In the UK, the Epidemic of Male Prisoner Rape and Lack of Support Services
In recent years, rape allegations are being taken more seriously, but are male victims and especially male prisoner rape victims being left behind?
Through events such as the #NotOkay campaign that recently took over Twitter, awareness of a rape culture that is embedded deeply within some parts of Britain has finally been exposed.
However, the focus of these campaigns is still largely on female victims, while male rape survivors are often overlooked or not taken seriously.
This is especially the case within British prisons, where reports of rape have doubled from 137 in 2010 to over 300 in 2015. Despite this drastic increase, no new programs or support groups have been implemented to stop the current upward trend.
The Devaluation of Male Rape Victims
The devaluation of male rape victims has been an ongoing theme in British history, and it wasn’t until 1994 that the rape of males was even classified as “rape.” Before this, it was seen as “non-consensual buggery” and had a maximum ten-year sentence, compared to a maximum of a life sentence for rape.
Unfortunately, while the laws have changed, rape is still often seen as an issue for women and women alone. This is particularly true when you look at the literature that surrounds rape and sexual assault, which almost entirely focuses on female victims.
In 2015, there were 23,851 rapes that were reported in Britain, most of these having been reported by women.
However, in the same year, Avon and Somerset police estimated around 12,000 males had been raped in the U.K., and 70,000 were sexually assaulted or abused — these incidents don’t show in statistics because only 1 in 10 will report themselves as a victim.
These numbers are all just estimated. The real extent of the issue is unknown because such a minute portion of male victims will report the crime, but why is this?
Male Rape Victims, an Extra Deterrence to Reporting
First and foremost, it’s the lack of services and support that is available to male rape victims. While there are many organizations set up to help women rape victims, the number of these groups available to men is much lower, and male victims report that they simply don’t think there is a support system out there so they don’t even bother to look.
Another level of difficulty arises as victims feel like they must adhere to the masculine norms of our society and that admitting to being a victim would emasculate them or possibly cause others to see them as homosexual.
This problem is prominent within the prison system, where one’s masculinity is even more closely scrutinized than in normal society, and being seen as homosexual could be a reason to target someone.
Multiple studies have found that male-to-male rape in prisons goes unreported to an even greater extent than incidents within the general public. Even worse, these occurrences rarely end in prosecution. Instead, the most commonly taken action is to simply move the victim to a different prison and leave the offender behind.
Not only is this move traumatizing for the victim, but it also carries with it the risk that the victim will be labeled a “grass” or an informer in the new prison, and he could face further victimization by current inmates who may question the reasoning behind the move.
This cycle is a big issue in prisons — inmates are often afraid of reporting crimes, rape or otherwise, because of the fear that they will be labeled as a “snitch.”
Due to this perpetuation, we really don’t know the true extent to which rape is occurring in our prisons.
Prison rape tends to be an act of power and dominance rather than for sexual gratification. As such, with the rate of conviction being so low, victims often feel it will be more beneficial to them in the long run if they just keep quiet.
Looking Ahead for Male Rape Victims
Malesurvivortrust.org.uk found that at least 80 percent of the male prison population in the U.K. had been victims of sexual abuse, either as children or adults. As this abuse continues within prisons where these problems should be resolved, it is unsurprising that our re-conviction rates are so high, with conservative estimates putting it around 30 percent.
We know that sexual abuse has intense negative effects on the victim’s mental health, and if we want to rehabilitate our prisoners into productive citizens, this is a problem we need to address.
18 years ago, there was no support at all for male prisoner rape victims, but thankfully this changed in September 2000.
Since then, counseling sessions and staff training programs have spread across prisons in the south of England. These give support to those who have been sexually abused, either inside or outside of the prison system; unfortunately, these programs are still not mandatory for British prisons to implement, and so many still don’t.
Thus, many prisoners are left with no support and no incentive to report the crime that was committed. Instead, they are often left to deal with the issues themselves, and sadly, many of these individuals don’t have the tools to be able to do this productively.
If you would like support, for yourself, a friend, or a family member, or if you have found any of the topics talked about stressful or distressing, visit rapecrisis.org.uk for support and guidance.