Shattering Rape’s stones

Shattering Rape’s stones

12 October 2015

rape-victim-stoned sodahead com
Courtesy – In some countries, women who have been victims of rape can be stoned to death or lashed

Yesterday for the first time in a very long while, I sat and thought about rape again which ghostly presence had never quite left the scene as far as I was concerned. One can mainly think about rape against women because rape of male members of the society are less frequent although in some countries they too occur with almost as much frequency as for women. My concern, for now, dwells with rape perpetrated against women.

A friend had brought back to memory this skeleton by sharing a TedX talk by Sunitha Krishnan and a more personal recent event that I choose not to dwell upon at this point in time made the talk much more vivid than I would have liked.

It occurred to me that we all tiptoe around the subject most of the time without giving it its right share of clear and informative attention and for once it was heartening to watch again this talk, what one could call a real “Hard talk” no frills included, about a subject that is too quickly swept under the carpet. What is more surprising than the fact that this subject is usually kept under covers is the expediency that it is dealt with as compared to the effect it retains within the lives of those that it affects and the permanence it holds in the brains and the subsequent behavioural framework of the remaining “spectators” who more often than not become an extension of the perpetrator’s vilifying of the affected person.

Of late, it would even seem that this matter has almost reached a consensus of normality within society whereby the person should have suffered extreme atrocities together with the act itself for anyone whether media or other members of the society to take note of it – whatever their active or passive role (policemen, judges, caretakers, social workers, friends, neighbours, chasers of thrill-cum-horror stories or mere passer-bys).

There was the horrifying case of Nirbhaya which brought more than just a nation together and shortly after that the case of several women raped and hanged in India: two women raped and hanged in May 2014 ( ) and shortly after that another woman found raped and hanged in June 2014 ( before another four women raped and hanged in Uttar Pradesh in June 2014 ( and one woman in Pakistan end June 2014 (

Other than these sadly prominent cases, rape it seems has cloaked itself with normality as far as the act itself is concerned and the reaction to its perpetrators with regards to society’s attitude towards it. What is distressing in comparison is the lack of normality with which society as a whole deals with the affected person. Usually, the person is asked to keep hushed about the subject, most of the time not even to report it and little is done with the aftermaths of the incident which most people around would just ask the person to forget if not forgive. Sometimes, the person is ostracised to an extreme point not being able to attend school or get a job with the even worse cases of a totally ruined personal life where the husband (if any) shuns her or no person accepts to be involved in a binding relationship such as a marriage with her in future. Most of the time, it is to avoid being ostracised that women are asked not to speak about the incident and not to report it to authorities.

This attitude of ostracising the raped person is even more pronounced in traditional areas where people are not comfortable talking about rape or, even worse, people actually believe (sometimes not clearly but with just the impression at the back of their mind) that a woman can only have been raped if she somehow “brought it upon herself” either by collaborating actively with the perpetrator or by creating the circumstances that allow the incident to unfold. One example of “deemed collaboration” is the infamous case of dismissed rape where the Italian Supreme Court overturned a 1992 rape conviction involving a 45-year-old driving instructor and an 18-year-old student under the assumption that the young girl could not have been raped as she was wearing tight jeans and would have had to remove them herself implying consensual sex. As for “permissive circumstances”, it is evidenced by the number of people who believe that a person scantily clothed or who had a drink too much invited the rape or “asked for it” as they usually coin it,– seemingly and this is actually appalling, 65% of Brazilians according to a research undertaken in collaboration with UN Women’s Brazil branch).

To further understand the misconceptions surrounding rape, I would like to direct people who have made it reading this far to an interesting article albeit not really complete about the myths and truths of rape which is quite simple and easy to read. I hope that it will shed some light on the myths that must be fought if we want to replace rape in its right context, that of a crime against a person who was neither “asking for it” nor collaborating with the perpetrator

Fortunately, in most cases where there is extreme unfairness and violence, society – at least the ones where its members are not living like in the dark ages – would manifest a degree of solidarity towards the affected person. This is how for example Denim Day was established in 1999 as a global protest against the 1992 ruling of the Italian Supreme Court which had overturned the 1992 rape conviction. This is also how in the aftermaths of the heinous crime against “Nirbhaya” in New Delhi as well as the successive wave of rapes and hanging of women in the State of Uttar Pradesh in India or in Pakistan, the general public was very present both in India and abroad with strikes, marches and other manifestations of anger and support, such that laws were made to change in order to further protect women in India and strengthen the existing protective measures within the country.

