BY: JESSICA BEUKER
Last month, Sweden’s Sodersjukhuset hospital opened the world’s first rape centre for male sexual violence victims. The hospital already runs a walk-in clinic for women and girls, and now will provide the same around the clock care for men and boys. The hospital opened the centre as part of a strategy to ensure ‘gender equal’ patient care.
According to the Daily Mail, emergency medical care for raped men will be free of charge, and offered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The walk-in clinic for women and girls treats between 600-700 patients a year, but there are not any specific places for male victims of sexual assault to turn to.
According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, in 2014, around 370 cases of sexual assault on men or boys was reported across the country. The actual figure is likely much higher, due to the fact that many cases go unreported. The clinic is exceptionally vital to the public health realm, due to the fact that Sweden has the highest rape rate in all of Europe.
Many victims of sexual abuse do not seek care because it is not easily accessible or available, but also because of the stigma attached to the issue of rape, particularly male rape. Because of the myths surrounding masculinity, men often find it difficult to open up and talk about their experiences, therefore the new male centre will employ a slightly different set of strategies when discussing sexual assault.
“Anyone, male or female, who has been sexually assaulted, is, by definition, coming to terms with their sense of vulnerability,” said Peter Pollard, a spokesperson for 1in6 – an organization dedicated to increasing awareness of and support for male victims of sexual assault, – in an interview with Broadly. “For men, the process is complicated by widely accepted norms, which teach boys from a young age that it’s socially unsafe for males to express vulnerability, fear, or sadness. So the very act of seeking help can, for men, initially stir a fear of increasing—rather than decreasing—vulnerability.”
There is also a wide misconception that men do not experience sexual abuse, which further adds to the stigma. However in 2013, the National Crime Victimization Survey released a statistic that was shocking to many – out of 40,000 households surveyed in the United States about rape and sexual violence, 38 percent of incidents were against men.
By portraying sexual violence against men as abnormal and rare, we are providing a catalyst for shame and preventing justice. The new rape centre is providing a safe space for men to open up and get treatment, but will hopefully also help dispel the myths surrounding male rape. “Rape is shameful—for the victims,” said Anna Starbrink, Stockholm County Council’s commissioner for healthcare, in an interview with Broadly. “That is a fact we need to change. The shame should only be on the perpetrator.”