The “under-discussed phenomena” of men who are raped or sexually abused is being tackled by a powerful advertising campaign – as the first digital service to support victims is launched.
Reports of men being raped have risen 120% in the last two years in London alone, according to the charity Survivors UK, which wants to break the “isolation and separation” that stops victims from seeking help and talking about their abuse.
The 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales estimates that there were around 116,000 male victims of sexual assault and 9,000 male victims of rape or rape attempts that year – but the police recorded fewer than 3,600 incidents in 2014.
The new ad campaign urges men to talk about their experience
The ad campaign shows a male silhouetted figure appearing to be sick, with words pouring out of his mouth including “rape” and “I’ve been raped”.
The slogan of the campaign is ‘Victims suffer. Survivors speak.’
It marks the launch of the first major digital support service for men who are victims of sexual assault: a web and text chat service, available every day of the week for at least eight hours a day. It will offer emotional support to survivors, their partners, carers and families from trained support worker.
The site also features interactive areas where male survivors to share their stories, and information for people who are dealing with telling someone about sexual violation for the first time.
Michael May, a director of SurvivorsUK, said that rape and sexual abuse of men and boys was “under-discussed” and men often didn’t talk about rape because of a common perception that “men should be able to withstand and endure terrible circumstances”.
He said: “One of the biggest challenges faced by male survivors is society’s projection that men should be able to withstand and endure terrible circumstances. From infancy, males are told that they should strive to be resilient, self-sufficient, protectors, dominant in sexual interactions and able to defend themselves.
“These are some of the common defining qualities that we impose on masculinity. An experience of rape or sexual abuse contravenes all of these expectations. In essence, it leaves the survivor feeling ‘less than a man’.”
In London, just over 300 men reported being raped to the Metropolitan force in 2014 – an increase of 120% over 2012 figures.
A review of victim services in the capital commissioned by Boris Johnson last year made “male victims of abuse” a priority area for the Mayor to address through over £15 million of funding for sexual assault victims (both male and female), according to May.
Yet the state funding for specialist services for male victims of rape in London has been slashed from £32,666 a year to £0, SurvivorsUK’s May claims.
He has started a petition with almost 2,000 signatures, calling on Johnson to increase the funding for helping male rape victims in the capital.
There are only four services for male victims of rape nationally, and most are in cities so can hard to reach for those living in other areas.
May said the new digital service – funding by the Ministry of Justice – was crucial in supporting men in “desperate” need.
“This funding has made it possible to create a national resource and avenue of support that will allow men from all over the UK to get desperately needed help.
“I am particularly excited by the open spaces that will allow these men to communicate with and help each other and to finally break the isolation and separation that is one of the most common results of sexual violence.”