The Silent Victims of Sexual Violence


Sexual violence against women became a fundamental issue for the new feminist movement that began in the late 1960s, and resulted in the emergence of an anti-rape movement in the United States.  The anti-rape movement was founded on two notions: first, the radical political insight that violence against women is a fundamental component of the social control of women, and second, that women should try to do something to turn victims into survivors (Matthews, xii). The movement started out as a result of the leftist counter culture that wanted increased action by the state and law enforcement.  Many feminists believed that the state was doing little to punish rapists and was focusing little effort on preventing and controlling rape from happening.

It almost seems like the movement emerged by placing blame on the government, not on the rapists themselves.  Feminists believed that remaining inactive was in fact more harmful than the abuse. Skepticism toward the state extended to “careful scrutiny of possible funding sources- early activists often refused money that required too close a relationship with suspect state agencies, particularly law enforcement” (Matthews, xii).  This is extremely ironic because now these groups are heavily reliant on state funding, as the anti-rape campaign has changed from a grassroots movement to a main concentration of professional social service employees.

Solely from the reading this week we can see the transformation that anti-rape awareness has underwent.  The American College Health Association has published an entire manual of how to deal with the issue of sexual violence- providing a prevention tool kit, efforts to spread awareness, and educational links.  It is interesting, though, that the packet is targeted toward a female audience and really only describes ways to prevent against male aggression.  Little is mentioned about males who are victims of sexual violence and how they should become educated or cope with being abused.

In comparison to females, male rape victims are underreported by a very large margin.  Approximately one in six boys is sexually abused in the United States before the age of 16.  This is not a small number that should go unaddressed.  It was just in January of this year that the federal government changed its definition of rape to include a wider range of sexual assaults.  National crime statistics on rape used to only include assaults against women and girls committed by men under a narrow set of circumstances, but now have been expanded to include male victims.  The CDC conducted a recent study that revealed that 1.4% of men in a national survey had been raped at one point in their life.  This number was heighted from historic numbers due to the fact that the CDC expanded its definition of rape to include oral and anal penetration (Rabin).  For men, the subject of rape is harder to discuss because there are few males that have spoken out and have created the image of being a “survivor”.  Society needs to acknowledge that rape is not just confined to females but also affects the male portion of the population.


Matthews, Nancy. Confronting Rape: The Feminist Anti-Rape Movement and the State. London: Routledge, 1994. Print.

Rabin, Roni. “Men Struggle for Rape Awareness.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Jan. 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. .

2 thoughts on “The Silent Victims of Sexual Violence

  1. You brought up a very interesting point, how we are forgetting the male rap victims. I found this article that brings up your point. The Justice Department stated that prison rape can be accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the United States in 2008. This article also states that from 1980-2007, the prison system as quadrupled to 2.3 million, with 5 million on parole/probation.

  2. The Block: Great job bringing in some outside research on the anti-rape movement. Why do you think feminists and/or anti-rape activists would focus so heavily on how our government handles rape cases? In your post you suggest that they are blaming the government almost more than the actual rapists. Do you think the anti-rape/sexual assault movement should focus more on individuals (who rape) or on structures that often fail to litigate the rapists? Or both?

    And why do you think there is such little focus on men who are survivors of sexual abuse and rape? What have you learned about masculinity, heterosexism, homophobia, and silence in our class that might explain this dearth of coverage?

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