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Sexual assaults on gay and bisexual men: Barriers to reporting to the police

Sexual assault is a matter of public concern that affects many individuals globally, regardless of their gender and sexual orientation. With many survivors of sexual assaults choosing not to report their victimisation to police, it appears that prevalence rates based on reports made to the police represent only a fraction of the actual occurrence of assaults. This is especially the case where assaults on gay and bisexual men are concerned. This study examined the barriers gay and bisexual male survivors of sexual assaults face in reporting their victimisation to the police. This study aimed to address a lack in New Zealand based research on the topic and develop an overall representation of the various barriers these survivors may encounter, as well as solutions for their reduction. This was achieved by conducting semi-structured interviews with six service providers functioning as key informants and four gay/bisexual male survivors of sexual assault. Interviews were recorded and transcribed for thematic analysis. The qualitative software NVivo was used to allow for the development and organisation of themes and subthemes from the interview data collected. Four themes were identified pertaining to barriers: personal, social, institutional, and abuse-specific. Personal and social barriers were more readily recognised than those within the institutional and abuse-specific themes. A fifth theme, the reduction theme, emerged in relation to suggestions for decreasing barriers. The following eight barrier areas were identified within the personal barrier theme: defence mechanisms, cognitive mindset, revisiting, knowledge, emotions, privacy/confidentiality, past experience, and mental health. The social theme consisted of nine barrier areas: family, queer community, support, culture and religion, homosexuality and gender, myths, judgement, homophobia and prejudice, and location and environment. Seven barrier areas were identified within the institutional theme: poor responses, services and counselling, cons to reporting, the law, court dynamics, limitations, and police. The abuse-specific barrier theme consisted of nine barrier areas: time, need for proof, victim-perpetrator relationship, age, drugs and alcohol, disclosure of details, consent issues, report scrutiny, and labelling and defining. Finally, six areas were identified pertaining to the reduction of barriers: services, youth, police, information, reporting process, and societal attitudes. Many of the suggestions for reduction methods, such as increasing police training and services offered within the queer community, were seen to be beneficial, yet they may still be subject to various difficulties in their implementation, such as funding concerns. Queer-specific barrier aspects were deemed important to account for in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of the topic. Various linkages between barriers also emerged, effectively making a decision to report to the police even harder for survivors. A case study based on one of the survivors interviewed helped to illustrate this complex weaving of barriers. Further research is needed to examine these barriers on deeper levels, particularly in terms of addressing any differences between youth and adult survivors. The results of this study serve as the first step in developing the foundation to bring information on this topic to the forefront of New Zealand research in the area.
Type of thesis
Patlakas, P. (2013). Sexual assaults on gay and bisexual men: Barriers to reporting to the police (Thesis, Master of Science (MSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8471
University of Waikato
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