I sincerely hope the look of shock didn't register to my face.
Even though I know male rape happens, it wasn't really a reality for me. Every other trauma call I'd had was a female victim. I hadn't entered my realm of possibility that the 23 year old "victim" wouldn't look like me.
The evening was a huge learning experience. First I learned that the aftermath of rape is similar regardless of gender: shame, anger, embarrassment, wanting to keep it secret are reactions no matter what chromosome you have.
But I learned a great deal more speaking with the male police officer who was also at the scene. The cop was horrified by the notion that this could happen. The victim was driving in a truck with a coworker who pulled over, threatened him with a weapon and then threatened his life before forcing himself on him. This sort of thing was just not registering with the cop.
"How was he supposed to know that was coming? He knew this guy! Why would he do that out of no where?"
An angry, bitter voice inside me wanted to sneer, "Welcome to the world of womanhood where I fear every man who sits next to me... all the worse if I know him in some way."
Instead I said, "It's unthinkable I know. But this was an act of power and control and fear. It's not about sex but about violence. I don't even know if the gender of the victim mattered."
But the cop could NOT get over the idea of two men doing anything sexual-- consensual or not. I could tell immediately that he was having a very hard time (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) believing this assault had happened at all.
"No way in hell I'd let a man touch me like that. Disgusting."
Well yes it IS disgusting. But it'd be just as disgusting if he did this to a woman! I felt myself feeling more and more sorry for this male victim. We ask these same questions of female victims of course: Why didn't you fight back, did you just lay there and let it happen?
But male victims have an extra stigma. Male to female assault isn't regarded as out-of-the-ordinary. It's expected that a man could/would overpower a woman. But we expect men to handle their problems. A real man should be able to protect himself. No real man would stand for being raped! They'd fight, kick ass, they'd be TOUGH and STRONG. Men are not overpowered.
So the obvious conclusion is that men who are raped are weak, defective or maybe they wanted it to happen-- maybe they are gay?
Female victims face similarly horrible accusations but without that extra disgust of homophobia, and reaction of disgust that so many straight man have at the idea of one man forcing sex on another.
The scariest conclusion came later as I walked across the dark hospital parking lot. My eyes scanned around me and my keys were at the ready. Once I jumped safely into my car, I clicked down my automatic locks and heaved a sigh of relief. It was then I had a horrible jolt. I had been conditioned to play this role, lock the doors quick, be on alert, never accept an open drink, don't go back to his room alone etc. But does any of this cross my boyfriend's mind? My fathers? My best guy friends?
I guarantee the men in my life walk freely every day never dreaming they need to fear rape or sexual violence. But truth is healthy, strong, 23 year old men can be victims. And not only does our society seem mightily unfit to deal with male victims, but also we don't entertain the notion that men CAN be victims in the first place.