Unfortunately, this striving to re-establish a sense of equity by either helping the persons affected by rape immediately after the incident or by ensuring that the victims of rape who have succumbed following the incident have not died in vain – insofar that measures are put in place to avoid similar incidents happening – is simply not enough. The deeper side of the problem remains what happens to those that survive. Usually, when they have spoken out aloud, their life never stays the same. Slowly, they start being side-lined out of their usual circles if they are not completely ostracised and even where there is compelling evidence that the woman in question was not at fault, most people seem to keep the underlying assumption that somehow she must have done something wrong for such a thing to happen. Worse still, there are members of society who though knowing that the woman was absolutely not at fault still prefer not having her at home, in their workplaces, or even not being in contact with her at all. More than the jittery and totally superstitious attitude of some who think that the person must be jinxed for such a thing to happen to her if she did not “ask for it” there is the attitude of those who consider themselves too pure and pristine to be involved with someone who is considered stained, tarnished, not fit for evolving in a decent society because she has been subjected to something somehow indecent, unacceptable, unforgettable, unforgivable.

These attitudes are like little or sometimes large stones that we throw at the affected persons or make them carry, throughout their lives sometimes. “Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone” said the consciousness of Love or Christ consciousness about another case where a woman was being badgered. I say let she or he who has sinned or not by endorsing the vilifying attitude or by ignoring it shatter the first stone. Let us all shatter rape’s stones; both the ones thrown at the affected person and the ones we burden them with during a lifetime.

It is time for society as a whole to recognise its role in such incidents. It is time for men to start endorsing their responsibility in building this framework where it is legit for violence to be committed against a woman. It is time mainly for us women to awaken to our shared responsibility in such happenings. We are the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of those who potentially could rape or effectively have raped a woman. It is our responsibility to make sure that the environment we bathe our men in is void of anything encouraging or legitimising any bad feelings or inclination to violence towards women. Indeed, in reality, most of the rape cases are not a case of sexual desire towards a woman gone awry. In most cases, it is a question of power over the woman, an expression of a loathing towards women in general or a woman in particular because of a feeling of anger, bitterness or hatred bred throughout the years.

Unfortunately, many mothers fail in this responsibility as they teach on a daily basis – with so many little nothings that then build to a monstrous something – that a woman’s value is much less than that of a man, that a man’s needs are defined as compellingly superior to a woman’s needs, that a woman should be subservient and that no matter what happens she must have done something wrong, that she must obey against her better instincts, against her better interests. In traditional environments, women who seek the help of their male offspring to “tame” and make subservient the female offspring are already building the future rapists, those who hold in them the potential of gratuitous violence against women because they are taught to think that it is legit, that it is endorsed even by the women themselves as this attitude is upheld from a young age by the doting and so unenlightened mothers.

Personally I have been trying to do my best with my two boys and have raised them with the ingrained belief that men and women are equal and that one should only do to another what one would not mind doing to oneself and vice versa. In a symmetrical way, I have explained to my daughter the dangers that lie out there, the need for protection and the requirement to use one’s better judgement because unfortunately this crime is becoming more and more of a normalised matter in society. I have even used my own case in point as an example to ensure that the matter is understood as a reality touching potentially any rank and type of family in society and not a theoretical danger that is far removed from its effective happening or limited to the poorer families.

Above all, I tell those who have come to me with their secret confession of being a rape “victim” as I would like to keep telling other women again and again: we are not victims, we are not survivors, we are women. Nothing differentiates us from any other woman out there. What happened might have left a temporary or more lasting hurt or imprint on the body but we are not and cannot be defined by that, we rise beyond that to reintegrate in time what we were originally and all that is left of the perpetrator is a ghost and in time even that ghost disappears. We will not be victims, we will not be mere survivors, we are all else that we choose to be whether with society’s support or without it. Wherever our gaze wishes to go, expect us. Get used to us, get used to our strength. We are.

rape rhrealitycheck org

Woman, cover up!

