ONTD Political

'Betrayed': Male sexual assualt victims slam Oscar-nominated filmmakers over focus on women

5:34 pm - 02/09/2013
Thanks to myheyday at ONTD for the original post

Two male rape survivors who appear in "The Invisible War," an Oscar-nominated documentary about military sexual assaults, are criticizing the movie's brief focus on male victims as an ironic snub — and, in a fiery diatribe, one of the film's characters says the director "should be ashamed and embarrassed."

"We're being abandoned by (director) Kirby Dick. The guys feel betrayed," said Michael Matthews, a 20-year Air Force veteran who, in the movie, tells of his 1974 gang rape by three other airmen. The publicity campaign hawking the film — and its Academy Award candidacy — includes a website that shows the faces of six female victims of military sexual assault, and no male survivors of that crime, as well as formal screenings to which only female victims have been asked to attend, Matthews said.

"What the (bleep) is that about? They don't list any of the men on the website. He's making millions of dollars but he's not bringing any of the men to any these appearances all over the country like he's bringing the women," Matthews told NBC News. "I appreciate them putting us in the movie but, now, the men are not being represented at all. He has turned his back on us. And the movie, some of it, is hurting us."

Navy veteran Brian Lewis — who was raped by a male, senior non-commissioned officer in 2000 and then discharged from the Navy shortly after reporting the attack — said he and Matthews are disturbed that the film's fleeting attention on male victims, both on screen and in promotional tactics, symbolizes the way male sex-assault survivors have been marginalized by society and by some lawmakers investigating the issue of rapes within the armed forces. Lewis has a 10-second soundbite in the documentary.

"'The Invisible War' runs for just under two hours (99 minutes) and men received probably a lot less than five minutes. How frustrating would that be?" asked Lewis, 33, who serves on the board of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for service members who have been sexually assaulted by fellow troops.

"You can't really address the problem of military sexual trauma until you include the 56 percent of the victims — the men — and they are being ignored right now," Lewis said

Dick told NBC News he empathizes with both men, and agrees that male rape victims are being "kept in the shadows" by their country, and said Matthews — who had the harshest words for the director — "has been phenomenal in terms of what he contributed to the film, and in terms of his continuing to push the issue forward both for women and especially for men.

"When people come forward to talk about this, there's not just a pain in that moment but there are nightmares afterward for most of these survivors. It's a very painful thing and they talk about it again and again and again. That, really, is true courage. We owe these men a great deal of gratitude for coming forward. These are the true whistle-blowers," Dick said. "I accept the fact that there are certain frustrations. But that is nothing in comparison to what Michael has accomplished and is accomplishing. And if it takes a little emotion to get that out, I'm 100 percent behind it."

Dick acknowledged that he and the movie's female producer purposely devoted the bulk of the screen time to the stories of military women who have been assaulted by men. (He added that the perception he or the producers are earning millions of dollars is "simply not the case.")

"In terms of making the film, we felt the entry point in this discussion was more women being assaulted because we felt it was a discussion that people would start to have," Dick said. "Our essential goal here is to have the military continue to change its policy (on investigating rape reports and disciplining predators) so that all men and women are protected in the military ... We felt that once the country started putting pressure on the military to make these changes, if and when the military does make changes, those will apply to men just as they will women. So we kind of felt women would get the discussion going and push the military to make the change for everyone."

According to Nate Galbreath, senior executive adviser to the U.S. Defense Department's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), a 2010 survey found that 4.4 percent of active-duty women and 0.9 percent of active-duty men "indicated that they experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact in the year prior to being surveyed."

That math equates to about 19,000 sex-offense victims per year inside the armed forces, including about 10,000 men and 9,000 women.

"There's a lot of disappointment in the male survivor community that this keeps being talked about as a 'women's issue,' and it's not," said Susan Burke, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who is spearheading a series of nationwide lawsuits meant to reform the manner in which the military prosecutes rape and sexual assault. She represents male and female military-rape victims.

"From interviewing hundreds of rape and sexual assault survivors, both male and female, there's a persistent pattern by the military in essentially even refusing to accept the allegation, where the chain of command basically says, 'We are not going to even report this.' And that is much more prevalent with the male victims," Burke said. "What I've seen time and time again: a male who comes forward to report rape and sexual assault is accused of being a homosexual."

But according to Dr. Loree Sutton, a psychiatrist and retired Army brigadier general, rapes are not about sex but are instead fueled by aggression and domination The crime is almost an animalistic demonstration that the predator "owns" the prey. Many male-on-male rapes in the military are group attacks. Some involve drugging the victims.

