If we talk about it more, maybe it will happen less. So despite the numerous blogs and opinion columns about the Delhi gang rape and other recent events regarding sexual assault and abuse, here is another one.
“Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady. Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect,” said Manohar Lal Sharma, attorney of the men who brutally raped and killed the woman in Delhi.
“I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something, if someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case… The victim in this case, although not necessarily willing, she didn’t put up a fight,” said American Judge Derek Johnson during a rape trial where he was the justice.
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child,” Republican representative Todd Akin told KTVI-TV, on his views about abortion.
“Only five to six people are not the culprits. The victim is as guilty as her rapists. She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop. This could have saved her dignity and life. Can one hand clap? I don’t think so,” proclaimed ‘spiritual guru’ Asaram Bapu.
Jyoti Singh took the bus home with her friend. That is the extent of her actions, and unfortunately that was enough for a group of men to decide she needed to be brutally raped by all of them and a metal rod. Days later, Jyoti was dead and the men who inflicted these atrocities onto her have a lawyer who says she wasn’t “respected” enough to not be raped. After all, if she had been respected enough, they would have never even thought about destroying her in every way possible.
Unfortunately, like many women and girls before me, I have been told to be careful, not dress provocatively and not drink too much. Many women despair at these instructions, saying it encourages rape culture and the idea that men are incapable of controlling their sexual urges. Though this is true, I am inclined to think that if men aren’t being taught not to rape, at least a chunk of these advices we are told as young women are true. We shouldn’t change the way we dress but, for the time being, we should take care of each other and watch for people who might have malicious intentions. Just like anyone who doesn’t want to be mugged, we should be careful not to place ourselves in danger.
But this will never mean that rape is the woman’s fault. Ever. For some reason, this seems like a complicated and complex idea to some. Even if a woman is walking down a dark alley in a short skirt and she is sexually abused, it will never, ever be her fault. The decision to use force and violence was that of rapist’s, no one else’s. Phrases like “respected lady”, “legitimate rape” and “she didn’t put up a fight” are part of a culture of rape and victim-blaming that most people I know and read are sick of hearing about.
What seems so hard to understand is that it doesn’t matter what we are wearing, where we are, if we are respected or if we are taking a bus home or walking home. If the rapist wants to rape, he will do it. And no matter what the woman does, even if she doesn’t fight back – it’s still rape and it’s still the rapist’s fault.
It’s pretty simple. So this is to the Todd Akins out there: No means no. Rape is forced, non-consensual sex. It’s traumatizing and incredibly damaging. We’re allowed to do with our bodies as we please, not as you please. Our reproductive systems do not have a magical way to protect ourselves from rape – and even if they did. rape would still be atrocious and wrong. You do not own your girlfriend or wife and you cannot have sex with her even if she doesn’t want to. We are told to be careful because you’re not told not to rape, and you should be.
If you are reading this and you think this isn’t a problem where you live, or that the people in your country know better, think again. In one of her engaging and well-written blogs for the Daily Mirror, Fleet Street Fox pointed out that last year a total of 23,582 rapes were reported in India, which means that every 20 minutes a woman is raped in India. She then goes on to say that the UK is no better, with one rape taking place every 40 minutes. According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 54% of rapes and sexual assaults are not reported to the police in the US. Putting this figure together with that of reported rapes that rarely get prosecuted (only about 9% ever make it to court), only about 3% of rapists ever serve a day in an American jail (statistics as early as 2010).
We have to ask ourselves why that is. We have to stop pretending this isn’t a problem and that it’s somehow getting better with the times because it’s not. Rape culture still exists, and so does victim-blaming.
But of course, you must be saying to yourself (but really, you want to yell this at me): “Well, that’s all awful and horrible. But what can I do? What is my impact on this issue?”
There are many things you can do, man or woman. When someone blames a victim, tell them off. When someone makes a rape joke, express how disgusted you are. When people are discussing the Delhi rape, make sure you bring up rape apologia, victim-blaming and rape culture – and the fact that this isn’t just present in India, but all around the world. Don’t rape. And when you have a son or daughter, teach them not to inflict pain onto others no matter their gender, sexual orientation or race.
That’s all we need from you.
Photo by ramesh_lalwani / Flickr Creative Commons License
Update: To have a better idea of what the statistics mentioned above actually look like, look at this graph.