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In a lonely place

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 01 May 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:0405200
  1. Catherine Armitage, staff grade doctor1
  1. 1genitourinary medicine, Mortimer Market Centre, London

Shrouded in myth and taboo, male sexual assault is under-reported and poorly researched. This month, the law in England and Wales is set to change to improve conditions for men who have been raped. Catherine Armitage explains the new law and takes a look at the medical, social, and psychological impact of male sexual assault

Sexual assault of men is often not reported and, as a consequence, poorly understood, but awareness that this crime is a worldwide problem is increasing. For example, in the past, male rape was not recognised as a criminal offence in England and Wales, and in 1995 only did changes in the law mean it became a recognised crime. Before this, no statistics had been collected on male sexual assault. In 1995, police recorded 150 cases nationally making male rape 2.9% of all rapes reported. This number rose to 735 (7.5%) of all rapes recorded in 2001-2.1 But police figures do not reflect the true prevalence of sexual assault on men--the crime is under-reported.

However, the law in England and Wales is changing. The Sexual Offences Bill received royal assent in November 2003 and may become law as early as this May. This is the most radical overhaul of legislation in relation to sex crimes in England and Wales for 50 years. It includes guidelines on the issue of consent with regards to rape and cites equality in the law for men and women.

Another problem in understanding males sexual assault it that there is little collected data from other sources. But what there is suggests that the problem is more prevalent than police figures show. A general practice based study done in 1991 found that almost 3% of men reported non-consensual sexual experiences as adults.2 In the United States, a sample of 1480 …

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