ONE of the biggest misconceptions around rape and sexual violence is it does not happen to men.

That somehow being male is a barrier from sexual abuse and the subsequent fear, shame and confusion.

However, figures indicate more men are reporting being the victims of these heinous crimes across Essex.

An investigation has revealed five times more men have reported being raped to Essex police in six years, about 29 per cent of the total recorded sexual offences surveyed by the Gazette.

Jason Hendy, Essex police’s head of investigations for the crime and public protection unit, attributed the increases to men having better trust in the police as well as a societal shift from victim blaming and improvements in recording.

High-profile cases in the courts and media, such as Coronation Street’s first male rape storyline involving character David Platt, also trigger rises in reporting, he explained.

Mr Hendy said: “I remember when I first joined the police our dealing with victims of serious sexual assaults wasn’t excellent, but we’ve changed a lot and put the victim at the heart of the investigation.

“We work in partnership a lot with organisations like Rape Crisis and independent sexual advisors because we want the same outcome – for the victim to have enough confidence to report.

“If they don’t report then we can’t see trends, we can’t see profiles of suspects, and we can’t support them.”

Halstead Gazette:

Jack P Shepherd as David Platt with Julia Goulding as Shona Ramsey in Coronation Street. PA Photo/ITV/Andrew Boyce. 

Between 2012/13 and 2017/18, reports of rape rose from six to 30, while those who reported other forms of sexual assaults more than trebled.

Some 57 per cent of the offences - assault by penetration and sexual assault - were reported in north Essex, compared with 25 per cent in the south and 18 per cent in west Essex.

A Freedom of Information request was sent to the force asking for the number of adult men who reported those offences, by year, and their age at the time of the offence.

The results revealed victims ranged from 18 to more than 80.

Of the 360 men who gave police their date of birth when reporting:

  • About 24 per cent were aged 18 to 21 at the time of the offence,
  • 15 per cent were aged between 22 and 25-years-old,
  • 16 per cent were aged between 26 and 30, 
  • and 11 per cent were men between 35 and 39.

But for Mr Hendy and his team, their focus are the individuals behind the numbers.

In Essex they are working on a new scheme focussed on the night-time economy to safeguard potential victims.

But over the past decade, he says, the majority of cases dealt with have been within “inter-party relationships” which coincides with evidence that most perpetrators of sexual violence are known to the victim.

He added: “They’re challenging investigations but they’re the cases we want to encourage increased reporting of because rape is rape, and consent isn’t granted just because you’re in a relationship.”

Nationally, rapes against males last year accounted for about five per cent of all rapes.

Approximately 30 per cent of all rape reports to Essex Police will relate to historic cases which means the offence took place at least 12 months before.

READ MORE: CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE SURVIVOR BREAKS HER SILENCE AFTER MORE THAN 40 YEARS

Mr Hendy said: “That must be the most difficult day of their life.

“As a police officer we want to bring people to justice because I think it’s the most horrendous crime you can do to somebody, but not everyone wants to give evidence to police, they just want it recorded, which is really important because if they don’t tell us, we can’t work on that intelligence.

“It isn’t always about securing a judicial outcome for the victim.”

Counsellor Elizabeth Noble joined charity Survivors UK last December but has worked with men who have experienced sexual violence for years.

Her practice has been dominated by men in their thirties to fifties, who in Essex make up 32 per cent of the recorded offences for the years studied.

Halstead Gazette:

Older man with his head in his hand. Stock image

She said: “One of the biggest myths can be rape doesn’t happen to men at all and it’s surprising sometimes how many people hold that belief.

“And how many men, even after it’s happened to them, feel like it might never have happened to anyone else.

“There are commonly-held myths like ‘It shouldn’t happen to men because men are big and strong’ in whatever way.

“Some people mistakenly think if it’s happened to a man, it’s because he’s weak or didn’t fight hard enough.

“Another myth is all men who have been sexually violated go on to be perpetrators of sexual violence.

“This is just not supported by evidence but unfortunately, lots of people carry this misconception around in their heads and it can be hugely distressing for men who have been assaulted or abused.”

Not all men will have spoken to Elizabeth about the events of the rape.

Instead their recovery is centred on making their daily lives more manageable and dealing with the emotional and physical effects of trauma.

She said: “Some people come carrying physical injuries from the rape, lots of people come with enduring anxiety and mental health symptoms.

“For men, there can be particular issues around anger.

“Socially we get different messages as men and women about how to express our anger and sometimes men have been conditioned more into expressing their distress this way, which can manifest into issues with loved ones, the police or just having their distress misunderstood.”

At the Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse (CARA) in Colchester, about nine per cent of its clients are male.

Director Helen Parr is encouraged by the statistics but says they are only the “tip of the iceberg” as sexual offences continue to be one of the most under-reported crimes in the UK.

One of the messages Elizabeth wants men and women to take away is there is no right or wrong way to present their emotions following sexual violence.

She said: “If a man turns up and is visibly distressed and obviously finding it hard to cope emotionally, he can be here.

“Equally, if he turns up and is raging and angry, or he feels like he’s dead inside and hasn’t got any emotion to express, that’s fine too. Everyone responds in a different way and everyone’s entitled to be heard when they say they need help.”

  • For support in Colchester, visit CARA, whose staff work with both men and women, by clicking here.
  • To contact SurvivorsUK, click here where you can access an online helpline, or call 0203 5983898 .