Defining the scope & challenges of Male-Directed Sexual Violence


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During a UN-sponsored seminar on sexual violence against men and boys in conflict Dr. Chris Dolan and Alastair Hilton highlight the challenges of determining the scope of male-directed sexual violence in conflict. Chris Dolan is the director of the Refugee Law Project in Uganda. Alastair Hilton is a founder of First Step Cambodia, an NGO dedicated to providing services to male survivors of sexual violence and their supporters.

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  • Thank you and welcome, it is a great pleasure to be here at what is without doubt an historic event... Etc... Chris and I have perhaps 30 minutes to share just some of the Scope and Challenges of this problem... I will focus my part of the presentation based on my experiences of working in the UK, Cambodia and emerging findings from research with service providers across five continents, not necessarily within conflict zones... As I believe there is much to be learned from many different contexts. Chris will focus a little more on conflict zones, based on his considerable experiences of the last decade or more. (Can amend after discussion)Without doubt, one of the most significant challenges we encounter in our work is the ‘culture of silence’ and ‘invisibility’ of this issue across the spectrum of humanity. Whilst things are without doubt changing, (as evidenced by us being here today) the sexual abuse of males in any setting is often shrouded in secrecy, the opinions of many are influenced by powerful and in many cases, harmful beliefs and myths; as a result this issue is characterised in many if not most settings by a sense of inertia, a lack of realistic commitment and confusion. Assumptions made about male victims becoming abusers, becoming or being gay, (or both) and their experiences, merely compound the problem.This culture of silence and confusion should not be underestimated; At Government and institutional level, including the ‘international community’, powerful institutions, donors, and of course this also applies to communities, families... and many male victims and survivors themselves. This culture of silence and invisibility ultimately only serves to empower those who perpetrate such abuse, and/or those who wish to keep it secret?Therefore one comment that I would like to make at the beginning of this event, is to reflect for a moment on how the very language we use to describe a problem can often disguise exactly what we are trying to bring into the open?Quite a few people have said to me in the lead up to this event that they were not sure what ‘male directed sexual violence’ means, whilst other assumed that it had something to do with men organising sexual violence... I have been asked on more than one occasion ‘is this about working with perpetrators?’We do not speak of ‘female directed sexual violence’? So I would like to ask if we can begin this important and historic event by at least being clear about what it is we are here to discuss... Which is ... sexual violence committed against men and boys...We must also not forget that this includes sexual minorities, gay men, transgender individuals etc. Important to remember the great diversity of identities of males when we talk about men and boys... this phrase will mean something different to all of us based here today based on our own identity, personal and professional experiences and it crucial that we are inclusive from the outset.
  • One in Six: it is generally accepted now that prevalence studies of CSA of males suggests that one in six males has experienced sexual abuse at some time in their lives... Studies ranging from 2% - 54% in some cases ( Bangladesh, 38%, Trinidad, Jamaica, men between 19 and 30, (54%) retrospective studies).It often intrigues me as to the prevalence of sexual abuse of boys and men before the conflicts and there seems to be relatively little knowledge about this? (I wonder what would be discovered if we asked that question)I have noted a general reluctance amongst some, perhaps many in the field of development to acknowledge the growing evidence that globally, the sexual abuse of men and boys is considerably underestimated...Many are also uncomfortable at some of the emerging evidence that challenges long established and accepted principles that males are a small number of the total experiencing abuse... I was recently at a regional Unicef meeting in Bangkok where a considerable number of researchers shared their findings that in many cases in the East Asian and Pacific region the evidence seems to suggest that in multiple prevalence studies, boys appear to be abused in greater numbers than girls.This made a number of people I think very uncomfortable indeed...
  • Back in 1990, Fran Sepler, (quoted in Mathew Mendel’s seminal work ‘The Male Survivor’)She wrote of what she termed ‘the feminisation of victimisation’... Where essentially women and girls are considered victims and men and boys the perpetrators... This leaves little or no room for consideration or analysis of males as victims or females as perpetrators.23 years later this is in many settings and institutions still the most powerful influence on research, policy, legal frameworks, strategic planning, definitions and donor contributions. There are many examples of how this can manifest itself on the ground:Donor Policy: e.g Aus Aid > EVAW (2013), DC donor... Of the hundreds of emails and links I receive each year about potential funding opportunities there are virtually none for supporting sexual abuse of boys and men... Increasing opportunities for engaging men to stop violence which is important... But... Little else, men and boys can rightly say “Why is this so?”South Pacific > sometimes this resistance can take on quite alarming characteristics? (“Don’t expect me to feel sorry for men”) Through to simply not mentioning this issue at all, so ‘invisibility’ as I have said is perhaps our greatest challengeIf we continue to engage with men only or predominantly on the basis of them as violent - without acknowledging their own victimisation, as boys and men, we fail – when men and boys ask ‘Why do people only want to help girls and women?’, what do we say?
