On Being Raped
Raymond M. Douglas
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A personal and moral inquiry into the crime we do our best to ignore: the rape of adult men
When Raymond M. Douglas was an eighteen-year-old living in Europe, he was brutally raped by a Catholic priest. He eventually moved to the United States and became a highly regarded historian, writing with great care about the violent expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe after the Second World War, and parsing the complicated moral questions of these actions. But until now, Douglas has been silent about his own experience of trauma.
In On Being Raped, Douglas recounts this painful event and his later attempts to seek help to lay bare the physical and psychological trauma of a crime we still don’t openly discuss: the rape of adult men by men. With eloquence and passion, he examines the requirements society implicitly places upon men who are victims of rape, examines the reasons for our resounding silence around this issue, and reveals how alarmingly prevalent this kind of sexual violence truly is.
An insightful and sensitive analysis of a type of bodily violation that we either joke about or ignore, On Being Raped promises to open an important dialogue about male rape and what needs to be done to provide adequate services and support for victims. “But before that can happen,” writes Douglas, “men who have been raped will have to come out of the shadows...A start has to be made somewhere. This is my attempt at one.”
were some dark issues in my past that had been and were likely always to be troublesome; that I would probably never be able to talk about them; and that if I were to become quiet and withdrawn from time to time, this would be the reason. That formula, I know, left much to be desired. Starting a marriage with secrets kept from one’s spouse is never a good idea. It was in some ways unfair to her, as it withheld the information necessary for her to assess just how big a problem she might be taking
of the experience: a measure, however inadequate, of tolerance for the failings of others. Before this happened, I had all the makings of a fine young prig, with a highly developed and thoroughly inflexible sense of rectitude. Afterward, my moral compass may not have shifted dramatically, but I became far more conscious of everyone’s need, and especially my own, for forgiveness rather than righteousness. When I do stand before the judgment seat of God, the only thing I expect to have to say, and
quiet life ahead of the welfare of their flocks—theirs is a heavy responsibility, for which one day they will have to answer. So must the regrettably large number of those persons who, through minimization of the crimes, marginalization of the injured, and exercise of a preferential option for the perpetrators, lend themselves to the ongoing process of revictimization. Closure is not to be obtained by contemptuously tossing the contents of the collection basket in the direction of the minority of
Rape (New Delhi: Northern Book Centre, 1987), 3; Observatoire national de la délinquance et de réponses pénales, “Criminalité et délinquance enregistrées en 2009: Les faits constatés par les services de police et les unités de gendarmerie,” Bulletin pour l’année 2009, January 2010, 9, http://www.memoiretraumatique.org/assets/files/Documents-pdf/Bulletin_annuel_2009_Observatoire-national-de-la-delinquance_ONDRP.pdf; (Germany) G. Schulz, Die Notzucht: Täter-Opfer-Situationen (Hamburg: Verlag für
different? “Well, it happened to me” hardly seems like a compelling justification for banging on about it. No bore like a rape bore. But there’s the difficulty. My rape, in all important respects like everybody else’s, fits every pattern but my own. Since it happened, I’ve been trying to find a slot for it in my biography, with clearly marked boundaries like all the other highlights (birth, school years, first job, rape, university, grad school . . .). But it refuses to stay there. Even today