"It's not about gay sex. Typically the predators are heterosexual men who have this need to assert power, control and dominance," Sutton said. "It's similar to the dynamics of what happens with incest — those family bonds, the trust, the loyalty. I mean, in the military, loyalty becomes this huge factor and that is so difficult for men and women to sort out."

She believes that many male victims never report sex assaults committed against them by other male service members often because "in society, people just don't know how to relate to them," and the confusion such survivors face among family or friends — after they eventually open up about their rapes — "can re-open very deep wounds," Sutton said. "It's almost unspeakable."

Matthews, 58, kept the attack against him secret for nearly 30 years before he finally told his wife in 2001. Today, living in New Mexico, has launched an idea for a movie — now in post-production editing — that examines only men's stories of military rape and how those assaults changed those men forever. The title: "Justice Denied."

"These men feel ostracized in our society. Nobody wants to talk about the truth — that most of the rapes in the military (victimize) men. Nobody wants to talk about it," Matthews said.

"How long can they be ignored?"

mdemvizi 9th-Feb-2013 11:45 pm (UTC)
Saw this over at the mothership and the comments were a mess.

Rape is rape. No matter if it is against a man or a woman. Society needs to learn to face the issue fairly for both genders.
glass_houses 9th-Feb-2013 11:56 pm (UTC)
For god's sake, why wouldn't someone wonder about the rapist's sexuality? EVEN THOUGH RAPE IS ABOUT POWER, NOT SEX.

I'm not yelling at you, btw

Edited at 2013-02-09 11:57 pm (UTC)
romp 10th-Feb-2013 12:05 am (UTC)
Perhaps the screenings were supposed to be safe places for the women invited?

The number of men being raped in the military is powerful but saying men are 54% of all the raped service members doesn't erase the fact that women are more than 4 times as likely to be raped in the military as men.
maynardsong 10th-Feb-2013 12:40 am (UTC)
How does that work? If women are 4x likelier to be raped, then 80% of victims would be female, 20% male. Where did 56% come from?

But yes, I agree with you.
maynardsong TW about rape in prison10th-Feb-2013 12:50 am (UTC)
"It's not about gay sex. Typically the predators are heterosexual men who have this need to assert power, control and dominance."

I wish straight men who joke that "LOL I'm good-looking, I can't go to prison cuz there I'll be raped." would take heed of this.

And I wish straight men who worry about being molested by gay men would also take heed of this.
maynardsong 10th-Feb-2013 12:51 am (UTC)
I sympathize completely with these men, but it's still pretty hard to shake off the thought of, "Yeah well now you know what it's like to be a woman in the world at large."
cyberghostface 10th-Feb-2013 01:07 am (UTC)
That's considerate.
cordelia_gray 10th-Feb-2013 12:53 am (UTC)
I wonder if the focus on sexual assault in the military as a 'women's issue' isn't a bit misplaced? Like, it's something that those who oppose women in the armed forces can point to and say "Look! This is why women shouldn't be there! Bad for morale, blah blah blah." Whereas, if the issue was presented more as "military culture needs to take sexual assault more seriously," the focus would be more on the assholes who commit the assaults, and those who cover for them. IDK.
switch_heart 10th-Feb-2013 01:03 am (UTC)
Across the board the flippant attitude towards sexual assault against men and women in the military needs to be looked at.
chasingtides 10th-Feb-2013 12:54 am (UTC)
This is incredibly gross and angry making.
zeonchar 10th-Feb-2013 12:55 am (UTC)
I'm not sure if 56% is accurate. I remember taking sexual assault classes in the military and them touching on this topic and the number being much smaller. I could be wrong, but I'd like to see some backed-up statistics on this.
pleasure_past 10th-Feb-2013 01:28 pm (UTC)
Are you sure you're not mixing up "56% of people sexually assaulted in the military are men," with "56% of men in the military are sexually assaulted"? The former, which is what the article is saying, seems accurate to me.
serendipity_15 10th-Feb-2013 01:01 am (UTC)
Honest question, with all the recent interest and pressure for the military culture to change to make it so that women service members don't have to fear rape and sexual assault from their male counterparts has there actually been much discussion about male victims of sexual assault and rape?
zeonchar 10th-Feb-2013 01:04 am (UTC)
I know from my experience that we definitely talked about it in the military in sexual assault prevention classes.
ebay313 10th-Feb-2013 01:33 am (UTC)
That does seem shitty to me. When women are so much more likely to be sexually assaulted I can understand if someone wants to focus exclusively on women survivor but if that is one's intent, you should be upfront about it and consistent from the beginning. It seems extra fucked up to include them for interviews for the movie, include them in the movie, but then leave them out of the website and not invite them to screenings. It feels very exploitative to me after you get someone to open up and tell that story for your film, and then to turn around and ignore them after you produce the film including their narratives.
bellonia 10th-Feb-2013 01:35 am (UTC)
Sometimes, this is really frustrating because the reason sexual assault activism has gotten this far is on the backs of women. On women who have been sexually assaulted, women who have worked their asses off to try to make the world a safer place for women who are the disgustingly disproportionate number of sexual assault victims.

