Male Victims Position Statement
Statement from Duncan Craig OBE (CEO) and the Expert Reference Group of We Are Survivors, with regard to the Government’s Supporting Male Victims policy.
On 30 March 2022, the Government released a policy paper entitled Supporting Male Victims of Crimes Considered Violence Against Women and Girls. The document aims to set out the government’s position on the work and support of male victims/survivors of crimes considered violence against women and girls.
The government states that this new document updates and replaces the first Position Statement on Male Victims of Crimes Considered in the Cross-Government Strategy on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) which was released in March 2019, following a consultation and direct input by We Are Survivors.
Whilst We Are Survivors is pleased to see that male victims/survivors are being thought about in the production of this Policy paper, we feel strongly that considering rape, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation as being a crime against women and girls is ignorant, harmful if not negligent, and minimises the experience of boys and men who experience these abhorrent crimes.
The data that we currently have in the UK suggests that 20% of all sexual offences committed against 16 – 74 year olds are malesi; that 1 in 10 rapes or attempted rapes each year are against malesii; and according to the Centre of Expertise on child sexual abuse, 5% of boys have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 16iii. The Government’s own Equalities Office recently reported in their survey on sexual harassment, that 34% of males had been victims of sexual harassment and focusing specifically within the workplace, men were almost as likely as women to experience harassmentiv.
International research has indicated that at least 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse or assault, whether in childhood or as adults and that is understood to be a conservative ratio and does not include non-contact experiencesv. Back in the UK, the biggest rape case in British legal history concerns the rape of over 200 male victims by one single offender and reports from a further 155 men following the public release of the trialvi.
We Are Survivors believes that whilst it is important to understand prevalence data to inform policy decisions, the over reliance on reporting data will always result in populations less likely to report hardly visible, if visible at all. Male victims/survivors are widely recognised as being less likely to disclose being victims of sexual abuse, due to the expected gender norms bestowed upon boys and men, and therefore will always fall victim to being absent in the dataset. We Are Survivors’s own data shows that on average, at the point of assessment, only a third of male survivors who access our support have ever reported to the Police.
As an organisation, we stand firmly on the idea that in order for the UK to progress with better understanding the true prevalence of sexual violence committed against boys and men; whilst positively increasing the support response for male victims/survivors in meeting their specific needs; male victims/survivors must be seen as victims/survivors of sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation in their own right.
Ironically, the new Supporting Male Victims of Crimes Considered Violence Against Women and Girls states that “Harmful stereotyping, combined with popular myths and misconceptions around male victims, can act as additional barriers when it comes to reporting and seeking help”, whilst at the same time the title of the policy paper itself states and thus amplifies the idea that male victims/survivors of sexual violence are victims of female crimes – thus perpetuating harmful stereotypes.
The Expert Reference Group, a board of individuals with lived experience of sexual violence and using services, of We Are Survivors and the organisation call on the Deputy Prime Minister as Lord Chancellor, along with the Home Secretary to take immediate and affirmative action to re-address this harmful error of judgement. We invite the Government to proactively engage with male victims/survivors alongside male survivor specific support agencies and others, to set a new policy and strategy Tackling Interpersonal Crime Against Male Victims.
We Are Survivors and the members of the Expert Reference Group acknowledge that whilst the data is currently evidencing “male victims may be less in number than female victims but that does not mean we are less valid, less important or less deserving of an adequate strategy” that meets male survivors needs. Recognition that men and boys are deserving of a support provision is very much welcomed but the ERG believe strongly it is redundant if no clear strategy is in place regarding future prevention measures and ongoing/future support of male survivors.
The group also recognises the need and the want by the organisation to support a strategy Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls but it must mean it’s for all women and girls, and loses authenticity when diluted down to ‘add on’ males. Male victims/survivors should not be made to feel ‘tacked on’ to any policy in this area and treated with the same disregard as going to the lost property kit box at School and being told “this will do for you”.
We stand firmly on this matter and hope policy and decision makers are able to see that their the sexual abuse committed against their fathers, sons, husbands, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, best friends, neighbours and colleagues deserves to be treated as valid, important and as such, sexual violence against men and boys. We welcome a formal response from the Government and stand ready to actively support the development of a new strategy, fitting to the needs of male victims/survivors of sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation.
i Sexual offences in England and Wales overview: year ending March 2020 (ONS) www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/sexualoffencesinenglandandwalesoverview/mar ch2020
ii Ministry of Justice https://twitter.com/mojgovuk/status/543303021305020417?lang=ar
iii Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse (2021) csacentre.org.uk/documents/scale-nature-review-evidence-0621/
iv Government Equalities Office, 2020 Sexual Harassment Survey. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1002873/2021-07-12_Sexual_Harassment_Report_FINAL.pdf