Trigger warning for rape and spoilers for the February 2nd episode of Private Practice.
The hospital drama Private Practice has broken new ground for the representation of male survivors on television: they are the very first show on television to depict a male soldier who has survived rape.
I felt the portrayal of a male survivor was remarkably sensitive, possibly because the creators worked with RAINN to make sure that their representation was as accurate as possible. Many of the people around the soldier in question were not supportive: his wife asks whether he was held down and gang-raped, why, if he’s a soldier, he couldn’t have fought back, and whether he was gay; even his doctor is weirded out by having to help a male survivor instead of a female survivor. The survivor himself felt shame about his inability to resist and like his masculinity had been put into question; he asked his doctor whether the doctor could leave him quiet.
Of course, the “freeze” response is an extremely common response to trauma. The body has roughly three responses to trauma situations based on what it thinks has the best chance of survival: “fight,” which involves conquering the situation; “flight,” which involves getting away from the situation, and “freeze,” which involves shutting down and waiting for the threat to pass. (Some people think there are five.) Many rape survivors freeze, and it doesn’t mean they wanted it; it means their bodies decided that freezing would work better than fighting or fleeing to survive the situation. And it worked. They survived.
Unfortunately, this intersects really badly with masculinity. Because that survivor was a man– and even worse, he was a soldier. He should have been able to fight him off. He should have been able to beat him up, instead of freezing. Because that’s what men and soldiers do.
I applaud ABC and the writers at Private Practice for their show, which shows not only THAT men can be raped but many of the problems which men can experience due to being raped.
If you are reading this and are a military survivor of rape, there is help. The Department of Defense Safe Helpline, run by RAINN, is available online or on the phone, 24/7 and 100% confidential.
The show is here, embedded via Hulu. My apologies if you are in a country that doesn’t have Hulu. Trigger warning for rape, rape apologism, an explicitly depicted suicide, gruesome injuries, and possibly things that Ozy didn’t see because zie was not paying a whole lot of attention to the non-rape-survivor bits of this episode.