Neglected Victims of Rape in the City
by Lauren Elkies,
Our Town (New York City)
January 9, 2003.
FBI, NYPD don’t tabulate attacks on men by men
©2003 Our Town
A man called an antirape program, and before he stated the purpose of his call, the woman on the other end of the line said she was sorry but the organization did not deal with perpetrators, and she hung up.
Yet the man was not the assailant. He was the victim.
Although that exchange occurred 10 years ago, it points to the common belief that men are not rape victims, certainly not outside prisons.
“We still don’t think of men as rape victims,” said Dr. Richard Gartner, a psychologist and director of the sexual abuse program at the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Psychology, at 20 W. 74th St.
Varying definitions of rape, coupled with the difficulty of reporting the crime, perpetuate the fallacy.
A recently released FBI report shows an increase of 2 percent in the number of forcible rapes reported nationwide in the first six months of 2002, compared with the same period in 2001. In New York City, although crime generally was down last year, NYPD statistics through Dec. 29 show a 5-percent increase in the number of reported rapes, to 2,011 from 1,913.
To address the spike in rapes reported, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced department changes, and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum demanded the administration take action. Like the NYPD and the FBI, Gotbaum addressed rape of women only.
“Women should not feel complacent because crime is down,” Gotbaum said in a press conference on the steps of City Hall. “Clearly, the one crime that is not down is rape.”
Actually, some experts say that because victims often hesitate to report sexual assaults, the new statistics may reflect more reporting, not more attacks. Yet the numbers may be deceiving in other respects as well.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation does not classify any sexual assault against a male as rape.
It tracks five serious crimes, including forcible rape, using a classification system from 1929 called the Uniform Crime Reporting Program’s Crime Index. The agency provides its definitions to about 17,000 participating law enforcement agencies, and they submit their crime statistics according to the guidelines.
In the UCR handbook, forcible rape is defined as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” The passage adds: “By definition, sex attacks on males are excluded and should be classified as assaults or ‘other sex offenses,’ depending on the nature of the crime and the extent of the injury.”
The definition of rape used in the National Crime Victimization Survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, is more comprehensive. The category includes “vaginal, anal or oral penetration by the offender(s) … male and female victims, and heterosexual and homosexual rape.”
The state penal law, which the New York Police Department and the district attorneys’ offices use, includes rape of men only when the males are forced into sexual intercourse with female aggressors – which experts say is very rare. Under the state law, forced anal and oral sex are considered “deviate sexual intercourse” and are classified as “sodomy.”
Although the severity of the penalties is the same for rape and forced sodomy, statistics on male-on-male sexual assault are not readily available from the FBI or the NYPD. And because the two agencies do not classify it as a major crime, they do not track it.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics provides the most inclusive statistics on rape. Its “crime victimization” figures are based not on reported crimes but on a survey of U.S. households.
Of the 248,250 rapes or sexual assaults of people age 12 or older nationwide that it estimates occurred in 2001, males were the victims in 22,930 of the cases, or 9 percent, according to data from the bureau.
According to the statistics bureau’s numbers, the rate of rape or sexual assault of males was 0.2 percent per 1,000 people age 12 or older. (The rate of females was 1.9 percent.)
Sixty-seven percent of the male rapes or sexual assaults were committed by a non-stranger, compared to 65 percent for rape of females.
The group Stop Prisoner Rape accuses the FBI of inaccuracy.
“The FBI’s conscious disregard of male rape short-circuits attempts to address this issue on a policy level,” said Lara Stemple, executive director of the national education and advocacy organization. “If any other group in society was so blatantly excluded from crime statistics, we would hear an enormous outcry.”
The myth that males cannot be victims of sex crimes is perpetuated with the sodomy classification, said Gartner, because the sexual practices defined as “sodomy” can be consensual.
Gartner is the author of “Betrayed as Boys: Psychodynamic Treatment of Sexually Abused Men” and serves as the president of MaleSurvivor, a national organization that seeks to combat male victimization.
In addition to the exclusive definition of rape, experts say, the statistics are misleading because of underreporting.
“We know a lot less about [male rape] than female rape, and I think it’s because up until recently men didn’t come forward,” said Harriet Lessel, executive director of New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, an advocacy, education and research organization. As a result of public disclosure of church sex abuse, however, more and more men are coming forward.
Reporting a sexual assault can be difficult for any victim, but men have additional burdens.
“Men … are even less likely than women to report that they have been raped. After all, men are supposed to be able to defend themselves,” Renzetti Curran wrote in the book “Women, Men and Society.”
“If they are gay, reporting the assault may do more harm than good,” Curran continued. “Gays are rarely deemed ‘worthy’ rape victims by virtue of their choice of a ‘deviant’ lifestyle, and reporting could lead to harassment by the authorities and others.”
Male victims might not speak out for a myriad of other reasons, including fears that people will not believe them or will blame them, laugh at them or think they are weak or gay.
In the aftermath, victims may feel numb, angry, shameful, anxious, humiliated or depressed. They may blame themselves and question their prowess and sexual identity, particularly if they involuntarily ejaculated.
If they report the crime, victims can be subjected to an extensive and intrusive medical examination, including a battery of tests for sexually transmitted diseases. They can agree to the use of a sexual-assault evidence collection kit, whereby a specialized nurse would collect forensic evidence for a future investigation.
Jamie Zuieback, spokeswoman for the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, said although the nonprofit organization focuses on female victims, the number of male victims is still significant.
“For a long time, people thought rape was just a women’s issue,” Zuieback said. “Men deserve the same access to resources,” she continued. “They need the same kinds of support.”