Recently, I linked to an article whose headline referenced a rape epidemic:
Link – There’s a Rape Epidemic in America That No One Is Talking About https://t.co/KWJSR0PaQ7
— Child Abuse Survivor (@SurvivorNetwork) June 14, 2016
The article in question referred to male victims of rape, boys raped as children, and males raped as adults as well. The article went on to talk about how we tend to ignore the very idea of male rape victims, because rape victims = women.
Based on the headline, the tweet, and the post, started getting shared, and knowing what I know about how often people share things without ever reading it, I started to wonder how many people assumed the article was about women being raped.
Then, it happened. Someone, who I will not name, not only retweeted it, but included a statistic about how often women are raped in the US.
Think about that. Here in our own community of child abuse survivors, among people who should know about how much boys and girls are raped as children, someone saw that headline and immediately assumed it was talking about women. What message does that send to male survivors?
It’s hardly the only time I’ve watched people in this community make assumptions about survivors, especially male survivors. I’ve been taken for a gay male, or a female, many times based solely on the fact that I talk openly about being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Because, apparently, straight men don’t do that.
How are we going to convince abuse survivors, and those dealing with mental health issues that they are not alone, that we are everywhere, that we come from all backgrounds and cultures, when we are still falling prey to the same stereotypes ourselves? Males do get raped and suffer from mental illness. Females commit sexual abuse. People from wealthy backgrounds deal with depression, older children abuse younger children, minorities commit child abuse, anxiety runs rampant in the black community as much as it does in the white, etc. If we expect society to not stigmatize survivors, we need to stop doing it to ourselves.
More importantly, as a group committed to supporting survivors, to sharing important information and resources, and to fighting stigma, we have to be better than all those people who share things on Twitter without reading them. It’s bad enough that it happens, but when you are trying to share information for abuse survivors, you owe it to them to actually know what you are pointing them to. I’m surprised that we live in a community that feels the need to post trigger warnings on just about everything, but will retweet articles without even reading the contents.
Simply put, we’re better than that. Or at least we should be.