We did this.

Men need to stand up and make their own communities and make their own points heard without disrespecting women.

I'm not saying that women's sexual assault activism needs to forget men but men need to stop acting like we should do all the fucking work while they get free rides. /bitter.
mollywobbles867 10th-Feb-2013 01:38 am (UTC)
I couldn't put my finger on what was bothering me about this, but this comment sums it up nicely.
encircleme 10th-Feb-2013 02:32 am (UTC)
way to contribute to the discussion and not be gross. good job, you!
redstar826 10th-Feb-2013 01:38 am (UTC)
seems to me like they either need a more even focus, or they needed to make a film that focused specifically on women only. Having these guys be a part of this only to give them so little attention overall seems like a poor way of handling it.
natyanayaki 10th-Feb-2013 03:54 am (UTC)
I agree, or maybe they needed to be clearer about the focus of the film during the interviews.
underlankers 10th-Feb-2013 02:00 am (UTC)
On the whole rape in the armed forces is the kind of topic that in general would require a delicate approach due to being a minefield of a sort in ways that in an ideal world it would not be. On the other hand I think that one of the biggest problems is that rape and sexual assault in general target people who are vulnerable, with women being disproportionately targeted. So there's the balance between veracity and needing to publicize an area where sexual assaults are in any event already underreported as it is for men as much as they are for women.
anamatics 10th-Feb-2013 02:32 am (UTC)
While I understand these guys and greatly sympathize with them, I don't think that they're asking the right question. They're asking what can be read as a 'won't someone think of us and our plight' instead of a question of 'why is it that it is easier to make a documentary about female sexual assault in the military as opposed to men?' Their actions in this particular moment serve as a detriment to the film as a whole, which is helping to raise awareness of a large and widespread issue within the military.

that said: all victims are entitled to their stories being told - men are raped just as women are raped just as those who do not identify with either gender are raped. Rape should not be erased just because of your plumbing.
darth_eldritch 10th-Feb-2013 03:32 am (UTC)
Well said on all points.
mimblexwimble 10th-Feb-2013 03:02 am (UTC)
"Nobody wants to talk about the truth — that most of the rapes in the military (victimize) men."

... what?
jadehunter 10th-Feb-2013 03:25 am (UTC)
I think he said it badly, but I get his meaning. Women have a higher chance of being raped and the percentage of women being raped is higher, but because men outnumber women so much in the military, the actual raw number of men who get raped would be bigger than the number of women who get raped.
redstar826 10th-Feb-2013 03:43 am (UTC)
He's making millions of dollars

As far as I can tell, that is not true at all.

Domestic gross as of Feb 7, 2013: $65,171

I wonder, of the people who were featured in this film, how many appeared at promotional events. I doubt their budget for bringing people in for events was very big.

Edited at 2013-02-10 03:43 am (UTC)
recorded 10th-Feb-2013 03:48 am (UTC)
It's pretty ridiculous that this film is not in that many theaters. I'm not surprised, but it's sad.
recorded 10th-Feb-2013 03:47 am (UTC)
For reference: mothership post
silver_apples 10th-Feb-2013 04:42 am (UTC)
All victims deserve to be heard, and all rapists deserve jail at the very least. The crime should always be taken seriously, and the victim treated with respect. That said, the arguments in this article sound an awful lot like the "what about the mens?" posts that often derail the discussions about violence against women. I had to remind myself that these are survivors with a justifiable objection to how their stories are being treated, and not someone trying to argue that women don't deserve justice and safety because men face the same dangers.
maynardsong 10th-Feb-2013 05:57 am (UTC)
Exactly this.
kishmet 10th-Feb-2013 06:09 am (UTC)

This is a really difficult post for me because I flipped from "yeah I totally get what they're saying" to "oh good 'what about the menz?' logic" and then back to the first thought again

Men do need to form their own networks to take care of survivors but at the same time men, like women, are most likely to be assaulted by a man. It's not... quite the same as with women because as far as I've seen even women who haven't been assaulted have this fundamental understanding of the constant fear, the being on alert all the time, whereas other guys don't have that and so it's up to survivors only (for the most part) to form that network.

And then those survivors have to deal with other men all the time to get help even if those other men happen to be survivors also, but obviously we can't force women's groups to accept male victims for the same reason.

