Mon | Nov 29, 2021

A catalyst for change, perhaps?

Published:Thursday | June 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM

By Jaevion Nelson

Jamaican men are all of a sudden involuntarily penetrated with anguish and deep concern about the spate (?) of sexual violence in the country. It took one frightening account of an alleged rape incident that was reported in the Jamaica Observer on June 11, 2014, under the headline 'Male jogger gang-raped' to stimulate a conversation about such a grave issue - one that the vast majority of men have been ignoring all this time.

Men finally now realise sexual violence is a problem that the Government and relevant agencies must address urgently. We are now very worried that a man could become a victim of rape. How dreadful! Consequently, Jamaican men are now outraged and scared.

It might not be such a bad thing that our flaccid egos are now overcome with concern. Perhaps, this news story will help us (men) understand the trauma women and girls undergo when they are raped. Maybe this could be the catalyst for change - for a movement of men working tirelessly to raise awareness about sexual violence and fundraising for existing organisations to improve and expand their services. Two years ago, when a similarly frightening incident of rape was reported in that paper, Help JA Children was born. I am particularly doubtful that this will happen (in this case).

It is regrettable that far too many of us, men especially, have expressed outrage because a male was allegedly raped (well, buggered, to be technical) by another male or a group of males — not the fact that someone was raped. Perhaps even more appalling are the so- called respectable learned people among us who seem to think that this is what Jamaica has come to; that gay men want nothing but to sodomise our nation. Rape/sexual violence has always been an issue - even if males failed to make reports or seek out necessary services.

I sincerely hope these persons are equally outraged when men rape women and girls. I will ignore the peculiar framing of the news story a few days after alerting us to the perilous existence of 'homo-thugs' and 'gun-toting gays' in our communities. I want to encourage journalists/news reporters to show appreciation for responsible journalism. There is absolutely no need to write news stories about sexual violence against men and boys as if it is more dangerous and important than sexual violence against women and girls. Our concern, regardless of the sexual orientation, age, or gender of the perpetrator or victim or even the orifice(s) involved in the incident, MUST really be about sexual violence.

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

The incident raises some important questions. What happens when males are raped? What recourse do we have in the justice system? Are the necessary entities - police, health facilities, Victim Support Unit, and other agencies - equipped to provide the requisite services to persons such as this male jogger who was allegedly raped?

There is an important opportunity in the Joint Select Committee on the Sexual Offences Act for us to begin an important process. It is widely known that the current definitions of sexual intercourse and rape as found in the Sexual Offences Act 2009 do not allow for males to be raped. In fact, it limits rape specifically to penetration of a vagina by a penis. There are, of course, acts of grievous sexual assault that can be perpetrated against males and females, but is that sufficient? Sadly, both buggery and grievous sexual assault carry lesser penalties than rape, which this incident really is.

It is time we introduce a neutral definition of rape so that persons who experience sexual violence can get the justice they deserve. It will also help us to understand that rape is much more than a man forcing himself on (or into) a woman. We should adopt the FBI's definition of rape: "The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim".

Notwithstanding the current limitations, I sincerely hope the male jogger who was allegedly raped will come forward and make a formal report to the police. We really need males who experience sexual violence to report these incidents. It's so very important in addressing the issue of sexual violence.

Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.