The sexual abuse of many men from BME communities is an issue that needs to be dealt with yet remains silent. “Male survivors of childhood sexual abuse within the black community are being let down by the government” according to a BBC report (2019).
Sexual abuse can be defined as an act of sexual violence towards a man, woman or child without their consent. “Sexual abuse is an act of violence which the attacker uses against someone they perceive as weaker than them. It does not come from an uncontrollable sex drive, but is a crime committed deliberately with the goal of controlling and humiliating the victim”.
Sexual abuse is a criminal offence in the UK and perpetrators of this crime can be prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 alongside various other acts depending on age and type of offence.
Types of Sexual Assault
- Incest – abuse at the hands of a relative
- Gang rape –abuse carried out by more than one person
- Sodomy – insertion of a bodily organ or an object into a person’s anus or mouth without any consent (both men and women)
- Rape – an act of non-consensual insertion of a bodily organ or an object into a person sex organ (mostly associated with women)
- Serial rape – repeated incidents of rape carried out by the same attacker over an extended period of time.
There were 12,130 offences reported in England and Wales in 2016-17 according to the Office of National Statistic. Sadly, an estimate of 96% of offences against males goes unreported. Men from BME communities face additional barriers in regards to unreported cases of sexual abuse.
Relationship with the police: Lack of trust in the police either due to personal experience or institutionalised/systematic racism is a barrier that prevents BME males from seeking support. Historically cases like one of Steven Lawrence alongside many others which evidenced and highlighted institutionalised racism means that, a lot of males from BME communities have lost trust in the police.
Tailored support: There are only a few services to support male victims of sexual abuse in UK in comparison to the many services available to women. Furthermore, the few existing service for men do not cater to the needs or BME males- another barrier faced by BME males.
Stigma from the community: Stigmas from BME communities is one of the main barriers preventing many people from speaking about their traumas. Societal/cultural perceptions, stereotypes and expectations about gender roles contribute greatly to unreported sexual abuse towards many BME men. In many BME communities’ men are seen as superior to women, men have a lot of control in such communities and are branded as powerful and play the main role with regards to a successful economy.
Due to this indoctrinate believe, a male victim of sexual abuse will likely feel emasculated, powerless and unable to seek for support due to fear of judgement. In cases of black males societal false perceptions (strong, athletic, dangerous, masculine) also adds to the many reasons sexual abuse crimes go unreported.
Embedded cultural beliefs: “shut up and put up”, “what happens in the family stays in the family” , “ do not air dirty laundry” are just a few statements promoted in many BME communities. Such embedded believes leave many victims silent and discouraged.
Many times, it said that issues will be dealt with in the family or by the community subsequently, some do not have the appropriate skills or experiences to manage such traumas. This coupled with judgement and stigmas contribute greatly to unreported cases of male sexual abuse in BME communities.
The impact of sexual abuse can be life changing and often influences all other areas of a victim’s life. Many BME male victims of sexual abuse need to be supported appropriately to heal and overcome their experiences. Though there are some external barriers, we as community we can take the first step by eliminating judgement and stigmas associated to sexual abuse. By encouraging male victims to speak up about their experiences and to seek for professional help, we will be raising awareness about this issues which in turn should contribute to developing tailored support to meet victims personal and cultural needs.
If you are male and have been a victim of sexual abuse/ assault please contact SurvivorsUK on 02035983898 or Victim Support on 0808 168 9111 for help.
References and Further Reading