Untold Stories: The Impact of Gender-Based Violence on Men and Boys

//Untold Stories: The Impact of Gender-Based Violence on Men and Boys

Untold Stories: The Impact of Gender-Based Violence on Men and Boys

Gender-based violence (GBV) occurs in every region of the world, affecting individuals and families of diverse income and socio-demographic groups. GBV undermines the health, dignity, security, and autonomy of persons affected, yet remains surrounded by a culture of silence. While women and girls are most at risk to many forms of gender-based violence due to their increased vulnerability and marginalization, we must not overlook the impacts of violence against men and boys. A recent Promundo study on masculine norms and violence reported that “globally, men and boys are disproportionately likely to perpetuate most forms of violence and to die by homicide and suicide”.

The World Health Organization estimates that the lifetime prevalence of childhood sexual abuse against males (under 18) is 7.6% globally (compared to 18% for girls), but other research suggests this number could be anywhere between 3 and 17 percent depending on the country. UNICEF reports that around 15 million adolescent girls between 15 and 19 worldwide have experienced forced sex in their lifetime, but that while boys are also at risk, a global estimate is unavailable for them. These discrepancies in data reported by both the WHO and UNICEF are likely influenced by the culture of silence around men and sexual violence as the true number of survivors is vastly underreported. “There are many barriers that may prevent a man from disclosing his experience not only is there a lack of awareness about the issue and its prevalence, but societal expectations about what it means to “be a man” may cause a survivor to suppress his trauma. From an early age, men receive the message that they should never be, or even appear, vulnerable or weak; the idea that men cannot be victims is central to gender socialization”.  Research from North American and European countries has shown that boys are more likely than girls to face abuse from a non-family member, and perpetrators are often older males known to the survivor. However, studies from Bosnia, Liberia, and Rwanda among others have shown that in conflict settings women have been involved in sexual violence, often with groups of men, towards other men and women.

Furthermore, men and boys may not successfully be able to fully access and utilize health, legal, and support services as health providers and authorities “may not know how to identify signs of sexual violence against males, due to gendered assumptions of women as victims and men  as perpetrators. Some may be hostile, profess disbelief, or dismiss male victims outright”; which may also impact reporting.  “Research conducted in a  broad range of contexts  and regions confirms that  the physical, mental, social,  and economic impact of sexual violence  on men and boys can be devastating, with  both short- and long-term effects”. Physical consequences include injuries to the genital areas, urinary and bowel incontinence, sexually  transmitted infections including HIV, sexual dysfunction, and infertility. Psychologically, male survivors may feel shame and guilt. “Some survivors struggle with gender identity and sexual orientation given the common myth that male survivors are, or become, gay”. They may experience anxiety and depression, tendencies for self-harm, suicidal thoughts, sleep disorders, anger and aggression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and engage in risky sexual behavior. Socially, men and boys may be ridiculed, blamed for the assault, and adult men may be abandoned by their wives and families. Some adult survivors may be unable to perform their job duties, resulting in job loss and increasing their risk of poverty. Boy survivors may leave school, develop behavioral problems, or engage in negative coping strategies, such as substance abuse. These barriers; prejudices; social taboos, fear of stigma and falling outside of masculine norms; and legal frameworks catered to one group, limits the access of men and boys to services they need and results in boys and men often delaying reports of abuse and receiving the assistance they need.

WI-HER’s innovative approach to gender integration is founded in the principle of “making sure we are doing the right thing at the right time for every person, every time”. We recognize that gender norms and inequalities, and gender-based violence affect health outcomes for all people. Gender-based violence is not discriminatory and can happen to men and boys in addition to women and girls. Health, legal, and support services must acknowledge violence against men and boys so we can best meet their needs in the communities we serve. WI-HER is committed to integrating prevention of violence against men and boys across our gender-based violence programming. In supporting prevention efforts, WI-HER also works to engage men and boys in preventing violence against women and girls. Several studies have reported that male presence at antenatal care visits are correlated with an improvement in couple communication, an increase in joint decision-making, and an impact in identifying and reducing gender-based violence . In Honduras, through the USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) Project, WI-HER is helping countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region uncover barriers to male participation in antenatal care, strengthen existing male engagement initiatives, and help health providers and facilities plan new initiatives. Violence in all of its forms is a violations of human rights and we must ensure we are working to combat it at every opportunity.

[1] UNFPA. Gender-based violence webpage. https://www.unfpa.org/gender-based-violence.

[2] Promundo. https://promundoglobal.org/futureofmanhood/.

[3] WHO. Global Status Report on Violence Prevention. 2014. https://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/status_report/2014/en/.

[4] UNHCR. Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys: In the Syria Crisis. October 2017. https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/60864.

[5] UNICEF. Sexual Violence webpage. Last updated November 2017. https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/violence/sexual-violence/.

[6] UNHCR. Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys: In the Syria Crisis. October 2017. https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/60864.

[7] The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/25/men-sexual-abuse-trauma-silence.

[8] UNHCR. Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys: In the Syria Crisis. October 2017.

[9] UNHCR. Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys: In the Syria Crisis. October 2017.

[10] UNHCR. Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys: In the Syria Crisis. October 2017. https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/60864.

[11] UNHCR. Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys: In the Syria Crisis. October 2017.

[12] UNHCR. Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys: In the Syria Crisis. October 2017.

[13] UNHCR. Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys: In the Syria Crisis. October 2017. https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/60864.

[14] UNHCR. Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys: In the Syria Crisis. October 2017.

[15] Yargawa J, Leonardi-Bee J. Male involvement and maternal health outcomes: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of epidemiology and community health. 2015;69(6):604-612. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25700533. doi: 10.1136/jech-2014-204784.

[16] Morfaw F, Mbuagbaw L, Thabane L, et al. Male involvement in prevention programs of mother to child transmission of HIV: A systematic review to identify barriers and facilitators. Systematic reviews. 2013;2(1):5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23320454. doi: 10.1186/2046-4053-2-5.

2018-11-30T19:34:30+00:00