Tyne & Wear

Rape survivor wants support for men

Wayne Dearden Image copyright Wayne Dearden
Image caption Wayne Dearden said he told his wife what happened to him after they had children

The latest crime reporting figures suggest more men are finding the courage to speak up about sexual abuse. However, one survivor says unhelpful stereotypes will only be tackled by a dedicated male-only service.

If masculine stereotypes are to be believed, Wayne Dearden, a tall, stocky welder with a bushy beard does not look like he wears his heart on his sleeve.

But Mr Dearden, who says he was raped as a child, believes traditional attitudes towards manliness are exactly what needs to change before male rape will be acknowledged.

For years he did not tell anyone, suffering years of depression and considering suicide.

At 16 he told a girlfriend, who "absolutely freaked out" and never spoke to him again.

This put him off telling his wife until after his daughter was born, though, many years later, he did report the offence to the police.

There was a trial but the defendant was acquitted.

Image copyright Wayne Dearden
Image caption Mr Dearden, a Doctor Who fan, raises money for SomeOne Cares, the charity that helped him

Mr Dearden, from Blyth, Northumberland, also found counselling to be ineffective and says he experienced a string of counsellors who he felt did not understand his needs.

"A lot of people I was speaking to were the generation above me, slightly older and they had weird attitudes like 'It's just women who have problems like this, it doesn't happen to men'," he says.

There's a "pull your socks up, you'll be fine" attitude.

Other people told him they did not understand how a man could get raped.

"I think to some people it is seen as so ridiculous that they think it just doesn't happen," he says.

Now 37, he believes a male-only service is needed to raise awareness and change attitudes.

Many counsellors and service providers were unable to pinpoint a single male-only service, similar to female-only services like Rape Crisis, in the region.

He eventually got help from SomeOne Cares, based in North Shields, which was awarded a lottery grant to help towards its male services last year.

Image caption Male rape is considered to be a very underreported crime, with about 90% of men thought to keep their abuse to themselves

"I would like to say unisex services would be adequate but at this time it's not," he says. "We need a dedicated male crisis centre first.

"With how budgets are being cut left, right and centre and because of the lack of acknowledgement it's a low priority, even though it's a horrendous crime."

Mr Dearden says men can feel "scared" seeking counselling in a unisex setting because they fear people will question their masculinity.

When he first sought counselling the nurses told him it was "unusual" that a man was seeking help for sexual abuse.

"It made me feel like a freak-show, there's just too many preconceptions. A male-only support service would make a huge difference," he says.

Reports of male rape are on the increase nationally. Office for National Statistics figures show 1,131 men were raped between June 2014 and June 2015, compared with 716 the previous year

Rapes of boys under 16 also increased.

Keith Best, the director of dedicated national male-only rape support service Survivors UK, believes significantly more male victims keep quiet.

"It is thought now that 20% of female sexual abuse goes unreported, well we reckon it is more in the 90% for male sexual abuse being unreported, so we still have a massive problem there," he says.

He added: "There are services, but often it will be one therapist operating as part of a wider service - there are too few services dealing with this."

He said there was a lack of male-only services around the country because of a lack of funding and awareness of male sexual abuse.

Rape Crisis centres for women were originally set up when it was apparent there was a need to tackle female sexual abuse. However, because of "gross underreporting" from male victims, it is only now becoming clear that male sexual abuse needs addressing too, he added.

"The penny is dropping but it is a bit late in the day," he said.

Katie Russell, from Rape Crisis England and Wales, said that cuts to funding in the voluntary sector, particularly for sexual abuse, were one reason there were not enough male-only services.

However, she said a combination of masculine stereotypes that may prevented men coming forward and an historical lack of evidence showing the need for male-only services had led to them "lagging behind".

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird says there are services men can use, including Streetwise which helps men under 26, MESMAC North East for gay and bisexual men and Reach, a sexual assault referral centre (SARC) that helps women too.

"Questions around sexuality and conforming to societal stereotypes can all prevent men coming forward," she says.

For Mr Dearden, it feels attitudes towards sexual abuse are still in the "dark ages".

"I think we're going in the right direction but we've still got a long way to go," he says.

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