Months ago, a 13-year-old boy whose name is withheld for ethical reasons narrated in court a horrendous ordeal of how he had been raped by his uncle.
“It was painful and I was screaming, but he told me to keep quiet or else he would beat me,” he said.
The boy said that he was playing with other children in the street when his uncle called him to the house.
When the boy got to the house, his uncle took him to the bathroom, pulled his trousers half way and repeatedly raped him.
Not even the boy’s screams could deter his uncle who instead threatened to beat up the boy.
The boy did not speak about the incident with his mother. The aftermath of the ordeal is that the boy has difficulties sitting down as he nursed huge wounds between his legs.
His mother said she only learned about the alleged rape when an elderly woman from the suburb noticed the child sitting on one buttock.
“And that is how we learned that he was molested by his uncle,” the mother said.
The victim is one of several boys who get raped by close relatives but fear reporting sodomy due to fear of being stigmatised.
This is because myths, stereotypes, and unfounded beliefs about male sexuality, in particular male sodomy, are widespread in communities.
These myths include perceptions that men are rarely sexually assaulted, and that male victims are responsible for their assaults.
Other perceptions are that male sexual assault victims are less traumatised by the experience than their female counterparts, and that ejaculation is an indicator of a positive erotic experience.
Research indicates that many male victims, either because of physiological effects of anal rape or direct stimulation by their assailants, have an erection, ejaculate, or both during the assault. This is incorrectly understood by the assailant, the victim, the justice system, and the medical community as signifying consent by the victim.
As a result of the prevalence of such beliefs, there is a lack of appropriate services for male victims; and, effectively, no legal redress for male sexual assault victims. By comparison, male sexual assault victims have fewer resources and greater stigma than female sexual assault victims.
Research further indicates that particularly within the criminal justice system, this misconception, in addition to other unfounded beliefs, has made the courts unwilling to provide legal remedy to male victims of sexual assault, especially when the victim experienced an erection or an ejaculation during the assault.
However, studies of male sexual physiology suggest that involuntary erections or ejaculations can occur in the context of nonconsensual, receptive anal sex. Erections and ejaculations are only partially under voluntary control and are known to occur during times of extreme duress in the absence of sexual pleasure.
With so many negative beliefs surrounding sodomy, boys are usually left scarred, alone, and sometimes imprisoned by shame. These young boys often suffer in silence, choosing to avoid public awareness of their victimisation.
According to Alois Nyamazana, co-founder of Fathers Against Abuse, boys usually don’t seek help after being abused because they fear being labelled by society.
“The most unfortunate thing is that these boys then don’t open up because of the stigma that is around the concept of sodomy itself. There are quite a number of perceptions and theories around sodomy so for a man to come through and say he was abused and he is seeking help, they can be labelled by society and that is the main reason men are not seeking help.
“The effects of sodomy on men are that they may suffer from sexually transmitted diseases because some of them are raped without protection and we have actually had a case where a boy ended up developing blisters and sores on the mouth after having been forced to lick a man’s manhood,” said Nyamazana.
Considering the trauma that young boys who have been raped suffer, a lot needs to be done to help them.
Nyamazana said Fathers Against Abuse has raised the issue to relevant authorities.
“We have actually raised the issue of sodomy with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and also with Parliament because we have noted that more and more boys are actually being sexually abused,” said Nyamazana.
According to experts, attorneys and psychiatrists must be better informed about the physiology of this phenomena to formulate evidence-based opinions.