotional manipulation and coercion by threatening grades until he agrees to sex or a wife who will not allow a husband to refuse sex and threatens to tell the world he is a homosexual if he refuses. And while it’s a sad fact and a whole other rant that some men would rather be forced into sex rather than be seen as gay is tragic, it is true for some.
If you think any of the above scenarios are unlikely, think again, every one is a story I’ve heard from men. Even worse, there are plenty more I could tell you.
It’s difficult as a trainer to balance talking about perpetrators being exclusively male as it certainly seems true and as far as we know the number of females is smaller than the small number of males who offend with the need to not come across as male bashing. However after 3 days of watching some truly outstanding men feel more and more awful I started paying attention to how we in general talk about perps, I started thinking about how I talk and realizing that I can and will do better to present frequent references to the fact that females can and do sexually offend too.
Men are needed to shift the tide of low reporting stats. Men are needed to encourage other men to see this issue as important. Men are needed to make it ok for men to report their own victimization and men are needed to stop the trivialization of sexual assault perpetrated by athletes.
Aside from all that, I really like men, I consider them an integral part of this journey through life and I don’t want them to feel like they’d rather poke a stick in their eye or have a couple of root canals than attend another training where they’re going to end up feeling awful about being male. I don’t know what the answer is to make it more ok for the good guys to feel respected as we talk about the bad ones but I do know this…we should make the effort to find a way.