A study by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) concluded that urgent attention must be given to the rape and sexual abuse of men and boys as well as sexual violence against women and girls.

The study, titled Unspoken Victims and published in the South African Medical Research Journal, showed that there was a significant gap in the occurrence and reporting of male rape.

Dr Mercilene Machisa of the SAMRC explained the findings to eNCA.

“We actually found that most of the rapes that were happening or that were being reported were those of females and yet our data showed that, you know, men or boys are also experiencing rape.”

Dr Machisa said that research into the sexual abuse of males is “not well-documented.”

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“It’s something that is not talked about but also, we have problems of under-reporting whereby there are rape myths that are there about men who get raped and these kind of deter victims from reporting.”

“In SA, socioeconomic conditions have been reported to have multiple indirect links to rape perpetration and victimisation through the increased risk of childhood trauma, low resistance to peer pressure and gender-inequitable attitudes,” noted the study.

“As such, prevention efforts have been investigating these linkages and studying counteractive strategies, such as microfinancing programmes, in reducing the risk of rape experience in females. We need to further research the pathways between socioeconomic conditions and male sexual victimisation. Qualitative studies with male offenders and inclusion in quantitative studies would also help to understand this further.”

The study found that the rape of older males often involves force and violence, and victims often have injuries that extend beyond genital harm. When younger boys are sexually violated, it is usually by “somebody that they know” in a home setting.

“There is more use of cohesive tactics than physical violence,” explained Dr Machisa.

Just last month, TimesLIVE reported that a 17-year old boy was allegedly raped by two men who first forced him to perform sexual acts at gunpoint. The victim was then ordered to bathe in a nearby stream after his ordeal.

A News24 report back in July detailed an attack on a 14-year-old boy. The man lay down on a path and pretended to be unwell. When the boy tried to help him, the man led the boy to a nearby abandoned house and raped the child.

The SAMRC says further research also needs to be done on rape incidents that happen in healthcare settings such as mental ward facilities so that males can be protected accordingly.

ALL4WOMEN spoke to Deepa Vallabh about sexual violence against boys.

Vallabh is a lawyer who believes that the time for talking about eradicating child abuse is long gone, society and relevant authorities must now act decisively to protect children.

She said utterances like ‘tigers don’t cry’ ‘don’t be a sissy’ are the reason boys keep silent about being victims of sexual violence.

“Unfortunately, these narratives prevent us to effectively deal with the real issues, you know, there are little boys that are being violated,” said Vallabh.

One way to address the issue of sexual assaults on boys is to break stereotypes and empower children to speak out when they are being abused.

She explained: “Part of it is actually actively encouraging people to stop the narratives, not just in their workplaces or churches or communities but in their very homes.”

Children must also be educated about what constitutes abuse and why it is important to alert a responsible adult when abuse happens.

“If we don’t talk about it with our children, how do kids know in that situation, what to do? I think that we don’t do enough,” said Vallabh.

Vallabh and her team at CMS law firm plan to collaborate with other legal professionals to provide pro bono services to GBV survivors and victim support groups.

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SAPS Emergency Services 10111
Toll-free Crime Stop number 086 00 10111
GBV Command Centre Contact the 24-hour Gender Based Violence Command Centre toll-free number 0800 428 428 to report abuse
STOP Gender Violence Helpline Tel: 0800 150 150/ *120*7867#
South African Police Service Report all cases of rape, sexual assault or any form of violence to a local police station or call the toll-free Crime Stop number: 086 00 10111
Legal Aid South Africa Call the toll-free Legal Aid Advice Line 0800110 110 for free legal aid if you cannot afford one
Commission for Gender Equality Report Gender Discrimination and Abuse: 0800 007 709
South African Human Rights Commission Call 011 877 3600 to lodge a complaint about human rights violations.
Domestic violence Helpline Stop Women Abuse: 0800 150 150
AIDS Helpline 0800 012 322
The Warrior Project FREE legal helpline for victims of domestic abuse: 0860 333 353
People Opposed to Woman Abuse(Powa) http://www.powa.co.za, Tel: 011 642 4345
Child Welfare South Africa http://childwelfaresa.org.za/, Tel: 074 080 8315
Childline South Africa http://www.childlinesa.org.za/, Tel: 0800 055 555
Families South Africa (Famsa) http://www.famsaorg.mzansiitsolutions.co.za/, Tel: 011 975 7106/7
Tears Foundation http://www.tears.co.za/, Free SMS helpline: *134*7355#, Tel: 010 590 5920
The Trauma Centre http://www.trauma.org.za/, Tel: 021 465 7373
Thuthuzela Care Centres http://isssasa.org.za/