In Iloilo City, Sim Vito recalled waking up with someone on top of him. It was dark in the BPO office’s sleeping quarters. And he was supposed to be alone, with him grabbing some rest after his shift. But there he was on his back, his pants unzipped so his manhood was out, with someone fellating him. He felt paralyzed. But – even when he knew he could already move – he opted not to, not knowing what, exactly, he should be doing while it was happening.
“I was confused,” he said he remembered thinking. “I knew I was being defiled. But I also thought I’m a man, and defilement couldn’t happen to a man. Plus I didn’t exactly scream for help as I felt some sensation; so my silence may be taken for consent or even enjoyment of what’s happening. It was bewildering.”
When the other person left the dark room, Sim stayed lying. He felt used, even abused. He cried.
It was only a few days later when Sim acknowledged – first to himself – that he was raped.
‘IT’S YOUR FAULT…’
Sim informed the office management about what transpired. And – perhaps, he said, he wasn’t entirely surprised – “hindi naman sila naniwala sa akin (they didn’t believe me),” he alleged.
Sim said that the first reaction to his experience was supposedly being told that “lalaki ka, paano ka ginahasa (you’re a man, how could you have been raped)?” And Sim said that – in his mind – he actually thought they may have been right. “Ang alam ko – at sinabi sa akin – wala naman ‘nawala’ sa akin. Kasi nga lalaki naman ako (As far as I know – and as far as I was told – I didn’t ‘lose’ anything. Because I’m a man).”
This antiquated belief – which does not help male survivors of rape from even surfacing – presupposes that only a woman has something to lose (i.e. virginity), so only a woman can be violated.
But this notion that he didn’t lose anything didn’t sit well with Sim because he felt “na-baboy (abused).” “Duming-dumi ako sa sarili ko (I felt dirty),” he said, so “‘yung pagkatao ko yata ang nawala (I felt like I lost my being).”
Worsening the situation, Sim said, was the blaming.
“Sabi ng management sa akin (na) kasalanan ko raw (The management told me it was my fault),” Sim alleged. “Di daw kasi ako nag-ingat (They said it’s my fault because I wasn’t careful).”
And for a moment there, “naniwala naman ako (I actually even believed them),” Sim said. “Naisip ko, baka nga hindi ako naging maingat (I thought that yes, maybe if I was more careful, it wouldn’t have happened)…”
Also not helping Sim’s case, he said, was him cumming/reaching orgasm. That “kung ayaw ko raw, sana di ako nilabasan (if I really didn’t like what happened, I wouldn’t have cum),” he said.
And so – at least for a while – Sim tried not even talking about what happened to him.
LAW OF THE LAND
The law against rape in the Philippines actually INCLUDES MEN.
In the past, the still oft-cited Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines stated that the crime of rape can only be committed by a man against a woman.
But this provision of the criminal law was amended by Republic Act (RA) 8353 (or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, which took effect on October 22, 1997). Under Section 2 of RA 8353, the crime of rape has been classified as “a crime against persons”, and the victim of such crime is no longer confined to the female gender and the assailant may also be either male or female.
“Article 266-A. Rape: When And How Committed. – Rape is committed:
(1) By a man who has carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:
(a) Through force, threat or intimidation;
(b) When the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious;
(c) By means of fraudulent machination or abuse of authority; and
(d) When the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present.
(2) By any person who, under any of the circumstances mentioned in paragraph 1 hereof, shall commit an act of sexual assault by inserting his penis into another person’s mouth or anal orifice, or any instrument or object, into the genital or anal orifice of another person.”
If the accuser is able to establish the guilt of the accused, the latter may be made to suffer the penalty of prision mayor (Article 266-B).
CULTURE AS THE SHORTCOMING OF THE LAW
Sim – as the “offended party” – was “deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious” when the sexual act was initiated on him. But as the treatment of his case may highlight, the unwanted act wasn’t the only problem, but the seemingly flippant treatment of it was as well.
Not surprisingly (and sadly), Sim’s experience isn’t novel.
Earlier, in 2014, a UK survey asked 40,000 households about rape and sexual violence. It uncovered that 38% of incidents were against men, way higher than the earlier assumed incidence rates of 5% to 14%.
Sadly, exact figures are hard to come by because of under-reporting.
This may be true, too, in the Philippine context.
But male rape hardly makes wave, arguably because of several misconceptions surrounding it affect treatment of it. For instance, many men who were raped may not seek medical assistance unless they have physical trauma caused requiring medical care. And then there’s the “secondary victimization” or “sanctuary trauma” experienced by the survivor, similar to Sim’s case, with the experience belittled – if not completely dismissed – as improbable because “lalaki raw kasi ako (I’m a man),” Sim said.
TIME TO CHANGE THE DISCUSSIONS
Sim recalled losing sleep over his experience. “Hindi ako makakain; hindi makatulog. Apektado agad ang trabaho ko (I couldn’t eat; couldn’t sleep properly. My work suffered because of it),” he said.
The weird thing was, everyone around him noticed how badly what happened to him affected him – e.g. they noticed he lost weight, he said – but none really wanted to discuss what happened to him, which may have caused his emaciation. “It became the elephant in the room.”
Sim eventually resigned from his BPO work in Iloilo City to head home to Roxas City, where he is currently based.
It has been over a year since he survived that ordeal, but Sim said “I don’t think I’m really over it yet.” In retrospect, “does one really get over something like this?”
But at least “I can openly talk about it,” he said. “Nakakatulong din ito (Doing this helps).”
Sim is aware that a lot has to be changed for sexual assaults on male (not just female) to be taken seriously. But while “cultural overhaul may take time to happen, simulan sa pag-uusap (start with openly discussing this),” he said, stressing that hiding helps make it happen and – in the end – allows for something bad like this to be perpetuated.
For other men who may have experienced what he went through, “find strength in finding peace in your life,” Sim ended.