A subject still believed to be taboo, sexual violence against men does exist and has been reported to affect 1.8 million people in Brazil, even though the victims might remain silent for ages out of shame and machismo prejudice.
While women make up for the largest number of victims of this crime and most aggressors are usually men, 9.4 million Brazilians have suffered sexual violence at some point in their lives, it was reported, and gender stereotyping causes boys to grow up without sharing their history.
According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), men usually hide their plights out of shame stemming from gender stereotypes. The IGBE's National Health Survey (PNS) detected this behavior under the project Male Memories, which was devised during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide psychological support to adult men who have suffered sexual violence at any time of their lives.
The program offers free and online access to therapists for assistance in moments of emotional crisis. Over 1,000 consultations have been attended during 2021 in what is believed to be the sole such service nationwide.
The majority of the men we serve were victims of sexual violence in childhood, but there is also a large percentage, 34%, who were victims in adolescence. The majority of the men we attend are heterosexual and have sex with women, but the violence is mostly committed by other men. There is a great fear among the victims that this will 'turn them gay,' as if violence could cause this. This makes men who are victims of other men talk much less about the subject, psychologist Denis Ferreira, the project's creator explained.
Sexual violence against men between 2010 and 2021 accounted for 12.1% of the total cases recorded by the Health Ministry. In this period alone, 43.2 thousand cases were reported, almost 5,000 of them in Minas Gerais.
Among children aged between 5 and 9, the percentage of boys and girls who suffer sexual violence is more even, according to a UNICEF report. But as age grows women tend to make up for a much larger proportion f the total number of victims of sexual violence. Researchers recognize that women are indeed more affected, but the number of men may be much higher than statistics show.
The older a boy gets, the less he tends to disclose that he has suffered sexual violence. This is because the older one gets, the more one perceives gender stereotypes and the more one tries to behave accordingly. The male gender role revolves around characteristics that refer to strength, and there is a certain incongruence with this when the boy perceives himself as a victim of sexual violence. It's not that he doesn't feel afraid and sad about what happened, but he realizes that this victim role is not accepted, analyzes the psychology professor Jean Von Hohendorff said, according to O Tempo.
When he was 10 years old, Ferreira had his first contact with sexual violence. In moments alone with a family friend about 30 years old, who would talk about his sexual acts in graphic detail to the child. It may seem harmless, but a 10 or 11-year-old child hearing about sexual experiences has a profound impact, he stressed.
Male Memories conducted a tracking survey of 1,241 adult men, most of them aged 25 to 39, and just over half identified as heterosexual. Some 56% have heard sexual or erotic phrases from someone without wanting to, and 30.5% have been kissed or hugged in a sexual way without consent. More than a quarter of respondents, 33.2%, said they had been forced to have sex, most of them more than once, and engaging in or attempting non-consensual anal intercourse was reported by 22.2% of the men heard.
A Professor at the Institute of Medicine, Studies and Development (Imed) in Rio Grande do Sul, Von Hohendorff explains that sports clubs are not specific places of risk. Aggressors can look for contexts where there are larger numbers of children. Churches and football groups are not necessarily higher risk contexts, but they are contexts where children are under an authority figure, a coach or a church member above suspicion.
Von Hohendorff believes the reduction of cases of sexual violence requires education about gender stereotypes from an early age so that men do not see women as objects to be conquered or think that they cannot demonstrate vulnerability. At the same time, he advocates treatment for aggressors.
We need to transpose this idea that it's enough for them to be held formally accountable. They need to be, but we need to take it a step beyond accountability. We need to provide effective treatment for these offenders so that they recognize the inappropriateness of what they have done and have an alternative way of dealing with any inappropriate sexual desire other than committing violence, he says.
(Source: O Tempo)