According to the newest statistics from the annual National Crime Victimization Survey, approximately 40 percent of rapes reported last year had male victims. This number is a staggering statistical increase compared to the typical numbers reported somewhere within the range of 5-14 percent. While it is a good social sign that men are reporting their sexual violence victimization more, the fact of the matter is that efforts to eliminate sexual violence are directed overwhelmingly toward helping women, the traditional victims of sexual violence, to the detriment of male victims.
With the new numbers out, the policies for preventing sexual violence must adapt to reflect a new focus suited to addressing the real-world statistics of sexual violence. One case in which this has been widely ignored is with regards to sexual violence in our prison system, an institution that has allowed an appalling 900,000 incidents of sexual abuse to occur in the past year. The prison population in the U.S. consists of a convincing 93 percent male majority — the bulk of the quarter of a million sexual abuse victims in prisons are men.
Another instance of contemporary policy failing male victims is the very recent inclusion of “being made to penetrate” as a category of sexual violence, in 2010. Approximately 5 percent of men, or a lifetime total of 5 million victims, reported this form of abuse. When taken into account, this equalizes the yearly number of male and female victims of non-consensual sexual contact.
We need to question gender roles as victim and perpetrator down to their core if we hope to reach an equitable outcome that will reduce sexual violence as a whole. The problem of sexual violence is finally being recognized as a universal issue, and the movement to stem the occurrence of these abuses will hopefully take a more universal turn as well.
‘Victim’ is a genderless, sexless term. It encompasses people from all backgrounds and identities. The way we support victims of sexual abuse should also be universal— with positivity and sympathy in all cases. This is something on which even the most avid feminist and Men's Rights Activist can agree. Victimization has no borders, and emotional trauma doesn’t discriminate. It’s time to address sexual violence on a wider societal level as a consequence of its developing normalization across sex lines.
More than ever, it is vitally important for men to fully invest their resources in the movement against sexual violence. Men need to be allies for everybody’s sake. But this also entails that feminists support teaching “people” and not solely “men” not to rape.
The numbers are thankfully on the decline, but as the data shows, sexual violence affects every demographic. We can all form a united front against sexual violence by promoting greater awareness about its startling true statistics and destigmatizing the shameful aura of being a victim, particularly for males. The facets of the sexual violence problem are distinct for the different sexes, but we can address them all in turn if we employ empathy, rationality and collective compassion as our tools for change.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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