  • How this ‘feminisation of victimisation’ manifests itself in perpetuating the silence – and we have to find ways to address this at all levels.I will now briefly share some of the issues and challenges that I consider to be important to address in the next two days and beyond... This is not an exhaustive list and in many respects we could spend two days on each of these points... But this is based on research, experience and some discussions with colleagues in different settings befor I came to NY.(note to Chris – I will talk briefly to these points before handing over to you)
  • Survivors who speak out, often in very unsafe circumstances, often many years after have demonstrated considerable courage...One question for all of us is perhaps...Can we match that courage with the determination to do what it takes to find inclusive and effective long term solutions? I hope that in the next two days, we can begin to answer that question...
  • Defining the scope & challenges of Male-Directed Sexual Violence

    1. 1. The United States Mission to the United Nations & Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict “Male-Directed Sexual Violence: Increasing Understanding for a Better Response” New York, 25th & 26th July 2013 Defining the Scope & Challenges Dr. Chris Dolan – Refugee Law Project, Uganda Alastair Hilton - First Step Cambodia
    2. 2. One in Six?
    3. 3. Percentage Prevalence of child physical abuse & child sexual abuse by sex (Non conflict) UNICEF EAPRO (2012), Systematic Review of Child Maltreatment
    4. 4. “the feminisation of victimisation” (Fran Sepler, 1990) (Women & Girls = ‘victims’ Men & Boys = ‘perpetrators’)
    5. 5. KEY ISSUES & CHALLENGES • Invisibility & lack of survivors voices • Resistance to acknowledging the issue • Dealing with fears that this will reduce commitment and resources to women & girls • Lack of comprehensive research and understanding (Needs, effective interventions) • No knowledge of peace time abuse of males • Lack of inclusion & analysis – Social & Legal frameworks
    6. 6. • Existing and dominant perceptions of males • Concerns and difficulties engaging with males • Understanding boys, men, masculinities & help seeking behaviours • Problems with engagement and empathy • Training, Resources & Support structures • Lack of choices, services and safe spaces • Discrimination & homophobia • Few examples of meaningful support that meets the needs of men and boys
    7. 7. Long term considerations • Prevention, Protection & development of a range of sensitive supports specifically designed for males of different ages • Outcomes from this conference... across and within UN family & International Community • Educating the ‘International Community’ Donors, Governments, stake holders • Engage those working with refugees & asylum seekers overseas (e.g. Australia, UK) • Consideration of the impact of sexual violence – long term consequences
    8. 8. • Research (e.g. Prevention, Resilience, What works?) • Avoiding ‘top down’, ‘one size fits all’ approaches, promoting local knowledge, experiences, perspectives & strengths • Addressing our complicity in perpetuating the ‘silence’ that surrounds this issue
    9. 9. Can we match the courage of survivors with the determination to do what it takes?
    10. 10. Clip from Al Jazeera (8 April 2013)
    11. 11. Sexual Violence against Men & Boys in Conflict situations Is it a real issue?
    12. 12. Sexual Violence Against Men As A Global Phenomenon • Data Suggest Conflict-Related Sexual Violence Against Men is Widespread • Conflict-related sexual violence against men has been documented in over 25 conflicts in the past decade alone. Yet the problem is largely ignored. In 2002, only 3% of NGOs working in the area of “war rape and other forms of sexual violence” mentioned male victims. e.g. ‘We Will Teach You a Lesson’ Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces – HRW 2012 June 23, 2013 In Debate Over Military Sexual Assault, Men Are Overlooked Victims By JAMES DAO Sexual assault has emerged as one of the defining issues for the military this year. Reports of assaults are up, as are questions about whether commanders have taken the problem seriously. Bills to toughen penalties and prosecution have been introduced in Congress. But in a debate that has focused largely on women, this fact is often overlooked: the majority of service members who are sexually assaulted each year are men. In its latest report on sexual assault, the Pentagon estimated that 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010. Of those cases, the Pentagon says, 53 percent involved attacks on men, mostly by other men.
