Harvey Weinstein, formerly a Hollywood film producer, is now a convicted sex offender, and rightly so. Described as a “sexual predator”, he sought power and control over women who dreamed of making something of themselves in a heteromasculine and male-dominated industry.
Women form part of our backbone. And make no mistake about it, we would not even be here without their input to society. We would not function without their determination to oppose sexism. But it does make me wonder about our men, especially gay men. How do gay men process sexual abuse?
Although the experience of sexual abuse in women must be validated, and although research confirms time and time again that the perpetrator is more often than not a male, let us please not forget other vulnerable groups which, who like women, have been ignored for years.
How can we give a voice to the gay community experiencing sexual abuse? Are we even aware that gay men also experience sexual abuse? Do we know that they too are sexually harassed, both by gay and heterosexual men? Or are we putting this on the side, perhaps unconsciously?
I will not sugar-coat the reality that gay men experience when sexually abused. What I will not do is pretend to understand what they feel. But their experience is real, it’s heavy and it must be told as it is, without all the political correctness. Their pain must be seen. According to Dorahy and Clearwater (2012), the men in their study experienced shame, denial and anger. Why? Because society does not speak about sexual abuse in men, let alone in gay men. This is why statistics show a gap between the number of cases reported by men and women. This is why men generally do not seek help, open up to their partners but instead bury their experience…only for it to come later when triggered.
Today, especially due to Grindr and other dating apps, sexual abuse can present itself in many ways. After a non-consensual experience, survivors of sexual abuse may feel dirty and ashamed (Wright & Thiara, 2019). There is a sense of denial that bring forth the thought that perhaps they asked for it. Yes, this thought crops up even in gay men, not just women. Why? Because some gay men are effeminate. Because some gay men are not afraid of going out in public wearing makeup. Because some gay men are not afraidof kissing their boyfriends on the bus. And they are punished for it because they, like women, oppose heteronormative gender roles.
But why does all this matter? Because the gay community forms part of a wider community, not simply the LGBTIQ community. This community is formed entirely by humans, our brothers and sisters who have the capacity to show empathy and realise that we are in this together, or at least we should be.
I invite you to read this article by the BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-50688975.
In case of having had such experiences, or for more information, contact Victim Support Malta on +356 2122 8333 or an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vince Mallia is a final year B.Psy student at the University of Malta.
Edit by ARC: Anyone who requires the services of a professional support team trained in LGBTQ issues, you may contact the Rainbow Support Services on email@example.com or call +356 7943006.