After what happened to me I did have to lean very heavily on the women in my life though. Like I said, there's that fundamental understanding that's lacking in most guys, even men like my father who try to empathize. That said I think it's possible for men to take the lead on this and that seems to be what Matthews is trying to do with a movie of his own. I'm a touch leery about that if only because I don't want it to underplay sexual assault against women in the military. Idk
zinnia_rose 11th-Feb-2013 05:43 am (UTC)
This is a good comment. (I'm sorry you were assaulted, though.)
sunhawk 10th-Feb-2013 07:47 am (UTC)
So much of the wording of this article and the people they quoted makes me wince *sigh*

Male sexual assualt victims slam Oscar-nominated filmmakers over focus on women

Just the title alone sets up a confrontation between men and women about rape, it suggests that everything the men who contributed their stories about dealing with rape say about wanting to be included more in the film and promotional events is to be framed in a "why did you focus on women??" light. As far as what was actually quoted by the men who felt betrayed, they didn't actually say there was anything wrong with focusing on women, just that they felt the ratio of attention and focus was unfair due to sheer numbers. And this line: "There's a lot of disappointment in the male survivor community that this keeps being talked about as a 'women's issue,' and it's not," said Susan Burke

If she had just said "It's not only a woman's issue" then this article would probably not make me half as uncomfortable as it currently does. Rape, overall, IS very much a woman's issue because it overwhelmingly affects women more than men. The US military is one of a few unique situations that creates opportunities (argh I want a better word because opportunities sounds positive and that's not what I mean, but I can't think of a better one) for men to be raped that are just not representative of the rest of society, due to the lack of women around if nothing else. This is absolutely NOT to say that the issue of men being raped by other men in the military should be ignored or not addressed and dismantled, let me be clear. But I do think in regards to discussing all the issues related to the rape of men versus the rape of women, to try to cover both in just two hours is going to do a disservice to both genders, as the differences and different issues for each gender are complex and require lots of background and discussions. Can the medium of a mass-marketed movie address the issues accurately without succumbing to the pressures to "Hollywood"-ize the movie, in terms of editting to create drama, tug heartstrings in a black and white way, etc? I think the best that can be hoped for is to start a discussion and attempt to get people thinking about it, but to also accept that it's going to be a shallow interpretation at best.

I mean, even in this article that has an opportunity to get more in-depth, there is no analysis of why women are the main focus, both from the point of view of those coming from a feminism position and also, to add more confusion, that at the same time misogynistic elements do also play out in terms of media of this type tends to pick female survivors who are a certain level of attractive and socially-acceptable, the lady chosen for the movie poster alone is a good example of this. I know it's not the focus of the article but it's still has to do with who was focused on in this movie and why.

I mostly get the feeling that everyone mentioned or involved in this project has good intentions but the way it's all come together has resulted in something of a hot mess, which is hardly surprising as many attempts to discuss rape end up going wrong despite the best of intentions.
maenads_dance 10th-Feb-2013 09:43 am (UTC)
I get that this is a heated topic. I know those of us who are survivors here are going to have different opinions and reactions to this article. But I would please ask that people refrain from mentioning how glad they are to hear that male rape victims/survivors now have some perspective on what it's like to be a woman - that's disgusting. It's almost saying that it's good these men were raped because now they "get it" - and that's horrible. It is never good that people are raped. I would never wish it on anyone, and I cannot fathom being glad in any sense or to any degree that people would suffer what I have. How is it any different than wishing that a rapist be raped in prison? We don't accept that sentiment in this community, do we?

Edit: Also, while I agree that it is completely fair to say that there are issues specific to women and their experiences when we're talking about being a victim of rape, there are also issues specific to men, particularly the incredible homophobia that men face if they want to press charges against their attackers. We come perilously close to erasing that homophobia when we say that men need to "make their own communities" - are we so unkind that we cannot share the wisdom and resources that we have, to the best of our abilities, with male survivors who have the courage to speak out? Are we so spiritually impoverished that we cannot confront homophobia in the military as a license to rape alongside misogyny?

Edited at 2013-02-10 09:46 am (UTC)
muizenstaartje 10th-Feb-2013 11:17 am (UTC)
I think some people are referring to having your experiences and the problems you're facing been glossed over and set aside as unimportant and trivial when they talk about "now they know what's it like to be a woman" and not rape. It doesn't make a bad treatment right, though. It's sad that apparently instead of improving, these matters are spreading among men too. It's not something to be glad about.
piperchicki 10th-Feb-2013 05:32 pm (UTC)
*gah* yes. yes I did.
noneko 11th-Feb-2013 04:00 pm (UTC)
4.4 percent of active-duty women and 0.9 percent of active-duty men "indicated that they experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact in the year prior to being surveyed.

Yeah I don't believe for a second that only 4.4% of women in the military have been assaulted/raped. Isn't the statistic more like 1 in 3 women once they account for those that haven't been reported?
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