Silent Until Now

Michele Theil reviews BBC Three's new documentary, entitled 'Male Rape: Breaking The Silence'.

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

Rape is despicable. That is a statement that can’t ever be disputed. In the wake of allegations against such high-profile people like Harvey Wienstein, Louis C.K and Kevin Spacey and the widely-popular #metoo campaign, there are more people than ever who are able to speak up about what has happened to them. Unfortunately, despite the progressive and welcoming atmosphere we find ourselves in, men who have been sexually assaulted continue to be silenced and are treated poorly by charities and police. With a new documentary from BBC Three, men are openly speaking up about their sexual assault experiences in order to help lift the stigma from such a prominent issue in society.

The documentary is called Male Rape: Breaking the Silence, an homage to those that broke the silence on Weinstein and many others and calls to Time Magazine’s person(s) of the year cover. It is an insightful look at what has happened in specific, but differing, incidences of sexual assault and how it is dealt with afterwards, both by the survivor and the public. There is definitely a taboo on the idea of a man getting raped, as it is seen as something that simply can’t happen ‘because they’re men’. There is an idea that men are the domineering, violent predators of society while women are the passive, demure victims. This kind of stereotype is extremely harmful to everyone, particularly in cases where a woman has sexually assaulted a man.

According to government statistics from 2012/13, it is estimated that 75,000 men are victims of sexual assault or attempted assault “while 9000 men are victims of rape or attempted rape” each year. Police figures show that there were only 3000 reports of assault or rape in the following year.

There is definitely a taboo on the idea of a man getting raped, as it is seen as something that simply can’t happen ‘because they’re men’. This is unsurprising considering the way many police officers treat male victims of sexual assault, as many are either rude, cynical or dismissive of the case. Survivor Sam Thompson wrote about his experience of being sexually assaulted by a man for BBC5 Live. He stated that when he went to the police, he was asked if he had ever cheated on his girlfriend or if he had ever had any gay experiences in the past. Not only are these questions rude, they perpetuate the stereotype that if you are gay or have had previous sexual experiences with men, a man sexually assaulting you isn’t considered a valid incident.

In this enlightening documentary, one man spoke about about how he had decided to call a survivors’ helpline and was told, in no uncertain terms, that the helpline was only for women because men don’t get raped. How can we expect to live in a fair and equal society when that is the treatment men receive should they decide to report and seek help for their horrific experiences?

With this new documentary, BBC Three are making great strides in helping people to come forward, seek help and break the silence. It will, hopefully, lead to a larger conversation about such issues and the instigation of real and drastic change.

If you, or someone you know, has been affected by any of these issues, contact the following:

Survivors UK 020 3598 3898 https://www.survivors.uk

Rape Crisis England & Wales 0808 802 9999 https://rapecrisis.org.uk