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Breaking the wall of silence around male rape

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Published on 10 January 2019

Breaking the silence around male rape
Breaking the silence around male rape

The devastating impact male rape has on its victims has been captured as part of a series of powerful short films created by University of Sunderland students aimed at raising awareness of this hidden crime.

Northumbria Police and SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) were looking at ways to raise awareness and support males who find themselves the victims of a sexual crime, which remains undisclosed in many cases, with fewer than one in 10 male rapes reported, according to research.

This is the sixth year that Sunderland students have been funded bythe Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Dame Vera Baird to collaborate with Northumbria Police inraising awareness about an issue impacting on society, other successful projects have addressed issues such as modern-day slavery, the capacity to consent, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, and cyber-crime.

But this year’s theme has proved the toughest assignment yet for final year students from the Performing Arts  and Media Production degree courses, who researched, scripted, devised, filmed and edited all of the three films themselves. Their work will be showcased during an awards ceremony at the David Puttnam Media Centre, Sir Tom Cowie Campus, at St Peter’s on January 24.

Adelle Hulsmeier, Lecturer in Drama and Performing Arts at the University of Sunderland said: "While all the topics we’ve dealt with over the last six years have been harrowing, this year’s theme has been one of the hardest they’ve had to tackle, but they’ve shown so much professionalism that we’ve been continuously impressed with the mature and high standard of work they have produced.”

The brief was to capture three facets of the crime – a historic rape case, a rape in a heterosexual setting and an attack on a victim with a disability. The students then devised a piece of drama suitable for use as an awareness DVD in order to be used as an educational or training tool for the Police and specialists, and to promote awareness of this issue further afield. Specialist staff from SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) were involved in overseeing the content for accuracy.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC, said:These films do a fantastic job at challenging the silence of an all too often taboo subject. Rape of anyone – whatever their gender or sexuality is a terrifying ordeal and one that can havea profound effect on its victims. Men are notoriously reticent at reporting and we want to use all possible means to encourage them to do so.I want to thank all the students involved in this project.”

Adelle added: “It has been great to work with Northumbria Police once again for the sixth year. We are grateful for the Commissioner’s funding which hasmeant the students have been able to deliver highquality films.

“They have been working with Northumbria Police, the SARC team and Sunderland councillors; it’s this input from specialists which has been really helpful and has meant the students have had lots of different voices to inform their work and highlight the issue of male rape.

“The events have been captured in flashbacks or intrusive thoughts, there’s a non-disclosure from the victim, but we know as an audience what has happened because we have been taken on that journey. It demonstrates how difficult it is for the victim to verbalise what has they’ve experienced.”

All three entries will be judged by a panel from Northumbria Police and the winner unveiled during a ceremony attended by Dame Vera Baird.

Daga Dygas, Director of Power, Stage three Media Production student, said: "The experience of working with the police in this module has given me the opportunity to work with a difficult topic, supported by people with valuable experience in this field who helped with the research and shaping of the final film so it could be true to reality. To be able to direct the film, it was vital for me to build the characters in a way that is not only dramatic, but also corresponds with reality.

"The meetings with SARC staff, who shared case studies with us, were very helpful in understanding and building the main character."

James Vardy, Director of Talk to Me, Stage Three Media Production, said: "It’s been a fantastic experience working on making this film. Despite numerous setbacks within production, the stress, the late nights; the knowledge that this film could have some serious impact.

"It’s impossible to ignore the developing social awareness mental health has seen in recent years and I think raising awareness around these stigmatised issues is important to developing our humanity and our understanding of one another. People try their best to continue as normal, but there is no escaping the constant reminder of an experience as traumatic as rape. To be able to get people thinking and talking about how an ordeal such as this can affect men is the only way we can remove the stigma around male rape. It is not a joke, this is a seriously life-changing event for the victims.

"There are people silently suffering; feeling ashamed of themselves, sinking into depression, because of circumstances out of their control. With our film I wanted to portray the victims who do not speak out about it but instead act upon it, acting out of character, lashing out etc. Not limiting our focus to just a victim’s perspective, I also wanted to touch on how the implications of such a traumatic experience can affect those closest to victims. The silence of these victims is a problem, and they need to feel that they are not alone in their trauma. I hope this film can help raise awareness and bring victims reassurance that they are not alone.”

Troy Wilkinson, Producer of Talk to Me (Stage Three Media Production), said: "The added pressure put onto us with a very professional brief and client pushed us to work harder than we have before, the experience working with a subject matter like this has let us as a team work as a more professional unit."