Over the last few weeks I have said the word ‘rape’ so many times I have lost count. It isn’t just the re-telling of one story; it is the telling of several stories of women and girls being treated so savagely by fellow human beings. There has been one horrific story after another of an innocent female being viciously sexually assaulted and mistreated by more than one assailant and not only that but when these terrible atrocities are brought to the attention of law enforcement there always seems to be some issue preventing them from doing their jobs efficiently. It is almost to the point that these survivors are once again victimized by the justice systems.
This major problem is not in just one country, it is world wide. To give some depressing but real life examples:
Recently the male friend of the woman who was gang raped, savagely beaten and eventually died from her injuries at the hands of 6 men in New Delhi has spoken out about how he was treated in the crucial first few hours after the attack he said the police took a half an hour to arrive and when they eventually did they spent more precious time arguing about jurisdiction and who should do what. If that wasn’t bad enough then a well respected guru comes out with some ridiculous statements pushing the blame of the attack back onto the victim by saying:
“This tragedy would not have happened if she had chanted God’s name and fallen at the feet of the attackers. The error was not committed by just one side.”
I found his comments offensive and maddening and I know I was not the only one but for every one of me it seems there is also one of ‘them’. People who wrongly believe that rape is brought on in some way by the victim.
On to Steubenville: where the alleged rape took place of a 16 year old girl by members of a football team. After this happened one of the football teams coaches gave his views on what happened:
“The rape was just an excuse, I think. What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that? She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it.”
It was her fault that other people took advantage of her (and photographed it) while she was passed out. Another great message to send out to people.
In Ireland there have also been cases that have infuriated the general public. Last year a wealthy business man Anthony Lyons who violently sexually assaulted a young woman in 2010 was given a 6 year sentence however, 5 and half years of it was suspended, he was also ordered to pay the victim €75,000 compensation even though she did not ask for any compensation. The Director of Public Prosecution is appealing this ‘unduly lenient’ sentence but his release came before the appeal and he is now a free man after serving just 4 months in prison.
Still in Ireland another case this week has caused uproar is that of Fiona Doyle. Her father raped her as a child for almost a decade, admitted to doing so but got to walk out of court due to an unbelievably lenient and ridiculous sentence. Due to his ill health/good behaviour he was given 12 years 9 of those were suspended, the judge also let him out on bail while he appeals his sentence. This understandably left Fiona devastated and most of the country in a state of disbelief.
What kind of messages are all of these cases sending out to survivors?
That no matter what you do or don’t do it’s all your fault, even if you’re unconscious. And on the off chance the case gets to court you will just end up being victimized once again by the system. It is also sending out a dangerous message to the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. It’s okay to rape and sexually violate people because it’s not really your fault and if it gets to court you’ll get a slap on the wrist especially if you are of great standing in the community.
The message that this sends to me is that rape culture is wrong and detrimental not only to survivors but also to society. However, society has the power to change this and sometimes it really can. There have been demonstrations and protests in India, Steubenville and most recently in Ireland; the Fiona Doyle case caused such a backlash from the public that just days after the initial ruling the judge not only apologized to Fiona for any upset caused but he also revoked her fathers bail sending him straight to prison to serve his sentence.
This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often but it goes to show the amount of power people actually have. The battle against rape culture isn’t going anywhere but when you see that you can actually make a difference by fighting back the fatigue doesn’t have the same negative effect on you it once had.