Author: Raymond M. Douglas
Publication Information: Boston: Beacon Press, 2016
Library of Congress Classification: HV6558
Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Male rape victims
Male rape—Psychological aspects
This is a short book but it is a very disturbing read.
The author, an academic, recalls how, at the age of 18, he was raped by a cleric in the country of his birth. The book talks about the on-going trauma that he suffered as a result of the attack, which lasted about four hours to his reckoning. Those four hours completely changed his life.
Douglas did not begin dating until age 36. He immigrated to the United States in part to get away from a country where the Church welded considerable influence. He had reported the cleric to the church hierarchy, assuming that the cleric would be removed from his parish. After having given Douglas absolution (?), the Church sent the cleric somewhere for counseling, and a few years later the cleric turned up at an event the author attended. Douglas came face to face with his attacker, which sent him into a downward spiral that took him quite some time to get over. In some countries, what was done to Douglas would not be considered rape. Male rape is the hidden crime that no one wants to talk about.
As Douglas writes:
“The Greek word for trauma means ‘wound.’ Contrary to the cant phrase, time does not heal all of them. The best I can say about my rape is that over the years I’ve achieved an uneasy modus vivendi with it, but one that is constantly threatening to break down and sometimes does so. In some respects, I have ‘moved on with my life.’ I emigrated to the country where I now live, finished graduate school, and built a professional career. Complete physical separation not just from the scene of the crime but from anyone who previously knew me was a positive thing. It enabled me to set the boundaries for my interaction with others at levels that, for a long time, were the only ones I was capable of handling.” (page 73)
People want rape victims to be “okay,” to be “fixed” and “get over” what was done to them. Douglas proves that this is not always possible, which makes the crime even more horrific. This makes me even more sympathetic for the victims. Douglas says, “Rape is loss. It deprives the victim of something vital, whose importance is only recognized when it is no longer there. The change is permanent and irreversible. That is a hard thing for anyone to accept, and especially difficult, perhaps, for men, whose way of being in the world does not sit comfortably with the idea of losses that can never be made good.” (page 80) Douglas did not tell his wife of his assault until many years after they were married, and it took him that long to find his voice. He does not believe that married rape victims should be forced to tell their spouses about the experience just because it is so hard to put the experience into words and to deal with the trauma.
In Douglas’ case, when he sought psychological help, the rape crisis centers at the time were operating from a feminist viewpoint that rape was aggression perpetrated by men against women; the people at the center did not know how to help him, although they tried. I think that crisis centers are now more progressive in treating male victims.
And what of Douglas’ attacker? Justice finally caught up with the Church and Douglas was contacted by the police in his country of origin about the cleric. (Douglas mentions all the sex abuse scandals the Church has faced, which indicates to me he is talking about the Roman Catholic Church.) Seems that the cleric attacked many young men (no surprise). The police took his statement, but the focus shifted to another victim who had been underage at the time of his attack. They prosecuted the cleric and he was found guilty—but never sentenced to one day in jail because he was dying. This was done by the courts to render mercy—mercy to someone who showed no mercy to his victims.
A very intense read.