AWARE, a gender equality advocacy group, shared in their social media platforms the story of a man who was sexually assaulted by a male masseuse while getting a message in 2010. The man said the masseuse touched him inappropriately and asked him if he liked it. The man who was not identified in the video said that he did not know what to think or even if he should shout and just froze.
The brave survivor featured in the video is an AWARE supporter. AWARE said that they are proud to see him speaking up about both his assault and the journey of allyship that followed.
“Male survivors of sexual assault freeze, too. Male survivors experience trauma and self-blame, too. Male survivors also do not “ask for it”. Male survivors should not be expected to “fight back”.”
He eventually made a police report but the police had no grounds for further investigation. He said he quickly got over the sexual assault but was reminded about the trauma he faced during the #MeToo movement and decided to speak up about his experience. “I don’t want anyone else to have to be assaulted to understand what I do now,” he said in the video.
The #MeToo movement is a social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment where people publicise allegations of sex crimes. The phrase “Me Too” was initially used in this context on social media in 2006, on Myspace, by sexual assault survivor and activist Tarana Burke.
The purpose of “Me Too”, as initially voiced by Burke as well as those who later adopted the tactic, is to empower sexually assaulted people through empathy and solidarity through strength in numbers, especially young and vulnerable women, by visibly demonstrating how many have experienced sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.
The related hashtag #HimToo emerged in popularity with the #MeToo movement. Although dating back to at least 2015, and initially associated with politics or casual communication, #HimToo took on new meanings associated with #MeToo in 2017, with some using it to emphasize male victims of sexual harassment and abuse, and others using it to emphasize male perpetrators.
In an article published 2 years ago, AWARE said that as a gender-equality organisation it works closely with survivors of sexual violence. AWARE added that it knows both men and women can experience sexual assault.
“We have seen firsthand how myths about sexual violence can silence male victims just as much as female victims. Although in both cases, these myths tend to be located in toxic masculinity (such as “real men get what they want” and “real men should be prepared to be violent to defend themselves”), and rigid gender roles, they create a slightly different set of barriers for men.
“While women are frequently asked what they were wearing when they were assaulted, male victims of sexual assault get questioned about their masculinity and sexual orientation. Female victims are considered to be “asking for it” when they drink or go out at night; men are considered to be “weak” for not using their physical strength to defend themselves.
“In Singapore, changes to the Penal Code, which passed last year and became effective from Jan 1 made the offence of rape gender-neutral. This was done through the expansion of the legal definition of rape to include non-consensual penetration of the anus or the mouth using one’s penis. However, for male victims, the challenges to disclosing their experiences of abuse and seeking appropriate help are still overwhelming.”