by Heather Cassell
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and Community United Against Violence last week launched "Men Surviving Rape," a social marketing campaign to bring awareness to the increasing incidents of man-on-man sexual assault.
Recently, CUAV released a report that showed incidents of gay and bisexual male rapes had doubled in 2006. At a news conference on the steps of City Hall on June 20, Police Chief Heather Fong announced that there were 18 reported incidents of male-on-male rape citywide since the beginning of 2007, and 58 cases of reported male-on-male rape citywide in 2006.
"It's an issue that I have been thinking about and concerned about for a long time," said Harris about the campaign and the rise in reported rape cases against gay men. "The worst is to feel alone when people have been assaulted Our hope is that we will encourage more people to report when they've been victimized."
A series of multilingual posters in English, Spanish, and Cantonese, featuring African American, Latino, Asian, and white men with captions, "I thought he was a great guy until he raped me" and "You are not alone" could be seen beginning Pride weekend on Muni buses around the city.
The campaign is the first of its kind in the nation to be led by a district attorney's office, according to a news release from Harris. According to Tim Silard, chief of policy at the district attorney's office, the office contributed $10,000 to the campaign. Additionally, Harris developed an LGBT unit in the victim services division of the district attorney's office and recruited sexual assault experts Martine Barbier, a lesbian, and David Fujimoto, a gay man, to handle cases.
"I see this as another healing step from these incidents and I hope that an individual who has been affected by rape knows that the city cares and wants to help," said Dufty.
Mark Welsh, who reported that he was raped in the Castro last fall, doesn't believe that enough is being done. Welsh spoke out at the news conference about his concerns and about the reported incidents Fong announced, saying that the community wasn't aware of them.
As previously reported in the Bay Area Reporter, Welsh did not immediately disclose being raped to either the hospital staff or police. It was not until two days later that he reported the incident to police and it was three days later before he returned to the hospital to be checked for sexually transmitted diseases and to begin post-exposure treatment for HIV. He also drove himself home after the incident and showered, discarding evidence from the assault. He told the B.A.R. last fall that he wanted to share his story to help other victims.
Responding to Welsh's concerns, Fong said last week that a map showing the locations and times of reported sexual assaults would break the incidents down by gender and be available on the SFPD Web site this week.
"There is certainly an important lesson that if such a crime occurs against you, you've got to preserve evidence in order to maximize the potential for convicting," said Dufty, who commended Welsh for his courage to speak openly about the reported attack against him. "Incidents of gay male rape are very underreported. It's important that people know that if they are a survivor of rape the district attorney and law enforcement takes this seriously."
Tina D'Elia, hate violence survivor program director of CUAV added, "San Francisco is saying we believe you, we want to help you, we are here for you."
Janet Upadhye, development director of San Francisco Women Against Rape, the city's primary rape crisis center that assists male, transgender, and female survivors of rape and sexual assault, hopes that people will see the posters and know that "they are not alone and that there is something that they can do about it."
For more information, visit www.mensurvivingrape.org or www.mystrength.org. CUAV's 24-hour bilingual hotline is (415) 333-4357; San Francisco Women Against Rape operates a hotline at (415) 647-7273.