The Executive must recognise male rape
A LEADING Scottish party-planner’s courageous decision to reveal he was the victim of male rape has led to demands the offence to be recognised under Scots law.
In an exclusive interview in Spectrum magazine, Neale Shedden has spoken publicly for the first time about his ordeal. The Edinburgh party planner was 21 when he was raped twice by a stranger at his antiques shop in Fife. Only now, 12 years after the attack, has he managed to overcome the stigma associated with the offence and lead the calls for a change in the law.
Shedden said: "After I was raped, I didn’t feel like a man any more. I felt like my masculinity had been taken away from me."
Last night, he added: "This crime must be recognised in law. There is an equality issue that has to be sorted out. The Scottish Executive can produce legislation on dog fouling, yet it is not doing anything about this while people continue to be raped. The law should change."
Despite Shedden’s horrific experience, and that of dozens of other men who are believed to fall victim to rapists in Scotland each year, the crime is still not recognised under Scottish law. The definition of rape, set out in 1844, states that it is an offence that can only be carried out by a man against a woman.
The English legal system has recognised male rape for seven years but in Scotland the offence has to be classed as a sexual assault or as "sodomy", preventing any official statistics being collected and keeping the offence out of the public eye.
Recent research suggests at least 400 adult men are sexually assaulted in Scotland each year but campaigners believe the figure is a huge underestimate because victims are often reluctant to report their ordeal to the police.
Ali Jarvis, director of the gay and lesbian campaign group Stonewall Scotland, said: "There should be an offence of male rape. It should be recognised for exactly what it is and not be dependant on gender. It has been down south, which was a positive step."
Jarvis said male rape was "hugely under-reported" because of the taboo surrounding men violating other men.
But she added: "The level of psychological trauma is immense. At the same time the vast majority of men probably never report it so they will never have access to counselling, or see a case go through legal redress.
"This is a crime that affects a small minority of people, but it should not be dismissed because of that and we should be prepared to label it correctly."
Annabel Goldie, Tory justice spokeswoman in the Scottish Parliament added: "There’s no question the violation of the personal sanctity of a man or a woman is a horrific crime and there will be many men who have been left traumatised by it. This is an area of the law which may well need to be investigated further."
And Professor Lynn Jamieson, a sexual offences expert at Edinburgh University’s school of social and political studies, said: "It would be helpful if it was possible to think about male rape in a similar way to rape of a woman."
Although there are no official figures for the number of male rapes, the latest government statistics show indecent assaults in Scotland on both men and women rose by 16% last year from 1,154 in 2001 to 1,337 in 2002.
The British Crime Survey records sexual assaults on men, but only for England and Wales. Over the past year, there have been just under 4,100. About 50% of victims are thought to be homosexual.
Jamieson said many male rapes are committed by friends and acquaintances of the victim, often in groups, where an individual is picked on and the situation gets out of hand.
Other cases involve "gay bashing", in which men who consider themselves straight rape gay men apparently in order to humiliate them, she added.
Psychologists say the offence, which has been recognised as rape in England and Wales since 1994, usually revolves around power and domination rather than sex. John Doyle, a chartered counselling psychologist based in Glasgow, said: "I think this should be recognised in law. Rape is having intercourse against a person’s will, so why it is different with a man as opposed to a woman?"
Doyle, who has counselled men who have been raped, added: "Male victims think they should have done something to prevent it, which gives them a sense of helplessness and worthlessness. "As far as the rapist is concerned it seems to be about power and control."
Justice minister Cathy Jamieson last night
said: "Non-consensual intercourse with a man can constitute two specific common law crimes: indecent assault and sodomy. Penalties that can be applied to these offences are limited only by the court in which they are heard, and for cases in the High Court that can mean up to life imprisonment. This applies equally to female and male rape.
"I have no plans to review the definition of rape or other sexual offences. I believe that present common law provisions are flexible and robust enough to deal with rape cases."
Assistant chief constable Graeme Pearson, secretary of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland’s crime standing committee,
also opposed a change of law. "Where we have had reports of this offence, pursued evidence and there has been a prosecution, that prosecution has been taken very seriously," he said.
A NATIONAL INJUSTICE
RAPE in Scotland is defined as "the carnal knowledge of a female by a male person, obtained by overcoming her will".
But in England and Wales, a man is judged to have committed rape if "he has sexual intercourse with a person... who at the time of the intercourse does not consent to it, or is reckless as to whether the person consents to it".
Since 1994, when the law in England and Wales was amended to recognise rape of men as an offence, there have been several prosecutions for the offence south of the Border.
The move followed a campaign by groups including Stonewall, the gay and lesbian rights group.
Stonewall objected to male rape being classified under the umbrella of homosexual offences, which meant violent assaults were placed in the same bracket as some consenting acts between adults.
The decision to change the legal definition of rape also followed the Westminster parliament’s agreement to lower the age of consent for sex between homosexual men to 18.
The previous English offence of "non-consensual buggery of men", which had carried a maximum sentence of 10 years, was removed from the statute book and replaced by the new rape law.
Rape carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The Home Office said at the time it had decided to drop its initial reluctance to make the move because it acknowledged that "public understanding of what constitutes rape has changed in recent years".
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