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Men forced to have sex with women likely to experience significant mental health issues

Rape of men is now legally recognized, though often considered to occur only through oral or anal sex, or through insertion of any object into the mouth or anal orifice. Forced to penetrate/FTP is now getting highlighted as a crime that should also be penalized.

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi from Unsplash.com

Back in the 1980s in Cotabato City in southern Philippines, Elias (not his real name) recalled being “forced” by his aunt to sexually penetrate her. He was under 10 years old then, and “I didn’t even know what I was doing/supposed to be doing. I just knew I had to comply or risk making her angry.”

That experience, said Elias, taught him “disgust”. So much so that when he grew older and realized he’s gay, there was a point when he even blamed that experience for “causing me to hate women and turning me into what I am now… a gay man.”

Stories like Elias’ are still not properly documented; perhaps even more so in a country like the Philippines. But at least in the UK, a call was made to change the law to classify men, forced to have sex with women, as rape victims. This was stressed by a new study by Lancaster University researchers, who conducted published the first-of-its-kind effort to interview men in the UK to examine their experience of non-consensual sex with women (known as “forced to penetrate” cases or FTP).

The term “forced to penetrate”/FTP has been coined for these cases because, while they involve non-consensual sex, they currently still do not fall under the offense of rape.

It is worth noting that in the Philippines, rape is considered a criminal offense. It is considered a heinous crime punishable by life imprisonment when committed against women; while for men, it is legally recognized as rape by sexual assault, punishable by imprisonment of six to 12 years.

Prior to the 1997 amendment of the Revised Penal Code of 1930, male victims of rape were not acknowledged under Philippine law.

Now, and more specifically, under the current law, offenders who commit sexual intercourse, are narrowly defined as: “A man who has sexual intercourse with a woman (a) Through force, threat or intimidation; (b) When the victim is deprived of reason or is unconscious; (c) Through fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority; and (d) When the victim is under 12 years of age or is demented, even if none of the above conditions are present” faces imprisonment from 20 to 40 years.

For male victims, only six to 12 years of imprisonment is imposed on the offender if “rape was committed through oral or anal sex or through the use of any object or instrument that was inserted into the mouth or anal orifice of the woman or a man,” and can only be elevated to longer years of sentence “depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime.”

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Forced to penetrate/FTP is not at all discussed in the Philippines.

Men forced to have sex with women were likely to experience significant mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, and often took several years to disclose their experiences to anyone or to seek help and support.
Photo by M.T ElGassier from Unsplash.com

In the UK study, majority of participants interviewed labeled their forced to penetrate/FTP experiences as rape, even though this is not reflected in current laws.

The study ‘Experiences of men forced-to-penetrate women in the UK: Context, consequences and engagement with the criminal justice system’ focused on the experiences of 30 men who took part in in-depth interviews and shared their stories. It was published by a research team led by Dr. Siobhan Weare, of Lancaster University Law School, in partnership with Survivors Manchester.

The study, funded by the British Academy, also found:

  • Men were often repeatedly victimized with, for example, repeated instances of being FTP the same/different women, childhood sexual abuse, and varying types of sexual violence.
  • Victims most frequently reported the crime was committed by their female partner or ex-partner and their FTP experiences were one element of domestic abuse or post separation abuse
  • The fear of not being believed, and feelings of guilt and self-blame were identified as key barriers to men disclosing they had been forced to have sex with women
  • Men forced to have sex with women were likely to experience significant mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, and often took several years to disclose their experiences to anyone or to seek help and support
  • The majority of participants in the research did not report the crime to the police and, of those who did, most had negative experiences
  • Participants had ‘overwhelmingly negative perceptions’ of the police, criminal justice system, and the law

Examples of FTP circumstances might include:

  • A man waking up to find a woman having sex with him without his consent.
  • A man being forced to have non-consensual sex with a woman as a result of her blackmailing him.
  • A man having non-consensual sex with a woman after being physically, emotionally, or financially threatened.

The study calls for:

  • Legal reform
  • The introduction of a national strategy to end intimate violence against men and boys. Currently this is only a footnote in a national strategy focused on women and girls
  • Clearer recognition of men’s experiences of sexual violence perpetrated by women with properly signposted support services and specialist training for police officers, social workers, therapists, and counsellors.

“These new findings have provided a far greater insight and understanding about this ‘hidden crime’,” said Weare. “This is a hugely under-discussed issue and so services must make sure that their staff are trained appropriately to support male survivors. We must also make sure that this issue is adequately and accurately addressed in national policies and law. That is why we are calling for law reform in this area.”

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