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Rape in the Gay Community: The Hidden Epidemic

December 1999

Rape is a subject that few people want to talk about, especially in the Gay community. However it is a lot more common than most members of the Gay community wish to admit. Many people do not even know exactly what rape is.

What is rape?

1) Rape is when a person has sex with you against your will.

2) Rape is sex that is non-consensual.

3) Rape is when a person forces sex on you even when you do not want to have sex with them.

4) Rape can also be forcing you to engage in a specific sexual activity that you do not want to do. For example, if you wish to only have oral sex with your partner, but he also wants to have anal sex with you (that you do not want to do), if he forces anal sex on you anyway, this still constitutes rape (even though the oral sex part was consensual).

When a man rapes a woman, it can be all over the news and there are many programs to help the victim. But when it comes to rape in the Gay community, it is "thrown under the rug" and people pretend it just does not exist. Most Gay rapes go unreported, due to a fear of the police finding out the victim is Gay, intimidation and threats by the rapist if you report it, and embarrassment in being a victim.

Have you ever been a victim of Gay rape? Ask yourself these questions:

1) Has anyone ever had sex with you against your will?

2) Have you ever told someone that you did not want to engage in a specific sexual activity with them, but they made you engage in that activity anyway?

3) Have you ever been forced to do anything sexual that you did not want to do?

4) Has anyone ever blackmailed you to have sex with them? Has a person ever threatened your life or made other verbal threats (like threatening to "out" you to other people) if you did not have sex with them?

5) Have you ever been forced to have sex at knifepoint or at gunpoint?

6) Has anyone ever drugged you, or got you drunk, then forced sex on you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have been a victim of Gay rape.

There are many myths associated with rape, especially in the Gay community. Some of those myths are:

MYTH #1) It was the victims fault. WRONG! Some people think that a rapist forced sex on a person because of the way the victim dressed or how they acted. If you tell a person that you do not want to have sex with them, or that you do not want to engage in a particular activity, then it ends right there ("What part of NO don't you understand?").

MYTH #2) "He is too nice a person to ever do a thing like that". WRONG! Rapists can appear to be the nicest of people. They can often be like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. One minute they can be charming, and the next minute, they are forcing sex on you.

MYTH #3) Rapists force sex on their victims in order to obtain sexual satisfaction. WRONG! Rape is actually a crime of power and control. Sex is simply the means of using that power and control over people.

MYTH #4) Rapists are always total strangers. WRONG! Very often, the victim knows the rapist. Most people think of rape as a total stranger attacking you from behind in the dark and forcing sex on you. Although this may sometimes be the case, very often, the rapist is someone you already know. If you are on a date with a person, and they force sex on you, this is known as "date rape."

MYTH #5) It is not rape if it is part of S&M/B&D play. NOT NECESSARILY! Sometimes when people are engaging in S&M (sadomasochism) or B&D (bondage and discipline), they will "force" sex on their partner. But this is very different from true rape because the "forced" sex on the submissive partner is consensual, and it is a very controlled situation. Very often, in S&M/B&D play, the partners will use a code word, so when the submissive partner truly wants the dominant partner to stop, once that word is said, all sexual activity ends right there. When the code word is mentioned, this gives the submissive partner control over the situation. Now, if sex continues despite the use of the code word, then this becomes rape.

MYTH #6) Rape only occurs when men force sex on women. WRONG! The person committing the rape can be male or female, straight or Gay. And the victim of rape can be male or female, straight or Gay.

MYTH #7) Rape is sometimes justified. WRONG! Raping a person is never, ever justified.

MYTH #8) Some people enjoy getting raped. WRONG! Although some people may fantasize about being raped, or enjoy getting "raped" under a fantasy S&M/B&D scenario (see above), when it comes to the real thing, people do not enjoy getting raped at all. And real rape is very, very different from rape fantasies and S&M/B&D play. Rape is an extremely traumatic and scary experience!

MYTH #9) Rapists will commit rape only once. WRONG! A rapist tends to commit rape again and again, days, weeks, or even months later (either to the same person or someone else). The question is not IF they will rape again, but WHEN they will rape again. No matter how regretful the person may be, no matter how many times they may apologize to you about forcing sex on you, and no matter how many times they promise that they will never do it again, chances are that they will rape you (or someone else) again. The only thing that will put an end to rape is ongoing counseling and therapy.

What do you do if you are raped?

1) If you are in a relationship where your partner has forced sex on you against your will, GET OUT of the house or apartment IMMEDIATELY! Do not wait, or hope that the problem will stop on its own. If necessary, spend the night(s) at a friend's house, or even a hotel room.

2) If your partner threatens or tries to rape you, call the police IMMEDIATELY! Do not wait! And do not be ashamed or scared to call the police. You are not overdoing it. You are not over reacting. If you feel threatened in any way, or if you are in any danger whatsoever, that is what the police are for.

3) Make sure you tell a close friend what is going on. Do not hide the fact that you have been raped. Your friend can help you cope with the situation.

4) It is very important that you go to counseling to help you cope with being a victim of rape. Remember, victims do not cause the rape. But being a victim of rape can cause years of emotional scars.

5) Getting raped is bad enough. What makes things worse is now you may be infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as a result of the rape. Over at least the next six months, you are going to have to assume that you have been exposed to HIV and other STDs. See a doctor to be examined for STDs over at least the next six months (whether or not you are having any symptoms). If you notice any unusual symptoms (unusual growths, lesions, discharges, painful urination, etc.), see a doctor immediately. In regard to HIV, there is now an experimental procedure where a rape victim can be given antiviral medications (against HIV) to reduce the chance of infection. This is called post-exposure prophylaxis (prophylaxis means preventative therapy to prevent you getting infected with HIV in the first place). However, since this treatment must be started within HOURS after the rape, you must see a doctor knowledgeable about HIV immediately. For more information on this topic, read the following post:

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) For Sexual Exposures

Some doctors may also give you prophylactic (preventative) treatment against other STDs as well, for example giving you antibiotics, and anti-herpes medications, etc.

6) Because of the risk for HIV and other STDs, it is important that you use condoms with all of your sexual partners for at least the next six months following the rape.

7) If the rapist has a key to your house, change all the locks on your house immediately!

8) Although this might be hard to do, call the police. Make a police report. Make sure you tell the police that this person forced sex on you. If you do nothing, and do not report it, the rapist may come after you again, or they may go after someone else (perhaps even your friends). Do you want to go through this again? Do you want your friends to go through what you just went through? Think about that.

9) Call a rape crisis line. The number is in your phone book. Although these rape crisis lines most often deal with women getting raped, they should be able to offer you at least some help if you are a male victim of rape.

10) Most of all, do not go through this alone. Get help. Do not let pride or embarrassment get in the way of you getting the help you need. Remember, you are the victim. You did not cause the person to rape you. Keep reminding yourself, you are the victim, not the cause.

Like other issues in the Gay community, the only way that this problem will end is if the community itself lends support to the victims. The Gay community has to recognize this problem, and act upon it. The problem and the solution rests in our hands.

Do you want more information on AIDS, STDs or safer sex? Contact the U.S. Centers for Disease Control AIDS hotline, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-CDC-INFO. Or visit The Body's Safe Sex and Prevention Forum.

Until next time . . . Work hard, play hard, play safe, stay sober!

More From This Resource Center

Undetectable Viral Load and HIV Prevention: What Do Gay and Bi Men Need to Know?

Do HIV-Negative Gay Men Need Condoms if They're on PrEP? Here's What I Tell My Patients

This article was provided by Rick Sowadsky, M.S.P.H..


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