Why male GBV survivors don't speak up

Men who have suffered sexual and gender-based violence rarely report abuse.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Harriett Chigai, the president’s advisor on women’s rights, recently revealed an increase in abuse of men of all ages.
  • She also registered concerns about under-reporting of sodomy amongst young boys.

Men who experience sexual and gender-based (SGBV) violence rarely report abuse.

On a recent tour of SGBV facilities, Harriett Chigai, President William Ruto’s advisor on women’s rights, revealed an increase in abuse of men of all ages.

She also registered concerns about under-reporting of sodomy amongst young boys.

In a collaborative forum convened by the Coalition on Violence Against Women (Covaw) last Friday, male paralegals shared their insights into why male SGBV survivors rarely speak up.

Sammy Kipunyi, a paralegal based in Mathare, Nairobi, said patriarchal beliefs make it difficult for men to report abuse to local authorities.

“A lot of men get beaten by their partners but cannot even approach community cluster leaders. There is a huge chance that the local chief will even laugh in your face when you reveal that you were beaten by your wife,” Mr Kipunyi said.

Insensitive officers

He also complained about insensitive police officers. “We are always told of programmes like Policare and hear that police officers have been trained in gender-based violence, but we always wonder, where are those who were trained? As men, we are unable to come forward because the police officers manning those desks are dismissive!”

Stephen Waweru, another paralegal, said society holds men in high regard to an extent that they feel ashamed to report assault at the hands of women. “How can a man go to court and report that his wife beats him up when there are so many people in the courtroom who can see his shame?” 

Mr Waweru also believes that while countless civil society organisations and government programmes aim to eradicate SGBV amongst women and girls, none focuses on men.

“Women’s nature allows them to even share with friends and families when their partners are abusive, but men rarely do so. Who will you even tell? Most organisations only fight for the rights of women and girls. For some that are exclusively for men, the same men don’t even engage or support them,” Mr Waweru said.

When asked why they don’t participate in community engagement forums to speak out against SGBV against men, Mr Kipunyi explained that men being family breadwinners, they cannot spare time to attend the meetings.

Media blackout

John Kamau, also a paralegal, blamed the media for not highlighting violence against men. He said this suppresses men's experiences.

“When covering GBV cases, there is a bias that women’s cases are more superior to men’s. Although there are more women’s cases, when men’s cases are highlighted, they should carry equal weight and attention. This will encourage men to speak up about abuse,” Mr Kamau said.

To encourage more men to report SGBV when they experience it, the paralegals would like society to change norms that socialise men into thinking that they are superior to women.

“In an ideal environment like in the United States, Hollywood actor Johnny Depp could come out and expose the abuse he had been experiencing. But we can’t do the same because of how we are raised. Our society believes men should be strong. Let us lower our ego and come out,” Mr Kipunyi advised.

They also expressed interest in forming organisations that champion men’s rights.

“Men are waiting for outsiders to come and assist them, but we should come together and advocate against SGBV. It is very hard to find men having a discussion on their own development. We need to come out strongly and advocate our interests,” said Mr Samson Ndung’u, a paralegal.


You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.