Male sexual assault survivors are bravely breaking their silence online, hoping to debunk some of the myths about rape.
Society’s perceived wisdom paints sexual abuse as a predominantly women’s issue – a problem only experienced by females at the hands of men – and that taboo has persisted until very recently.
In fact, according to American anti-sexual violence organization RAINN, 10 per cent of all rape victims are men and 1 in 33 American men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.
That worryingly high number increases here in the UK, with male rape accounting for almost 12 per cent of the estimated national total.
But some male sexual assault survivors are determined to set the record straight in the skewed public perception.
These participants are voicing their stories – and the vile words of their attackers – via a Tumblr page called Project Unbreakable, a photography series aiming to help survivors of rape, domestic violence, and child abuse.
The Tumblr account offers reams of photographs of sexual assault survivors, who hold up messages of defiance, survival, hope and healing.
Amid the hoards of women who offer an insight into surviving sexual abuse, there stand a number of brave men who display signs emblazoned with the words of their male and female attackers.
This project has gone some way to counteracting the notoriously low report rates of rape and sexual abuse.
One survivor recounts how his attacker – an individual in an authority role charged with taking care of him as a child – wanted to teach him how to masturbate.
Another man describes how his 17-year-old babysitter used manipulation and guilt tactics to abuse him when he was just a young boy.
His sign, documenting the words of his attacker, reads:
You don’t want your parents to think you’re being bad, do you?
Other men write of the pressures to have sex and of masculinity in adulthood, with one man claiming his attacker said, ‘Boys are supposed to like this.’
Perhaps because of these damaging perceptions of manhood, men are much less likely to report a rape or sexual abuse than women.
Silent Suffering: Supporting The Male Survivors Of Sexual Assault, a seminal report published by the Greater London Authority in 2015, revealed that as few as 3.9 per cent of male victims of rape and sexual assault report the crime to police.
The report was the first of its kind which examined the societal barriers between male rape survivors and their reluctance to report their attackers.
Speaking to the Huffington Post, Michael May, chief executive of Survivors UK, said:
Society is generally afraid to see men as victims. From infancy males are told that they should strive to be resilient, self-sufficient, protectors, dominant in sexual interactions and able to defend themselves.
Survivors UK, a specialist London-based charity set up to help men who have been sexually abused, published the GLA report which estimated that between 2010 and 2014 there were 679,051 sexual assaults and rapes of males in England and Wales, with 96,103 in London alone.
Of these sex crimes, a staggering 652,568 rapes were not reported to the police.
The founder of Survivors Manchester, Duncan Craig told the Telegraph:
If men feel like they can’t talk about it, or they don’t understand that it’s abuse, then it’s only going to complicate their feelings about being violated in the first place.
There’s something in that process of violation that’s a bit like losing a fight – you feel like you were too weak, you lost control of your own body, you should have fought back. People often feel like it’s their fault.
Duncan knows all too well the struggles men face when confronting their demons.
From the age of 11 to 16 he was groomed and raped by an older ‘authority figure’ in his east Manchester community.
It was only a decade later, when he was training to be a therapist himself and confronted by a patient’s similar story, that Craig fully understood what had happened to him.
While services offering help and support to men who are dealing with sexual abuse – like Survivors – do exist, the number of men who feel able to report sexual assaults and rape to the police still lags far behind the rate of women.
Hopefully, the bravery of the men who have spoken out about surviving rape will encourage more to find closure after their horrifying ordeals in breaking their silence.