America has had a Violence Against Women Act since 1994.Â Most Americans also are vaguely aware that men are raped in prison, men are raped in the military, and that boys and men are raped by religious leaders as well as in K-12 and at the university level by both men and women.
Perhaps the Catholic Church and Penn State tragedies can serve a useful purpose by awakening America to the need for a national Sexual Violence Against Males Act.â
Â Gordon E. Finley, Ph.D, Miami
Today, during my third pass through emails, I came across the email from âProfessorâ Finley, one of NCFMâs illustrious advisors, advising me that his comment above was published in the Miami Herald. The mention of âwarâ therein triggered a recollection of something I wrote several years ago. I dusted it off, added a few things, and here it isâŠ
In November 2003, almost to the day nine years ago, Elaine Donnelly, a former member of the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women In the Armed Forces, published the article Shattering Amazon myths and Rape of a Different Kind – Time to Fix Clinton-Era Policies That Force Women into Combat. Donnelly was incensed that so many American military women are exposed to âunprecedented risks of capture and abuse.â She wrote, âformer prisoner of war Pfc. Jessica Lynch was brutally raped by Iraqi thugs, shortly after she survived the horrific ambush of her 507th Maintenance Unit in IraqâŠ but no oneâs daughter should have to suffer an ordeal comparable to that experienced by the 19 year-old LynchâNot in the name of womenâs careers, menâs resentment, military necessity, or anything else.â
Donnelly referenced the possibility that men were horrendously raped too, Â âJust prior to Lynchâs rescue, American forces found (in the Saddam Hussein Hospital) the bloody uniform of a female soldier near a metal bed, electrodes, and a car battery used for purposes of torture. Medical records later revealed that Jessica had been raped without mercy. One can only imagine what both women and the men [emphasis mine] suffered at the hands of rape-room irregulars known for savaging women and children just for fun.â
Interestingly, in September 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda defined the first definition of rape under international law as a “physical invasion of a sexual nature, committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive.” Hence, the ârapeâ of males was now more clearly defined and included.
Three years earlier the highly regarded UK medical journal The Lancet carried a scathing report of sexual abuse of Tamil male prisoners in Sri Lanka. The article revealed that survivors reported sexual assaults including electric shocks to their genitals, objects rammed through their penis, tearing off foreskins, cigarette burns on scrotums, sticks pushed through the anus usually with chilies rubbed on the stick first, masturbating soldiers (guards), performing oral sex, raping other prisoners in front of soldiers for their entertainment, and being penetrated by penises of their captors. Psychological sexual abuse included forced nudity, verbal sexual threats and mocking, humiliation and degradation of being tortured. Victims reported symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) like difficulty sleeping, sleep waking with nightmares, jumpiness and irritability, avoiding things reminiscent of detention and depression.
Reports of sexual violence against men are found historically in conflicts from Ancient Persia and the Crusades to the conflicts in Iraq, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and dozens of other such conflicts over the centuries.[i]
Historically, the rape of defeated male soldiers in some societies signaled the hopeless totality of defeat. It was believed that sexually penetrated males lost their manhood and could no longer be warriors. Gang rape of a male was considered an ultimate form of punishment by both Romans and Persians (Donaldson, 1990).[ii]
Male victims of sexual assault, particularly rape, typically have a more difficult time talking about it than women, since more shame is associated with the male rape victims, many of whom simply cannot find the words to describe it. âMale rape has been labeled âthe forgotten method of tortureââ.[iii] Discussing it is taboo for fear of humiliation and social stigma. Some survivors are afraid of being labeled homosexual, perhaps as women were once fearful of being labeled sluts.
Those who minimize male sexual assaults often believe men cannot get an erection under duress, which is a myth. It is well established that men can be physiologically sexually aroused by emotions including anger, fear, and pain.
Torture is degrading and inhuman treatment in the extreme. Sexual abuse of prisoners of war is torture. The motivation for sexual assault of captured soldiers is the demonstration of complete control over the victim, regardless of gender. Telling are the unforgettable pictures of Iraqi male detainees at Abu Ghraib prison photographed naked, sometimes handcuffed together, forced to lie on top of each other, and forced to simulate sex acts by smiling American military personnel, including having-way-to-much-fun female Pfc. Lynndie England[iv].
Not only are men routinely subjected to various forms of sexual assault as prisoners of war they clearly and overwhelmingly suffer more war related injuries and deaths than do women.
