I Applaud '13 Reasons Why' For Shining A Light On Male Rape

My first encounter of male rape as a police station officer taught me how important conversations about this issue are

It was a quiet Sunday morning in the police station office. I hated station officer duty; it was tedious, annoying and the last place I wanted to be with a hangover. Most of the time it involved getting people to sign what we called ‘the crazy book’ and taking endless reports of petty crimes while listening on the radio to your colleagues who seemed to be having a much more exciting time than you. The times between 6am and 9am were the worst, as not only did you have the drunks to deal with, but you were alone until your civilian counterpart came to rescue you. It was raining outside and the station office had a slight stench of vomit and stale lager from the night before.

The buzzer went and I less-than-enthusiastically pressed the release button to allow the unknown person to enter. A bedraggled, timid young boy entered, pale and clammy, and stumbled over to the desk, mumbling something incoherent. I immediately thought that he was on drugs and tried to listen as best I could. He looked about 12 and I was worried for him. I listened for a while and he made no sense; he kept talking about a friend. I asked if I should call home or get an ambulance but he got more and more agitated. Then he burst into tears. I sensed that there was more to the story so I took him to a side room and continued to talk as best I could with him.

A few hours later, I, along with my sergeant, a detective and a few officers for back up found ourselves in the home of a middle-aged man who in his spare time drugged and raped young boys. We saved the boy’s friend, arrested two people and made sure both boys received medical attention.

It was a moment that still clings to me today, despite the passing of some 24 years. It was haunting, harrowing and the first time many of us had dealt with this kind of case before. Male rape was not something that we came across a lot in the police, but when we did, the circumstances always seemed somewhat more shocking. While we were used to dealing with female rape and prepared for it, male rape always seemed to catch us unawares. The ones I dealt with always seemed to involve drugs, objects, horrific internal injuries and a shame, that while still as devastating, was different from female rapes. We had little training for these sorts of circumstances, always not sure what to say, not sure if they wanted a male or female officer, not sure what we should ask or not ask. To this day I still think it is something that as a society we do not talk about a lot, or even think about.

While everyone else seems to be fighting to ban the horrific male rape scene in season two of 13 Reasons Why, I applaud them for shining a light on something that we are so uncomfortable thinking about, let alone talking about.

Despite season one containing a female rape scene, the majority of people appeared to have the biggest problem with the suicide scene in the last episode, with a mere passing mention of the female rape. Season two, on the other hand, has had people asking for an outright ban on the male rape scene. Yes, it is a horrific scene, but surely it is a good thing that we are beginning to talk about something that for many victims is not spoken about enough. We are so use to talking about female rape and seeing it (which when you think about it is a really odd thing) but I can’t think of three series off the top of my head that cover male rape. Now I’m not saying that rape scenes should be shown more on TV, of course not, but I think TV and media has an obligation to start conversations and show a more balanced view. Whether we like it or not 13 Reasons Why highlighted an issue that we as a society seem unable to talk about. 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year and, while it is lower than the female statistics, that is a lot of men that need help and support and need us to be talking about this situation more.

So while I wish we lived in a world where no kind of assault ever happened, and I wish we weren’t as conditioned to seeing female rape on our screens, or that we didn’t need to see such violence to start a conversation, I for one applaud 13 Reasons Why for shining a light on an often-overlooked and unspoken crime.

  • Rape Crisis services for women and girls who have been raped or have experienced sexual violence - 0808 802 9999
  • Survivors UK offers support for men and boys - 0203 598 3898

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