Title page for ETD etd-05282008-125949

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Hellmann, Bryan Dov
Email bryan_hellmann@yahoo.com
URN etd-05282008-125949
Document Title A social constructionist exploration of male law enforcement officers’ attitudes towards male rape
Degree MA (Clinical Psychology)
Department Psychology
Advisor Name Title
Prof J B Schoeman Supervisor
  • male law enforcement officers
  • SAPS (South African Police Service)
  • male rape victims
  • social constructs
  • gender stereotypes
  • gender identity
  • stigma and shame
  • social constructionism
  • violence against men
Date 2006-05-08
Availability unrestricted
Rape is a serious highly prevalent crime committed every day around the world, and affects both men and women. Rape victims must report the incidence to the police, and often the police they report to are male law enforcement officers. Yet many people in South Africa, including male law enforcement officers, do not fully accept that males can be and are victims of rape. So far there has been significantly little research into the reporting of male rape.

Thus a qualitative research study on the attitudes of male law enforcement officers towards male rape victims was conducted. Social constructionism was taken as a theoretical starting point to the formal literature. The formal literature itself deals with male rape, how it is perceived, understood and misunderstood by society at large and specifically, by male law enforcement officers. The myths and truths, as well as stigmas associated with male rape are also explored. The impact of gender issues such as gender identity, gender roles and gender stereotypes are explored in-depth as they contribute to attitudes held by male law enforcement officers.

Six male law enforcement officers from a Johannesburg police station participated in this study. Every one of them had had a certain amount of experience in the SAPS dealing with rape and rape victims. The researcher identified themes dealing with male rape victims from the literature, and interviewed the participants according to these themes using a semi-structured and structured format. The interviews were coded and analysed in a manner that allowed the themes, which were informed by the literature, to surface from the interview data itself. This is consistent with the qualitative tradition of psychological research.

It was found that, male law enforcement officers’ attitudes towards male rape victims influence the way they think about and perceive these victims. It is very likely that this influence has a negative impact on the psychological well being of the male rape victim. It was also found that many male rape victims do not report their victimisation to the police as they fear they will not be taken seriously, they will be laughed at or even ridiculed. The law enforcement officers confirm that the stigma and shame of male rape victims compound their experience, making it traumatic and nearly impossible for them to process.

The researcher believes that a change in these attitudes can lead to a change in the way male rape victims are perceived and treated by law enforcement officers, as well as by society as a whole. Further study into the role of cultural beliefs concerning masculinity and gender roles in the South African context can contribute to a better understanding of the phenomenon of male rape, and can be integrated into the current intervention models used to treat these victims.

© University of Pretoria 2005

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