In September 2017, many citizens were left shocked when police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi cautioned unsuspecting men and the general public to be wary of a group of women accused of sexually assaulting men in the capital Harare.
The warning came after an incident reported in August 2017, in which a 29-year-old man from Harare was alleged to have been sexually molested by the women. This happened soon after the five women gave the man a lift. It was reported that one of the females forced the complainant to have sexual intercourse with her, without his consent while another woman forced the complainant to drink an unknown liquid which left the complainant unconscious. The victim only discovered he had been abused after gaining consciousness.
These revelations came as a surprise to the Zimbabwean community because very little attention has been paid to male victims of rape and sexual assault in adulthood. Although the long-term effects of sexual abuse of women by men have been reported extensively, there have been minimal reports exploring the effects of sexual assault by women on other men or by men on other men.
A prosecutor based in Bulawayo provided further insight into this seldom talked about phenomenon.
“These issues are not brought to light because in most instances male rape victims do not report these issues. To them, reporting these incidents means losing their sense of manliness. In most cases victims who are married never disclose the issue to their wives because they feel a huge and devastating stigma from the rape that would have occurred,” said the prosecutor who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In an Official Journal of the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry, four male victims of rape who had gone for treatment and counselling were said to have had a hard time trying to talk about the incident.
“None of the four victims examined disclosed his rape to any male psychiatrist by whom he was examined. One of the male victims was labelled as “malingering” in spite of two severe suicide attempts. The physician became frustrated by the perceived “secretiveness” of the patient and interpreted it as malingering.
“While patients dread the idea of disclosing the rape and fear how telling would affect them, they also complained that no male psychiatrist had asked them about a possible abuse history. Treatment of rape victims should start with an exploration of our own beliefs about male rape,” stated the research.
Gender-Based Violence (GBV), affects everyone regardless of gender. Although statistics show that the majority of those abused are women, men equally suffer from GBV.
As such the programmes officer for Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum, Ziphongezipho Ndebele said they were working hard to make sure men feel free to report sexual abuse.
“We are joining the rest of the world in campaigning against rape. However, this does not mean we only raise awareness against GBV during the 16 Days of Activism. We campaign against GBV 365 days a year.
“In this year’s theme we are focusing on reducing rape cases, so we urge men to speak out against sexual abuse, mainly rape. Men do suffer from sexual abuse, but because of our patriarchal culture the majority of them don’t report cases of GBV because they are afraid people will think they are not man enough,” said Ndebele.
He added: “I have personally witnessed a number of men who have been abused.
In 2019 there was a man being physically abused by his wife. Another man I know of was chased away from home by his wife and he was left stranded. There are police cases whereby there are men who are sexually abused by women even though the cases are few or maybe they are many, but men just don’t want to report. We still encourage men to report so that they get assistance. The problem with not reporting such issues is that in cases to do with sexual offences, there is a risk of contracting sexually transmitted illnesses, so it’s so much better for them to report so as to preserve their health.
“As a country we should have activities which ensure that gender-based violence is prevented. In order to bring awareness to men about cases of rape we need resources so that we can penetrate into the rural areas and have services readily available for rape victims.”
Ndebele further urged men to participate in Padare’s different structures where groups of men will have radio programmes, dramas and dialogues in an effort to help communities strengthen their referral systems at community level because it is not easy especially for the poor to get assistance at district level.
“People in remote areas can’t easily access services so this is a hindrance in reporting and resolving issues of GBV. So far we have managed to work with different stakeholders at community level up to the national level in a bid to fight GBV. We targeted traditional leaders at first and we are glad they are now speaking up against GBV. Traditional leaders assist people to get assistance when they are abused. We also work with religious leaders who now in their sermons speak against GBV and promote equality,” said Ndebele.