Earlier this year, 36-year-old Reynhard Sinaga was convicted of 159 sex offenses, which included 136 rapes. This news shocked his family and friends because there was nothing about his friendly and unthreatening appearance that suggested he was capable of any kind of violence. Aside from being found guilty of 136 rapes, Sinaga was also convicted of 14 counts of sexual assault, eight counts of attempted rape, and one count of assault by penetration, against a total of 48 male victims.
With these numbers, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) considered Sinaga as “the most prolific rapist in British legal history.” BBC, a British public service broadcaster, reported that Judge Suzanne Goddard QC said Sinaga was "an evil serial sexual predator who has preyed upon young men" who wanted "nothing more than a good night out with their friends.”
"In my judgment, you are a highly dangerous, cunning and deceitful individual who will never be safe to be released," she said.
In this news, we are confronted with two disturbing facts: men are capable of assaulting men and men can be raped, too. Men being raped is very unusual in our mental image because rape usually involves a male perpetrator and a female victim. But, men do get raped and only a few people realize how frequently the rape of men occurs. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, an American nonprofit anti-sexual assault organization, reported that about 3% of American men, or 1 in 33, have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
Statistics show that 55% of sexual assaults occur at or near the victim’s house. It can also happen in an open public space (15%), at or near a relative’s home (12%), in an enclosed but public area like a parking lot or garage (10%), or on school property (8%). Before the crime occurred, 48% of the victims were sleeping or performing another activity at home; 29% were traveling to and from work or school or traveling to shop or run errands; 12% were working; 7% were attending school, or 5% were doing an unknown or other activity.
It was also reported that 39% of rapes were committed by an acquaintance, 33% were committed by a current or former spouse or partner, 19.5% were committed by a stranger, 6% were committed by more than one person or a person the victim can't remember, and 2.5% were committed by a non-spouse relative. Of all men who are raped, 90% to 95% do not report the crime. This only shows that men are just as afraid and ashamed as women in reporting that they have been assaulted or abused.
About the Rape of Men
The idea that men can be raped is usually rejected by many people due to their unrealistic beliefs that ‘a man’ should be able to defend themselves against attack. Historically, society has made us believe that there are only male perpetrators and not victims. For instance, up until 1997, the Queensland Criminal Code stated that the offense of rape could only be committed against a woman. Since then, it has been proven that anyone, regardless of gender, race, age, sexual orientation or physical strength, can be raped anywhere, anytime.
Male rape is a largely hidden crisis given the fact that most people think that this can’t happen.
Evidence suggests that it takes men an average of three decades to come forward about sexual abuse. This is because toxic gender norms force them to be silent about their experience. At an early age, men learn a sense of being “strong” and “tough”, of not displaying weakness or vulnerability. Duncan Craig, CEO of Survivor Manchester and a male rape victim himself, stated that the experience makes you feel guilty and ashamed.
“I’d always worn a mask, I always wanted to put on a brave face and be there for others. Showing my vulnerability, my weakness, wasn’t within my character,” Callum Hancock, a rape survivor, said.
According to The Guardian, a daily British newspaper, male victims find it difficult to confront the abuse/assault because there’s this societal belief that “real men” don’t get raped, that rape is about sex rather than power and control, that survivors of rape or abuse must be gay, or that the abused are likely themselves to become perpetrators. Aside from that, they are taught to not talk about or express their feelings and emotional struggles because this would make them weak.
“A lot of men feel completely emasculated after being raped. That’s what silences them for so long,” Alex Feis-Bryce, head of Survivors UK, said.
A 2011 report also revealed that male rape is endemic in many of the world’s conflicts. Eunice Owiny was working at Makerere University's Refugee Law Project (RLP) which aims to help displaced people from all over Africa work through their traumas. In one case, a female client opened up about having marital difficulties. "My husband can't have sex. He feels very bad about this. I'm sure there's something he's keeping from me,” she complained.
The husband didn’t have much to say until the woman was asked to leave the room. This was the time the husband confessed that his captors raped him, three times a day, every day for three years during his escape from the civil war in neighboring Congo. During this time, he had been separated from his wife and taken by rebels. Aside from that, he watched as man after man was taken and raped after him.
"That was hard for me to take. There are certain things you just don't believe can happen to a man, you get me? But I know now that sexual violence against men is a huge problem. Everybody has heard the women's stories. But nobody has heard the men's,” he said.
Trauma Experienced by Male Rape Survivors
The impact of rape or sexual assault on males can be just as traumatic as it is for females. They often experience reactions such as guilt, self-blame, shock, fear, depression, and even self-harm. At some point, survivors feel they are weak and that their sense of masculinity has been undermined because they were unable to protect themselves. Toxic gender norms make it harder for men to talk about their experience, to report an offense to police, to prosecute someone who commits a sexual assault, to find support, and even to move forward.
According to a report titled “When a man is raped: A survival guide” by the NSW Health Education Centre Against Violence, denying the existence of male sexual assault makes men feel safe and vulnerable. They think of sexual assault as something that only happens to women, which increases the pain they are feeling. This leaves them feeling isolated, ashamed, and “less of a man.”
Thus, it’s equally important to address rape against men alongside rape against women. Rape has no gender or age. It can victimize anyone.