A somber feeling rests over the tranquil audience at Center Stage. A slight hum of the projector is the only noise to be heard as the people wait in their seats for the movie to begin. Students for Choice, an advocacy group that fights for social justice invited UCASA to show a screening of The Voiceless, a documentary telling heartbreaking, personal stories of five men who survived sexual assault. This was made to help more men who have survived sexual assault find their voice. The men in the movie come from all cultures and backgrounds.
“Sexual violence does not discriminate against men,” Vanessa McNeal, activist and filmmaker of The Voiceless, said.
[According to 2014, National Crime Victimization Survey}, “1 in 6 men experience sexual violence before they turn eighteen and thirty-eight percent of all rapes are male,” Turner Bitton while giving a premise of the film, executive director for UCASA said.
McNeal’s documentary examines the stigma that encompasses male rape. “We live in a society that continues to state that sexual violence can’t and won’t happen to men,” says McNeal in an interview to QUEERTY, The Leading Gay and Lesbian News and Entertainment Site.
Caleb, a twenty-four-year-old graduate student at University of Nebraksa-Omaha, said when he first told his brother about his experience being sexually violated, his brother’s instinctual response was laughter.
“Laughter seems to be the first response men get when telling someone about sexual assault,” said Caleb,
After trying to take legal action, the case was dropped because no one believed his story. Even some of the police officers asked if maybe he was gay and afraid to come to terms with that. There is a stigma that men who get assaulted are weak are not as masculine, are gay or that they wanted it because, supposodly, no guy turns down a sexual advance from anyone. This way of thinking turns many men away from coming forward to share their stories.
“I think it’s a cultural issue across the nation. Men and women gender roles are expected to adhere to certain stereotypes or at least those stereotypes get reinforced everywhere we look in the media,” Ashley Larsen, director of student conduct and conflict resolution said. “It is a broader cultural issue with the way we talk about gender issues because this has to do with greater negative connotations about what gender roles are and how it is perpetuated in the media. So it’s interesting the challenges men face when it comes to ideas of masculinity in general and also if they experience sexual assault.”
After the film, there was a panel of people from the Rape Recovery Center, who were taking questions. “Take the pledge for Start by Believing [a program by UCASA] and adhere to the message behind it. It says that if someone discloses sexual violence to you, you don’t have to do anything, but say I believe you, am here for you and support you. If you do this, it will be much better for their personal process,” said Bitton.
There are many resources available for those who have either been sexually assaulted in some form or for those who just want to know how to talk and listen to people who have been sexually violated. The Student Health and Wellness Center is a perfect resource for students to go if they have been a victim of sexual assault. They help by supplying counseling and therapy as well as any other medical treatment needed. The students can also go to the Title IX office, located in the Student Health and Wellness Center, that “responds to reports of sexual harassment, including sexual violence, as part of its efforts to stop the harassment and prevent its recurrence of possible sex discrimination.” When asked how he felt about Title IX, Bitton said “I think UVU has done a great job in strengthening title IX, [but] one thing that I see lacking is leadership. We need to see more student leadership, more students taking charge to bring awareness to these issues. If we have more students say these things are not ok, then more men will not be afraid to come forward and tell their [sexual assault survivor] stories.” Also, ENCIRCLE, The LGBTQ+ Family & Youth Resource Center, located in Provo, where anyone can for help and support.
When the panel was asked about the available resources for minorities “The Provo police has a great advocacy program and has three amazing women that are Hispanic, who know the culture and speak the language. I think that speaks volumes of where the Provo Police are and who they care about in their community. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of resources for minority specific, [sexual assault] happens to all of us and so [Rape Recovery Center] is for everyone. Many people are trying to better their agencies or organizations by having a bilingual person on their staff. If we don’t know how to help someone, we will research until we find the help they need. We will not let you down,” said, Abraham Hernandez, education program coordinator for Centro Hispano Utah.
This documentary will open anyone who watches it to the problem of sexual violence toward men. We need to educate ourselves and help inform others. It is time to change the taboo of sexual assault against men and listen to their stories.