PETALING JAYA- Rape and sexual assaults where men are victimised by women are virtually unheard of in Malaysia, with social stigma and myths surrounding the issue making it more difficult for the victims to come forward to seek help.
Despite facing similar psychological effects as female victims, researches shows that common misconceptions such as men need to be sexually aroused to have an erection therefore raped, men always want sex so there is no need for a woman to resort to rape and it is impossible for a woman to overpower a male, makes it difficult for the victims to receive proper aid and justice.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan said that the myths surrounding male sexual victims are centred on cultural and sexual stereotypes that a proportion of society holds against victims.
"These myths can be countered by sociological, psychological and scientific evidence," he said in an email interview with The Star Online.
Speaking on the perception that men need to be sexually aroused and have an erection in order for rape to happen, Dr Tharmaseelan said that it is not necessarily so.
"Penile erection is the result of a complex interaction of psychological, neural, vascular and endocrine factors, and is often but not necessarily associated with sexual arousal or sexual attraction. It can also be spontaneous," he said.
According to Dr Tharmaseelan, much like female erectile response, male erectile response is involuntary which means that a man need not be aroused for his penis to become erect and be placed in a woman's vagina.
"Mechanical stimulation is all that is necessary.Continued physical stimulation of any sort, on an unwilling male can result in an erection," he said. He added that intimidation and extortion can also result in the rape of the male victims.
"Sometimes referred to as 'made to penetrate' cases, male rape victims are made to engage in penetration of the female without proper consent. The use of position, authority and power is common in these cases, as well as the use of extortion and the taking of advantage of intoxicated or drugged victims.
In many Western countries, including the United Kingdom and United States (US), laws have been amended or created to ensure equal justice is received by male victims as do female victims.
Cases of women raping men at gunpoint, while the men were intoxicated or drugged and by using 'psychology' to influence the victims have been reported, with some being sentenced for the crimes. Statutory rape is also an issue when it comes to rape of male victims.
Although no data was readily available on the situation in Malaysia, it has been reported that one in 71 male in the US have been victims of female-on-male sexual assaults.
The reports also indicated that the numbers does not reflect on the actual scenario as many cases go unreported.
"Male victims are often left to suffer in silence. Many survivors of rape feel guilt and shame because they experienced physical arousal while being abused, " Dr Tharmaseelan said adding that the victims often do not receive the necessary counselling or support that they need.
"To compound matters men often avoid telling anyone because the courts and community still misunderstand male rape," he said.
The lack of information and awareness on male rape in Asian countries makes it difficult to assess the severity of the situation and the steps that have to be taken to stop it from becoming worse.
"It can be quite threatening, embarrassing and intimidating to go to court to prove that the man was raped. Imagine the media circus," Dr Tharmaseelan said.
He added that male survivors might be less likely to identify what happened to them as abuse or assault, despite facing similar psychological effects.
"Whilst some studies have found males to be less negatively affected, more studies show that long term effects are quite damaging for either sex.
"Males can be more damaged by society's refusal or reluctance to accept their victimisation and by they must tough it out in silence," the doctor said.
He added that men need to be encouraged to start coming forward and talking about how they need to be treated and supported.
"With proper psychological support by mental health specialists and the love and support from their family and friends, it is possible for these survivors to put this awful experience behind them and move on with their lives," he said.