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Saturday 12 November 2016

A complex question: Why aren't we speaking up?

Posted in: Health & HIV
By staff - 28th July 2013

Waikato University Master’s Thesis candidate Peter Patlakas has looked at barriers gay and bisexual men face in reporting sexual assaults to police. He tells us about why he has uncovered.

What made you decide to write your thesis on this topic?

I had previously been in a relationship with a male survivor of sexual abuse. He had never reported his abuse to the police, and I never really understood why he never took such steps. Looking at the research currently available on why gay and bisexual men tend not to report sexual assault experiences to the police, very little existed in terms of offering an answer. Most of the material available focused on why men, in general, may not report, and failed to account for any differences in barriers gay and bisexual men may face as a collective group. In particular, there was very little information present that included any form of a New Zealand perspective. I wanted to expand further on the question of why these men do not report to the police, and bring forth the importance of such a topic to New Zealand research in hopes of better understanding the issues at hand to allow for increased focus on reducing barriers present and increasing reporting.

What are your key findings?

In general, I found that barriers to reporting sexual assaults for gay and bisexual men fell into four separate themes: personal, social, institution, and abuse-specific. The social theme was the area that most participants focused on, and included topics such as family, queer community, and myths. Topics in the personal theme were also quite often discussed, and included areas such as privacy/confidentiality, defence mechanisms, and mental health. The abuse-specific theme focused on areas related to the specifics of the abuse itself, such as drugs and alcohol, victim-perpetrator relationship, and consent issues. Finally, the institutional theme, which was not talked about as often yet still held valuable information, focused on topics such as the law, court dynamics, and the police. My research also identified some possibilities for ways to reduce barriers currently in existence. These included suggestions such as increasing police training and services within the queer community and furthering information on the topic to the public.

What are your conclusions?

My thesis does not give a complete solution to the problem of sexual abuse under-reporting for gay and bisexual men, but allows for the development of a foundation for an understanding of the many barriers these men can face. All survivors are individuals, and each survivor will have their own personal experience with barriers to reporting. These experiences will tend to involve more than one barrier, and these barriers will often be linked together making the challenges in reporting even more complex.

Your recommendations going forward?

Further research should examine the barriers discussed and work towards implementing ways that would allow for a lesser chance of survivors encountering these barriers in their decision to report to the police. I feel that this future work should also make room for an understanding of the differences in how these barriers are experienced for gay and bisexual youth versus adult survivors. We know that sexual assault is affecting gay and bisexual men within New Zealand, and it is now time to increase our efforts in addressing this and supporting survivors in making a decision to report to the police. staff - 28th July 2013

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