Due to the way in which rape has been legally, politically, theoretically constructed, and genderized, men as a whole are more often than not disregarded as victims of sexual assault. The only time we see men appear in the literature is often as perpetrators. As an example of this the FBI did not change their definition of rape to include men until January of 2012. Rape is often thought of as a crime that can only happen to children, and women. This is because collectively we have specific perceptions of men, and women. That is, as a society we have images in our minds about what types of crimes men, and women are victims of. Coupled with our generderized believes about sexuality the result is that we, as a society, see women as the victims of sexual assault, and men as the perpetrators.
This idea of men as the predators, and women as the victims is not a new one, it is a social construction that has taken place over years, and is extremely hard to deconstruct. The problem is that society has not constructed men in a way that allows them to be seen as, or thought of as victims of this crime. Society is far more likely to be able to see a woman as a victim of sexual assault, and a man as her perpetrator. This is because as a society we have constructed women to be: weak, vulnerable: quiet, passive, and submissive. Femininity, is therefore, associated with being the victim. Masculinity, on the other hand, often is associated with traits such as being: strong, tough, assertive, and dominant. In other words we expect men to be in control at all times, making it unlikely to be able to see them as a victim of such a crime. What I am getting at here is that sexual victimization is extremely gendered, and by having it as such men are ignored as victims of sexual assault. This generdization not only ignores men as victims, it reinforces the stereotypes that women are victims, and men are ‘unrapeable’. It also deters any man from coming forward to the police, particularly if his assailant was a women.
It is important that we do not only focus on women, but that we also include men in our attempts to understand sexual victimization. There are two simple reasons for this. First, because we cannot assume that we can apply what we know about reporting rates, and women, to reporting rates, and men. In other words, men and women are not the same and need different types of responses in order to be encouraged to come forward. And second, if we always portray men as the perpetrators of sexual assault, we will run the risk of sending the message that men cannot be the victims of this crime. According to a prominent researcher in the area, Karen Weiss, when men are studied as victims of sexual assault researchers only target two areas: children, and prison rape. While these are important areas of research, as Weiss points out, we tend to forget all the other victims of sexual assault that do not fall into these two categories.
The study that I am doing seeks to expand on the limited amount of research on men as victims of this crime. Specifically, this study seeks to find out what, if any, impact the social construction of gender has on a victims decision to report crime. According to statistics Canada only 9% of sex assaults are reported to police every year. This is an alarming number, and I want to find out why this is happening. Why aren’t men, and women reporting this crime?
By participating in this study you would be helping us to better understanding the differences, and similarities, between men, and women, in regards to sexual victimization. We will be able to start to get a better understanding of why both genders do not feel comfortable with reporting, and what we could start doing to make this better. This could include such things as: what resources both men, and women need to cope with what has happened, and how different agencies could encourage people to report. This could include: social services, medical personal, and law enforcement. By participating in this survey you would be potentially helping future victims of this terrible crime.
Mike Sosteric (Dr. S.)