    13. 13. Work of Lynn Lawry et al (JAMA, August 2008) suggests that we need to look not just at civilian population, but also (particularly) at former combatants: In Liberia they found that while 9.2% of civilian women had experienced sexual violence during conflict, this rose to 42.3% of female combatants, and while 7.4% of male civilians had experienced sexual violence during conflict, this rose to 32.6% of male combatants: Need to shed assumptions about combatants as perpetrators only Where are we looking? Initial results from comprehensive screening of refugees presenting at RLP offices suggest that prevalence amongst male refugees is much higher than anticipated: Refugee populations should be key sites for investigation and intervention Also, sexual exploitation while refugees; i.e. both a cause of becoming a refugee, and an effect of being one
    14. 14. The Spaces where Sexual Violence takes place Torture Cells Prisons Military Camps & Training centres HOMES
    15. 15. The Forms Sexual Violence Against Men can take In addition to anal rape, victims/survivors also mention: -being gang-raped by captors -having ropes tied to the genitalia and being pulled around by this rope -linking two men using ropes tied to their genitalia and making them walk in opposite directions -being made to dig holes in the ground, or in trees, and then to rub themselves in that hole to the point of ejaculation -being forced to have anal or oral sex with fellow detainees, or with brothers, or fathers -being forced into sexual acts while being watched by their own children and spouses -being used as a mattress while soldiers rape their family members on top of them -being held for lengthy periods of time as sexual slaves -having electric wires attached to the genitalia We need to stop thinking that it is only or all about anal rapeWe need to be aware of direct and “indirect” (some of)
    16. 16. The Impacts of Sexual Violence on Men and Boys – the Five „P‟s Physical Psychological Psycho-sexual (NB sex worker narratives) Psycho-Social: Family, Community, Inability to Work Political
    17. 17. What differentiates Sexual Violence on Men and Boys from Sexual Violence against Women and Girls?
    18. 18. Sexual Violence In Conflict Physical Damage (e.g. Fistula) Infection (e.g. STIs, HIV) Depression Family issues Partner/Husband Children Parents/Siblings “Indirect” Trauma Community Shaming Woman as ‘useless’: “Whore” Beating Distancing/ Neglect Eviction Forced Relations Child of rape Domestic Violence in Peace
    19. 19. Sexual Violence In Conflict Physical Damage (e.g. Fissures) Castration Infection (e.g. STIs, HIV) Depression Family issues Partner/Wife Children Parents/Siblings “Indirect” Trauma Community Shaming Man as ‘useless’: “Gay”(not earning, not protecting) Beating (perp/victim) Distancing/ Neglect Abandonment Social Humiliation No respect from children No attention to children Domestic Violence in Peace Impotence Gender Challenge - Emasculation Sexuality Challenge “Homosexual” ECONOMIC Challenge – physical sequelae
    20. 20. What differentiates Sexual Violence on Men and Boys during Conflict from Sexual Abuse of Boys and Men in ‘peace’time? Conflict “Peace” Time Public Common Pain, Suffering Private/Secret psycho-sexually & Socially more mature psycho-sexually & socially immature Enemy Perpetrator „Friendly‟ Abuser (friend, family member, respected authority figure, etc
    21. 21. Is it worth responding to Sexual Violence Against Men & Boys in Conflict/Post-Conflict/Exile settings? Or does it undermine existing important agendas of working on Violence Against Women & Girls? If even one woman is raped, that is too many – but if only one man is raped, it‟s not really relevant? We should respond to it on principle: -As human suffering, with a concomitant right to repair We should respond to it from an instrumental perspective: -As a source of transgenerational trauma… and a source of social and political dysfunction
    22. 22. Political Resistance: nationhood built through idealisation of militarised masculinity: No states want to admit their own men were raped, no states want to admit their own soldiers were perpetrators political Resistance: institutions built through asserting a monopoly on victimisation Challenges & Key Steps
    23. 23. Challenges Silences: Male victims are disproportionately silenced… by themselves, by their communities, their governments, by service providers, by media (nb independent re SSI) Scale: if silence is broken, demand far outstrips supply (nb programming gaps tomorrow) Substantive content of intervention: 1) Referral Systems 2) „so you‟ve dealt with our bodies – now what about our minds?‟ (and social relations, and perpetrator accountability?) Shifting from Gender-exclusive to Gender-Inclusive Programming 1) Funding 2) Skills-sets Break Silence – this meeting is an important step Motivate for more resources, not a share of existing Respond to the whole person – including how he is situated in society Reform training of -Humanitarian workers -Lawyers -Medical personnel -Social Workers -Media -Nb Gender Inclusive does not necessarily mean everyone in the same space Document the different dimensions and the scale of the issue Expanding the geographical and temporal locus of intervention, from conflict situations to post- conflict and exile settings: UNDP & UNHCR as critical partners Key Steps
    24. 24. Building a Wall Against Domestic Violence by properly addressing Sexual Violence Surgical Repair Diagnosis & Treatment(Counseling) Masculinities (re) Education Sexuality (re) Education Couple & Family CounsellingFighting Legal Impunity Changes in Medical Training IGAs for Survivors Structural Changes… New referral pathwaysMessaging to Men Refresh „Gender‟
    25. 25. South-South Institute Poster
    26. 26. Some questions for Group Discussion: - Which changes are we are aware of in recent years in working on this set of issues? - Which are the primary obstacles we encounter? - Do we think it is possible/advisable to see to make the argument for more resources rather than sharing existing ones? - What are the most important roles and strengths of UN, Civil Society, Gov‟t, Academia?