by Raymond M. Douglas
Beacon Press, 2016
Review by Christian Perring on Jul 5th 2016
In this slim volume, Ray Douglas describes his rape when he was 18 by a priest and the effect it had on his life. He is a grown man now, married, and living in the US, although he never directly reveals where he lives now or where he grew up. His webpage reveals he grew up in in Ireland and now teaches at Colgate University. His style here is simple and direct, although he is circumspect with some details. The first two chapters provide the context and describe the rape and Douglas's immediate reactions. The third describes how he processed the event afterwards, and his attempts to report the rape to the church. He reported the rape to several authorities but given the time period, several decades ago, there was no effort to bring a prosecution or even prevent the priest from repeating his crime. This is not surprising what we now know about the systemic cover up of abuse in the Catholic Church, but it is still shocking. Douglas then explores in the rest of the book larger issues of what the effects of the rape were on his subsequent life, and how the world reacts to male rape. He found that when he eventually sought help from mental health professionals and rape counselors, they brought unwarranted theoretical assumptions to their responses and had a hard time just listening and accepting what he had to say about his experience. He experienced mental distress for years, and could not sleep without the light on. Professionals were not able to help him and he did not know how to help himself. In some of the richest theoretical parts of the book, he explains that he didn't have the vocabulary to describe what happened to him. He certainly found it very difficult to talk about his experience, and attributes this to the 'cult of masculine stoicism that is encouraged, if not enforced, across the social and sexual spectrum.' Douglas didn't even date until he was in his thirties, but he eventually found a partner, and he has married and had a child. But he is still affected by the rape and his discussion of what recovery might mean is especially interesting. He doubts that all rape victims can ever get over their experiences, but they will benefit from compassion and understanding. Anger is a major part of coming to terms with the rape but Douglas reports that he did not want revenge. Douglas is still a Christian, and indeed a Catholic, so he considers forgiveness, but finds that it is beyond him, especially since his attacker has never confessed or shown contrition. He ends the book with a more general discussion of how male on male rape is a significant social problem that hardly ever gets proper discussion or acknowledgement.
An Amazon search reveals the paucity of books on male on male rape, so On Being Raped is especially welcome as a resource. The book is well written and thoughtful. Rape is a subject that is painful to discuss and hard to consider calmly. The rape of women has been discussed at length and there have been some important books on the topic, such asSusan Brison's Aftermath. Only this month, the eloquent statement to the court addressed to her attacker by a woman who was raped got a good deal of press coverage, largely because of the short sentence given to her rapist. These are issues we still struggle with as a society, and Douglas has added significantly to the dialog.
© 2016 Christian Perring
Christian Perring lives in New York and is currently reconsidering his optons.