 Woman, cover up !

15 August 2010

He calls me seething with rage and concerned for my well-being. “I am your friend, I think about your well-being”, “Someone has to stop you”, “Why did you put all of that on facebook?”.

To which I answer coldly “Not only. I also blogged about it and tweeted it too.”

He goes “Are you crazy? Why on earth did you do that?” “You should think about your reputation” “How can you talk about this in front of everybody? How can you speak about your life so that everybody can read it? This is impossible. Someone has to stop you” “I am your friend, I really need to see you, someone has to talk to you. You cannot go on like this”. “My God, you should think about the kids”.

“Precisely”, I answer coldly. “I am thinking about them. I cannot stop thinking about them. A court of (in)justice has refused to hear this reality and grant them and me our rights. What that courtroom refused to hear, hundreds of ears shall hear it and a thousand eyes shall read it.” “I want the whole world to be my witness, so that my appeal, at last, may be heard in its whole truth, may be truly judged and not misjudged” “So that my appeal may bring THEM back to me.”

Yes, my friend I think about THEM, night and day. There is nothing else that I can think about.

He pleads with me thinking that madness has possessed my mind. He pleads with me to remove all traces of this shameful confession, this ghastly, unwelcome display of flesh and pain. He would like me to cloak in hypocrisy what I displayed today. I know he thinks he means well. But I know I have a mind of my own and can think too. I do not need someone to think for me. I do not need to be “in custody”.

Woman, cover up!

Don’t forget. You owe it to tradition, you owe it to custom, you owe it to religion, you owe it to your husband, like you owed it to your father before him like you will owe it to your brothers and then to your uncles if all else die. And if you have no family left, you will still owe it to the male representatives in your neighbourhood, …. You may not be your naked self. You may not share your thoughts. You may not express your feelings. Woman, cover up! You are “in custody”.

Woman, cover up!

Have you been raped, has someone forced what he calls love out of you? Hush! Do not speak! Hush! Do not report! The shame, the shame, the shame…Hush! For if it comes out in the open, I will have to kill you. Or maybe I will just kill you all the same. Out of precaution. For your redemption. It is the most honourable solution for you and for us. I will have to kill you. Me. Your father. Your brother. Your husband. Your uncle. Your legal guardian. Woman, cover up!

Woman, cover up!

Has he beaten you? Is there a mark on your face, on your body that should not exist, naturally? Is it too highly placed to have been caused by a flailing window, by a recalcitrant door? On the small of your back is perfectly alright. Nobody can see that. On the edges of your throat is still okay. You can cover that up in no time. Is it on the side of your cheek? On the top of your brow? On the edge of your chin? On the side of your lip? On the end of your lid?  Woman, cover up! What else is makeup for?

Woman cover  up!

Have you been wronged till you were cloaked in your sorrow? Have you been married off with no hope of a loving morrow? Have you been betrothed with a man much older than you? A man old enough to be your father? A dying man, old enough to be your grandfather? A man at the peak of his vigour, as some tell you jeeringly to convince you. A nice mature and strong man, while you were only nine, twelve or hopefully thirteen? Well it is all part of life. Nothing to alert the neighbours about, so don’t! Not even a secret to tell your best friends, so don’t! Those best friends, women that I will choose – only women of high morality that I approve of – will anyway be living the same life. The only life that you will ever know. Let me screen them so you may not stray. Woman, cover up! That is all that you are allowed to do. You are after all “In custody”.

Woman, cover up!

Have you been oppressed? Has male justice wronged you? Has again male supremacy silenced you? Did you think you had something to say? Did you think that you had rights? Did you think that you were meant to be happy? Did you think that you could go out in the open and tell everybody your secrets? Have you not learnt anything? Woman, cover up!

Woman, cover up!

Sorry, I lost my Sifsari, never learnt to wear a Burqa and Sheherezade stole my veils. The problem is only she knows where she hid them. The other problem is, Sheherezade is dead. Ask Joumana Haddad. She killed Sheherezade.  And now, I will never know where my veils are, so I am afraid I cannot… cover up…Me, woman…

The truth of the matter is…I don’t want to. I will not cover up…Not anymore…