Victims of male rape in South Africa have unfortunately discovered that neither their communities, nor, in many cases, the authorities will take the crime seriously.
Samkelo Mabaso* was raped by a stranger in Nelspruit last November, but when he told his friends they laughed at him so he decided not to report the rape.
“I still remember that horrible night like it was just yesterday,” said Mabaso (26) who was walking home at around 7pm. “In front of me, there were two ladies and behind me, a man. Those ladies took a turn and I continued on the same road and the man followed me.
“As I was about to take a left turn, the man hit the back of my head. I woke up in an abandoned house. He was on top of me and he took his penis and put it between my thighs. Then he turned me over and with force, he raped me,” said Mabaso.
The following morning, Mabaso opened up to a group of his friends because he needed their support and advice.
“But instead of comforting me, they laughed at me,” said Mabaso. “One of my friends said: ‘What, are you gay now?’ I just said ‘I’m not gay, I was raped’. But at that moment I knew that disclosing the event and opening a case would be a waste of time because, if my friends thought it was a joke, other people would probably also make fun of me.”
Without support, understanding and advice from friends, Mabaso decided to keep quiet and deal with the trauma by himself because of the fear of being judged. But he soon realised that he was in needed of help and spoke to Andrew Langa, a lay preacher at his church.
“Rape is a sensitive issue and traumatic event to someone. Mabaso tried opening up but after being laughed at, he stopped disclosing the rape and he never got post-exposure prophylaxis that may have protected him from HIV,” said Langa.
If an HIV negative person has been raped, they can take a course of antiretroviral medicine, known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), within 72 hours of the rape to protect them against HIV infection.
Mabaso has not reported the rape yet, but Langa hope that, “with time and counselling he will do so”.
Meanwhile, one of Mabaso’s friends has since realised that their response was wrong: “When Samkelo first told us, we honestly thought it was a joke because he always jokes but we soon realised it wasn’t when he stopped socialising with us,” said the friend who cannot be named to protect Samkelo’s real identity.
“On behalf of my friends I would like to apologise to him because, by laughing at him and not trusting him, it feels like we have let him down.”
Help for male victims of sexual abuse
Two years ago, the South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse (www.samsosa.org) was set up to offer support to male victims of rape.
Rees Mann, founder of SAMSOSA, says that 19,4% of all victims of sexual abuse in 2012 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,” said Mann, himself a survivor of rape and sexual abuse.
“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 affected 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.”