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Ben Metters dispels the myths surrounding rape and challenges the stigmatisation of the 'real men get raped' campaign.

On the 20th February this year a campaign to highlight the erroneous nature of a myth surrounding the offence of rape began on 140 escalator panels in tube stations across London.

The campaign uses the image of a rugby ball being punctured by a nail to highlight that ‘Real men’ get raped. According to Michael May, spokesperson for Survivors UK, the campaign chose ‘an alpha male sport’ to ‘challenge assumptions about the type of men who get raped’.

The term ‘real men’ is, in itself, paradoxical, not to mention offensive.

Type real man into Google and the first link is to an article entitled ‘Top ten traits of a real man’. In this ‘enlightening’ article, sponsored by Jim Bean whiskey, the reader is advised on what exactly it is to be a real man.

Having read the article, it would appear that, according to the author, I am not a real man. There is no mention of homosexuality within the article, in fact, many elements of being a man rest wholly on having a female partner. There is also the fact I have piercings, long(ish) hair and that I show emotion.

Obviously, the article, and the very notion of the existence of ‘real men’, is ludicrous. The fact that an advertising campaign that is supposed to engage people with little known facts about the offence of rape, taps into these archaic and damaging stereotypes is disappointing at best.

If you look behind the egregious advertising angle chosen, the campaign has some pertinence.

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 was the legislation that extended the offence of rape to beyond its ‘traditional’ meaning. Section 142 prescribed that a man commits rape if he ‘has sexual intercourse (either vaginal or anal) with a person who has not consented’.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 updated the offence deeming a man to have committed rape if ‘intentionally penetrates the vagina or anus of another person (B) with his penis, and (B) does not consent to this’.

Having spoken to several of my friends about this subject in the past, it is evident that, nearly 20 years after the law was changed, many people do not realise that a man non-consensually penetrating another man is deemed rape. Worryingly, some of my friends that study law were also unaware of this.

According to the Stern Review, published in March 2010, 8% of all rape victims are male. This does not account for the silent victims who do not report it to the police.

This fear is perpetuated by many things, one being that ‘Male’ rape is caused by the homosexuality of the offender. Research has shown that the majority of sexual assaults against men are committed by heterosexual men.

Perceived ‘low’ conviction rates are also a huge issue in relation to the offence of rape. This applies to sexual offences committed against women as well as men.

The figure often used when discussing those convicted of rape is 6%. This figure, when compared to other conviction rates, is shockingly low. Unfortunately, the comparison is not a fair one. Usually conviction rates are calculated on the number of cases brought to court and the subsequent convictions arising from these cases. For some reason, the home office has calculated, and subsequently published, the rape statistic from all instances reported to the police and the convictions resulting from these. When comparing on a like for like basis, rape convictions stand at 58%.

It is not only the home office that is guilty of grossly misrepresenting the offence of rape to the detriment of the victims.

Sensationalist reports within the media distort the danger presented by strangers.

In reality, you are seven times more likely to be raped by someone you know, and almost twice as likely to be raped in your own home than anywhere else.

A 1999 study by the home office that stated only 12% of rapes were committed by strangers. The other 88% were committed by ‘intimates’ and ‘acquaintances’, 43% and 45% respectively. A 2004 study shows that 64% of rapes took place in the victim’s home.

Hyperbolic press reports of young women walking home alone at night, being grabbed and attacked by a stranger are incredibly dangerous. It is horrendous that this occurs, and I am not trying to diminish the awful nature of the crime, however many men and women don’t realise they have been raped because it doesn’t ‘fit’ with the image of rape that is portrayed.

Non-consensual sex by an overzealous partner at home is still rape, it is not dependent upon location, time of day or those involved (aside from the fact that only a person using their penis can be guilty of rape).

Many people are disposed to ignore allegations of rape on the basis that they believe they are often fabricated. A 2005 home office study of rape allegations found that approximately 3% were false.

Rape is an issue that affects all members of society. There are no characteristics that make you more or less likely to be raped.

A man raping a man is not tantamount to homosexuality, the vast majority of rape allegations are truthful and rape allegations taken to court will result in conviction 58% of the time.

As I have already said, the campaign to identify men as victims as rape has some salience, despite the advert being odious. There are a plethora of myths, including the one addressed in the advert, surrounding rape that need to be dispelled in order to support victims and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

From thestylishkidintheriot blog.

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