UNDERSTANDING SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Recent statistics paint a grim picture when it comes to sexual offences in South Africa, showing how now more than ever there is a need for organisations and support systems for victims of abuse. More so, these figures for the first time depict a picture of sexual violence against males, recognising that they too are victims. For the financial year 2011/12, a total of 64 514 sexual offences were reported to the South African Police Service. Out of these cases, 33 215 were children. A further 38 834 sexual offenses were perpetrated against adults, of which 31 299 were adult female victims and 7 535 were adult male victims. Rees Mann, founder of South Africa’s first registered organisation to support non-offending male survivors of sexual abuse and rape, SAMSOSA (South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse), points out that of the sexual offences against adults in the last financial year, 19.4% were male victims. “One in five adult males are the victims in sexual offences and this figure could be much higher as a male is 10 times less likely to report a sexual violation than a woman. This could mean that South Africa could have the highest number of adult male victims in the world,” Mann, a survivor of rape and sexual abuse, says. It is because of this that SAMSOSA, launched in September, serves as a resource and referral centre, providing information, support and training for victims, affected individuals and organisations in a safe, non-judgemental environment. Mann says he realised, after his own experiences of abuse, that there were no support systems in South Africa for males. “Disclosing your sexual abuse encounter can be an extremely difficult thing to do. Choosing the right person to share your story about what happened to you can really make things easier, allowing you to feel a lot better about yourself and your situation,” he explains. He adds that victims need to understand that what has happened to them is not their fault and that people from all walks of life can be impacted by sexual abuse, including men. “There needs to be a dialogue and a safe space for men to confront these experiences and come to terms with the fact that they are not to blame.” With the statistics released above one of the first to represent sexual violence against males in South Africa, Mann says this is a very important turning point in addressing the issue. “The rape and sexual abuse of both adult and young men around the world has been so greatly ignored, disrespected and discounted for, that it has created a major misconception in many that such an occurrence does not exist. The first step is recognising that men are victims of sexual violence so the release of these statistics is incredibly significant,” he says.