The Shameful Secrets Of A Shameful Crime
Another gang rape in India has captured international attention.
Last December, a New Delhi woman was raped and subsequently died after being attacked by a gang of thugs on a bus. This time it was a Swiss tourist and her husband who were attacked by a gang of six men who beat the husband and tied him to a tree before raping his wife.
In India a woman is raped or sexually abused every twenty minutes. It seems almost unimaginable that so many women could be so frequently attacked in a democratic, reasonably modern society and yet; it happens every day.
Women and women’s groups often point to incidents like this and link them to sexual assault here in our own countries but they are often dismissed as over-reactive. We live in North America, after all, not a developing nation. Most people believe that the level of sexual assault happening in India just doesn’t happen in countries like Canada or the United States.
Indeed, the US is presenting the Women of Courage award posthumously to the victim in the New Delhi rape. They might better have kept the award and looked within their own society.
In the United States, a woman or child is sexually abused or raped every two minutes. Think about that for a moment. Every two minutes a woman or child is attacked, 66% of the time by someone in their family or someone they know.
Two teenage football players in Steubenville, Ohio have just been found guilty of rape after they assaulted a teenage girl and posted pictures of the assault online. It appears that many witnessed the crime but did nothing to protect the girl; they merely stood by and watched.
According to recent statistics, 80% of the victims of rape and sexual assault in the United States are under the age of 30 while 44% are under the age of 18. Even more disturbing is that 97% of the attackers will never spend a day in jail.
Many Canadians would quickly believe that the alarming statistics of sexual assault in the United States are due to a societal culture south of our border that is significantly more violent than our own.
They believe that Canada doesn’t have the same level of violent assault against women and children because Canada is not a violent country and they’re right. It’s even worse in Canada.
In Canada, fully 51% of women have experienced some form of sexual assault and 1 in 4 Canadian women will be sexually assaulted within in her lifetime.
Every year, in Canada, more than 360,000 children are sexually assaulted.
In Canada, a woman or a child is sexually assaulted every minute of every day.
In Canada, between 1 and 2 women a week are murdered by a current or former spouse or boyfriend.
In Canada, aboriginal women are three times more likely to experience spousal abuse than non-aboriginal women.
In Canada, more than 900 children a day are sexually molested or sexually assaulted.
Sexual assault is two crimes. The first is the assault itself which can, and often is, fatal. It is a frightening crime that attacks not only the body but the soul and that is the second crime. The victim lives with the horror of the assault for years after and virtually no one who has been sexually assaulted remains unaltered by it.
Rape is a crime of violence – terrible violence. It is more than sex; it is an intrusive violation of the individual. It is physical, mental and emotional violence that leaves deep emotional scars long after the physical wounds of those who survive the attack are healed.
The recidivism rate for murder is reasonably low but very high for sexual assault and rape and yet, the punishment for sexual assault is often insufficient to protect women specifically or society as a whole.
We still consider the taking of a physical life to be of more consequence than the taking of a soul.
The fact is that rape and sexual assault have no place in a civilized society. Women and children should not have to live in apprehension of a possible attack. They should not have to feel cut off and isolated from the protection of law enforcement that we carelessly assume is doing the job of keeping things under control.
Our judicial system isn’t and too many women and children do live in fear.
It isn’t the fault of law enforcement. Many rapes go unreported because of fear and shame. Too many convicted of sexual assault are given light sentences and subsequently released to offend again.
In India, a woman who is raped is considered a disgrace to her family and in some Middle Eastern countries a woman who has been raped is charged with a crime and punished for bringing shame upon her family. We may consider that barbaric but our basic attitudes towards the victims of rape aren’t much different.
Often, as was the case in the Steubenville trial, the victim is put on trial. Her sexual history, her behaviour become more important that the rape itself and in that way she is victimized a second time; first by her attacker(s) and then by the system.
Too often, the victim is forgotten.
“Incredibly difficult to watch as these two young men who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.” – Poppy Harlow, CNN speaking about the conviction of two teenagers in the Steubenville rape.
Not one word about the victim, no empathy for what had been done to her just sympathy for her attackers.
“I cannot imagine how emotional the sentencing must have been… a 16 year old, sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, they still sound like 16 year olds. What is the lasting effect of two young [men] being guilty in juvenile court of rape essentially?” – Candy Crowley, CNN on the same conviction
Again. Not one word about the victim; not a word about the lasting effect of the attack on her or the effect of the public humiliation of having video of the attack shared across social media. The victim is forgotten in the sadness expressed for the attackers.
We are societies that need more than a reality check – we are societies that need a serious values check.
The simple fact is that each of us has the right to the sanctity of our own bodies. Nobody, regardless of how silly, how stupid or even how provocative our behaviour might be, has the right to inflict violence on us for their own selfish and perverse purposes.
No means no – no matter when the no is spoken and I would suggest that anyone who is incapable of controlling themselves when the no is spoken simply needs to be removed from society.
There should be no room in a community of civilized people for those who think it is quite acceptable to get a young woman drunk, use her body for their own gratification and then publicly humiliate her by sharing video of it on Facebook. There should be no room in our societies for those who brutalize women and children.
This is the 21st Century. All of us have or have had mothers. Most of us have sisters or daughters or nieces or granddaughters or just friends who are women. Any one of them could be the 1 in 4 women who are attacked. Any one of them could be one of those who are assaulted every minute of every day.
Rape and sexual assault are not abstract concepts. They are not simply news stories that we read about in faraway places. They are real crimes happening to real women and real children in every city, town and village in this country, in the United States and in supposedly civilized countries around the world.
It happens because we allow it to happen through our refusal to deal with the issue head on. It’s long past time that we stopped treating it like it doesn’t exist and got serious about confronting it.
It’s time politicians stopped playing games with each other and started to address real issues like violence and sexual assault against women and children in a meaningful way.
And. . .
It’s time the rest of us to stop deluding ourselves into believing that it isn’t an epidemic happening within our own societies. It’s time we stopped arguing over trivial ideological nonsense, grew up and united in pursuit of safer societies for our wives, our daughters and all of the other women and children we know.
© 2013 Maggie’s Bear
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