00:02 GMT25 January 2020
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    In 2017, Dr. Siobhan Weare of Lancaster University Law School published the first academic inquiry into female on male rape - when men are “forced-to-penetrate” (FTP) a woman’s vagina, anus, or mouth with his penis, and without his consent - based on information from over 200 men via an online survey.

    Now, she’s published another in-depth study, based on one-to-one interviews with 30 men, which explores how FTP - an “underdiscussed and under-researched form of sexual violence” - occurs, its consequences, and the response of the criminal justice system to cases.

    The findings are stark. Participants most frequently reported the perpetrator was their female partner or ex-partner, and their FTP experiences were one element of domestic abuse and/or post-separation abuse they’d experienced.

    Participants also frequently reported being repeatedly victimised, including childhood sexual abuse, repeated instances of compelled penetration by the same perpetrator and varying types of sexual violence from multiple different perpetrators, both male and female.

    “Being forced-to-penetrate a woman had substantial negative impacts on men’s mental health, emotional well-being, and personal lives and relationships. These impacts included depression, PTSD, suicidal ideation and attempts, feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame, difficulties in forming relationships; and sexual issues/dysfunction,” Dr. Weare writes.

    Victims frequently found it difficult to report their experiences to police, typically seeking support and assistance instead from their GPs, although they didn’t always disclose FTP as the reason behind their engagement. Specialist male sexual and domestic violence services were said to have had a positive impact on participants who accessed them. However, not all participants were aware of their existence, or were able to access them.

    Men often took several years to reveal their experiences to anyone, and often felt immense barriers to disclosure, and engaging with organisations and services, such as fearing they wouldn’t be believed, feelings of shame, guilt, self-blame and gender expectations around masculinity, and a lack of knowledge about, and availability of, specialist male sexual and domestic violence support services.

    They also highlighted failings of legislation around FTP, with the majority of participants labelling their experiences as rape, even though this isn’t reflected in law.

    ​All respondents said reform of sexual offences legislation was very important to participants, to ensure survivors’ experiences are appropriately acknowledged and labelled - several suggested laws should be reformed to redefine rape to include FTP.

    “When participants were asked how they labelled their FTP cases, the most frequently used label was ‘rape’. There is therefore a clear disconnect between how male FTP victims label their experiences, and how the law does so. The importance of appropriately labelling experiences of sexual violence within the criminal law is well-recognised, and therefore serious consideration needs to be given to reforming the law of rape to incorporate FTP cases,” Dr. Weare said.

    ​The few respondents who’d reported their cases to the police were said to have overwhelmingly reported negative experiences and perceptions of the criminal justice system, and the law. Concerns were raised around: bias against men; disbelief they can be victims of female perpetrated sexual and domestic violence; and inequality of treatment as victims under sexual offences law.

    Dr. Weare suggests this highlights the need for police forces to improve their responses to male victims of domestic and sexual violence perpetrated by women, with better training about FTP for law enforcement officials and prosecutors. Officers should not allow “gender and sex role stereotypes they may hold” affect their approach; a “supportive and safe environment for men when they report so that they feel as if they are believed” should be created; specially trained sexual and domestic violence officers should be routinely reminded victims and perpetrators can be of any sex and be clear on how to respond appropriately and positively.

    There is also a need for UK authorities to improve communication with FTP survivors, both in respect of keeping victims up-to-date with their cases and directing them to male-specific sexual and domestic violence support services, but also communication between forces, such as in cases where a victim has reported to one force, but the crime took place in the geographical location of another. Police forces could also go some way to improving public understanding of FTP by funding poster and/or social media campaigns, and ensuring their websites and publicly available policies use inclusive language and examples when addressing domestic and sexual violence.

    “This will give men increased confidence in coming forward and reporting their experiences,” Dr. Weare concludes.

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    Tags:
    men, women, sexual assault, rape, human rights, United Kingdom
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