What distinguishes harm to female prisoners of war from male prisoners of war? Women can get pregnant. Some female soldiers, at least those from relatively prosperous countries, could take preemptive birth control measures to dramatically minimize an unwanted pregnancy, which is their choice and not necessary if assaulted by other women.
The March 2011, New York Times Op-Ed, The Hidden Victims of Wartime Rape, by Lara Stemple, noted â[t]he United Nations reported that out of 5,000 male concentration camp detainees held near Sarajevo during the Bosnian conflict, 80 percent acknowledged having been abused sexually. In El Salvador, 76 percent of male political prisoners told researchers they had experienced sexual torture.â
Unfortunately, as Stemple explains, â[i]n 2000 the Security Council passed Resolution 1325 which, among other things, promotes gender-sensitive training in peacekeeping, encourages hiring more women in peacekeeping roles and calls for better protection of women and girls in conflict zonesâŠbut the agreement neglects to address sexual violence against men and boys (emphasis added).â
Donnelly correctly asserted, “no one’s daughter should have to suffer an ordeal comparable to that experienced by former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch”, even if she wasnât raped. Both Jessica and my son chose to join the Army. He survived three tours of duty in Iraq. If my son had been captured and sexually assaulted, would the media parade him around like Jessica? Would Ms. Donnelly devote her time writing about it? Would she be incensed that he had been brutally raped? Not a chance. He wouldnât even be a statistic. No one’s son should have to suffer an comparable ordeal either.
Without question the sheer number of men on the front lines necessarily puts considerably more of our sons at risk of capture, torture, and sexual assault than our daughters. If we must make war, our sons and daughters should share risks equally. Advocating for the exclusion of women in close-combat zones because of the possibility of capture and sexual assault is hypocritical and sexist in a worse way.
Perhaps we should be more concerned about our sons being tortured, maimed and dying by the hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands rather than one heroic female soldier, or even a few, who may have been sexually assaulted when captured, a notion no way intended to diminish any female soldierâs horrendous experience as a prisoner of war, sexual assault victim, or competence.
There may be valid reasons for keeping women out of close-combat zones, but the risk of being captured and sexually assaulted is not one of them, unless similar concern is shown our male soldiers, which would mean we deploy none of our children to rescue us from ourselves.
The undeniable truth is our females and women warriors are generally safe behind friendly lines not because of womenâs careers, menâs resentment, military necessity, or anything else; but because of our willingness to bleed-out and bury our warrior sons, a rape of a different kind.
Professor Finley well knows that âmales need help too;â substantially more than our overly protected class of females, rape or no rape. Finley rightly proposes the establishment of a long overdue âSexual Violence Against Males Actâ, to include war I pray, especially the one being waged against males in general by the feminized power elite.
[i] Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Services, Sandesh Sivakumaran, The European Journal of International Law Vol. 18 no. 2 Â© EJIL 2007. Recently, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, UNICEF, Physicians for Human Rights, UNHCR and others reported sexual violence against men and/or boys in high conflict areas like Afghanistan, Algeria, Burundi, Chechnya, Congo-Brazzaville, East Timor, Egypt, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Uganda, United States facilities abroad, Uzbekistan, Yemen, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe. Older cases include, but are not limited to Chile, El Salvador, Greece, the Iraq-Kuwait war, Northern Ireland, and the Sino-Japanese war (see Sivakkumarn).
[ii] Donaldson, Donald. (1990). “Rape of Males,” in Dynes, Wayne, ed. Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. New York: Garland Publications.
[iii] Discussion Paper 2 The Nature, Scope and Motivation for Sexual Violence AgainstÂ Men and Boys in Armed Conflict, Use of Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict:Â Identifying gaps in Research to Inform More Effective Interventions UN OCHA Research Meeting â 26 June 2008
[iv] Private first class Lynndie England was found guilty of three charges on September 27, 2005, dishonorably discharged, and sentenced to three years in prison. There were two more female soldiers involved. Specialist Megan Ambuhl pled guilty to one charge on October 30, 2004 and was demoted. Specialist Sabrina Harman was found guilty of three charges on May 19, 2005, was discharged, and sentenced to six months in prison. Private first class Lynndie England was found guilty of three charges on September 27, 2005, dishonorably discharged, and sentenced to three years in prison.