Duncan Craig is CEO of Survivors Manchester, explains how he has been helping pushing the needs of male victims of rape and sexual abuse up the political agenda.
---This is article #84 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
In late 2013, The Ministry of Justice announced a £4 million Rape Support fund that enabled voluntary sector organisations to apply for a share of the fund to support the delivery of their services.
Well yes, absolutely if you run an organisation supporting women and girls but not so great if you’re organisation only supports boys and men.
You see, the £4million Rape Support fund excluded organisations only supporting boys and men from applying. Not only did this prevent organisations such as Survivors Manchester, Mankind and Survivors UK from accessing much needed funds to continue to run our services, but it sent a clear message out to the public at large... “if you’re a male rape victim, we don’t recognise you”.
As the CEO of an organisation that supports male survivors of sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation, it was a message that was far too seriously wrong to go unchallenged. And so began our lobbying campaign. We took to social media; wrote letters to MPs, colleagues, and organisations in the field of sexual violation asking for support; and challenged the Ministry of Justice’s decision.
Seriously, what about the men and boys.....?
But in undertaking this lobbying campaign, I began to wonder... “why do I still have to make these stances? when will the discussion not have to end in ‘oh and boys and men too’”
Whilst all the lobbying activity, discussions and meetings resulted in fantastic win – a £1.3million ‘Male Rape Support fund’ that would be spread over two financial years; I soon realised that the real challenge is not about fighting for a small pot of money, but how to move the discussion on to a point where we can talk about victims of sexual violence without alienating anyone, male or female.
In looking at how to make the challenge to the Ministry of Justice, I turned to the Rape Crisis England and Wales website and began looking at what they had done over the 41 years they have been around.
How to make change happen
They have campaigned tirelessly to end the sexual violence committed against women and girls and helped thousands of service users to get the help they deserve. I’m so grateful to them for what they have done; for the sheer effort and determination they have made to ensure that the needs of women, who have experienced the abhorrent acts of violation that occur in sexual abuse and rape, are not ignored. I am grateful to them for continuing to keep the issue of sexual violation on the agenda and for always responding to the injustices in this arena.
However, I’m most grateful for showing me how to apply pressure in the right areas to make a change for those that you want to support the most – victims of sexual abuse and rape.
But don’t be confused here between specialist organisations that support a single gender or community and those that should be looking after us all and only look one way.
We don't need to apologise for helping men and boys
Whilst Rape Crisis England and Wales focus on female victims, they acknowledge boys and men also experience rape and sexual violence and that the impacts on their lives can be similarly devastating and long-lasting, and they don’t need to apologise for their focus. Equally, organisations such as my own, Mankind or Survivors UK, shouldn’t need to apologise for focusing on boys and men.
But those charged with looking after the health, well being and safety of the general public have a duty to ensure that they don’t just look one way or the other! They have a legal and moral duty to ensure that whether a victim is male or female, boy or girl, man or woman... they should have equal access to support to help heal and recover from the trauma they experienced.
So why do we apologise? Why do those of us that provide gender specific support feel the need to apologise? and why don’t we stand together?
I think the answer is simple.
The passion and desire that we all have to help those we designed our organisations around, set against a difficult political climate and an even more difficult and tight funding environment has resulted in silo working. But the future needs to change if we are to thrive and early signs on the horizon look promising.
The newly formed male survivors’ alliance, although in its infancy, is already looking at the lessons we can learn from the women’s movement, and our early discussion with our female counterparts are exciting and give hope to a new movement, one where males and females stand proudly together with the aim of making central government and policy and decision makers listen to the voices of survivors.
So thank you to those women that paved the way. Never think that in our efforts to have the voices of male survivors heard that we are trying to silence you.
Lets stand together to ensure that all survivors get the help they deserve, regardless of gender.
You can find all of the #100Voices4Men articles that will be published in the run up to International Men's Day 2014 by clicking on this link---#100Voices4Men---and follow the discussion on twitter by searching for #100Voices4Men.
The views expressed in these articles are not the views of insideMAN editorial team. Whether you agree with the views expressed in this article or not we invite you to take take part in this important discussion, our only request is that you express yourself in a way that ensures everyone’s voice can be heard.