Category Archives: violence against women
“There’s a huge amount of online activity devoted to cultivating horrific impulses toward women,” says former sex-crimes prosecutor, Jane Manning.
For instance, while Facebook prohibits content that is hateful, threatening or incites violence, rape didn’t count until recently. It took a massive campaign to stop pages with titles like “You know she’s playing hard to get when you’re chasing her down an alleyway.”
Or, an upskirt picture of a woman lying face down on the floor was recently posted on Facebook. It got comments like these:
- Id wake her up the HARD WAY and later say it wasn’t me
- She also would have woke up feeling sticky and used!
- Whuts da ho’ doin on da flo’ ?
- An found a used codom in side of her
- any man worth his salt would fuk it now
On Facebook it was easy to see who had viciously mocked the victim. Among them:
- Men who like science, yoga, Buddhism, classical music and the local church
- A supporter of a charity that campaigns against violence
- A husband who works with a Christian Ministry
- Fathers who seek support for special needs kids, campaign against animal cruelty, are proud of their daughters, and who want to be there for their children
Or, there’s Gilberto Valle, a New York cop who favored sites filled with men chatting about raping and torturing women, and even roasting and eating them. His wife, who knows him best, called the cops and flew to Nevada to escape him. She was one of his prospective victims.
Defenders say, “lighten up!”
What happens when we do?
It may well train women to accept both their diminishment and their submission. And it seems to make men more callous to women’s abuse. Others like Officer Valle, who had a plan to kidnap, torture and eat young women, are incited to violence. Around one in five American women have been victims of rape or battering.
Should we lighten up?
As you drive to work you see billboards with scantily clad men drawing your attention to products that they gracefully caress. Other men bend over in ways that make you want sex with them. In some ads women lord it over submissive men.
You arrive at your ad agency, and as Creative Director you take a look at new ideas your copywriters have brought:
2) The silhouette of a man with a beer body and a foam head appears. Copy reads, “You never forget your first guy.”
3) Two women surgeons sit near a male patient who is sprawled over an operating table, dressed in just a thong. A scalpel “knife’s” his body in an ad for a TV show called “Nip Tuck.”
4) A man didn’t make coffee right so his wife spanks him.
In this world women are the dominant sex consumers who expect men to “turn them on,” passively open to them, and submit to them — sexually and otherwise. And if they don’t behave, the men will be punished.
Here’s a video on how such a world would look:
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Men: Erotic Objects of Women’s Gaze
So says University of Rochester professor, libertarian and former Slate contributor, Steven Landsburg, who is oddly popular. (With whom?)
Let’s suppose that you, or I, or someone we love, or someone we care about from afar, is raped while unconscious in a way that causes no direct physical harm—no injury, no pregnancy, no disease transmission…
As long as I (the victim) am safely unconscious and therefore shielded from the costs of an assault, why shouldn’t (my attackers) be allowed to reap the benefits?
Prof. Landsburg began by musing, “Let’s suppose that you or I,” but has he really put himself in the victim’s place? Would he really be okay waking to find that he had been anally assaulted?
But then, libertarians appear to have low levels of empathy so maybe he hasn’t.
Prof. Landsburg seems to think that harm only counts when it is “directly physical.” What about emotional wreckage?
Jim Crow laws caused no physical harm to Blacks in Michigan. Even Mississippi Blacks were not physically harmed by separate drinking fountains and bathrooms or by sitting at the back of the bus.
Yet those laws said something disturbing about Black humanity and created emotional injury in the North and South, alike.
Racism and rape, among many other things, wreck emotional violence even without physical harm.
The intention of rape is to demean the victim and prove that the perpetrator has power, allowing him to feel his so-called “manhood” (defined by the rapist as powerful, domineering, violent, superior).
He defiles another to raise himself up.
Rape victims are too often, in turn, demeaned by the community. That’s what happened with the Steubenville rape – the assault that Prof. Landsburg refers to in his illustration. Kids made fun of the sixteen-year-old victim, sharing gossip and pictures. They recognized the denigration and spread it further.
Prof. Landsburg, even if a woman was not beaten and did not get an STD or a pregnancy, she was still harmed. And she has every right to complain.
Last week rape survivor, Zerlina Maxwell, went on Fox’s “Hannity” to discuss rape and guns. But instead of saying women should drink less, dress modestly, arm themselves and learn self-defense, like she “should have,” she told Hannity:
I don’t think that we should be telling women anything. I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there… If you train men not to grow up to become rapists, you prevent rape.
“Thanks for the feedback, Internet dopes. Why would anybody think that you need some sensitivity training?” responds Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon.
Maxwell tells Salon that, “We need to teach (men) to see women as human beings and respect their bodily autonomy.” Williams points out that when you do, things change:
After Canada launched a “Don’t be that guy” consent awareness campaign in 2011, the sexual assault rate dropped for the first time in years — by 10 percent.
In fact, violence against women is much lower in non-patriarchal cultures that respect women. Both rape and battering were pretty much nonexistent among American Indians before Europeans arrived. Rape and battering have also dropped in the U.S. with a rise in feminism, according to Justice Bureau surveys of victims.
But why the rage when the focus of rape prevention turns from women to men?
Actually, the outrage hasn’t come from everywhere. It comes from right-wing groups — Fox News viewers and the like — who bolster the haves over the have-nots: typically whites, the rich, heteros and in this case, men, over everyone else.
Here, the matter relates to who is free and who is not. Do not even think about asking men to limit themselves. Women, on the other hand, should limit themselves: what they wear, what they drink, what time of day they leave the house… They must prepare themselves for defense against men who refuse to limit themselves. And continuing the right-wing rant, women must be stripped of freedom over their reproductive lives, entirely. No right to your own body in any way.
In this worldview even if rapists ACT, responsibility for the act must fall on the victim. Because men must be free, but women must not.
It’s not often – if ever – that you can witness a man grooming a woman to accept battering. We now have a visual record of how one man attempted it. And it may help to warn women away from potential abusers.
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz, a grad student at Ohio University, had planned to study the stigma of being an ex-convict. While at a local Corn Festival she spotted a tattoo-covered man who was gently cuddling a cute little girl. She approached and asked him and his girlfriend if she could photograph them over a period of time for her project, and they agreed.
Our photographer had met the couple only about a month after they’d gotten together. Two and a half months later she photographed Shane as he battered Maggie in their home. And she had already amassed a photographic record of how he had groomed her for the abuse. You can see the pictures here.
Batterers know that if they give in to their craving to beat their partners too soon the women will leave. So they have two immediate projects 1) push for quick involvement and 2) make her fall in love hard and fast so that she will stay after the beatings.
Shane’s charm offensive began while he was in prison, where he called Maggie every day. As soon as he was released they began dating and within weeks Maggie and her two kids, ages two and four, had moved in with him. A month later Shane got a huge neck tattoo which practically shouted MAGGIE. Any man who would get a tattoo like that must surely be both smitten and committed!
Abusers also keep score of emotional debts owed them (while ignoring those they owe). Altering his body for Maggie created a huge debt. As Amanda Marcotte put it,
“But I got a tattoo for you!” Translation: I altered my very body “for” you, and that is a massive debt that you can pretty much never pay, so you have to put up with my crap forever.
In more emotional blackmail Shane spent plenty of time complaining that Maggie paid more attention to her kids than to him.
Her four-year-old son, Kayden, took the brunt of his resentment even as he lavished attention on his cute two-year-old sister, Memphis. Maybe Shane thought he could release some of his abusive cravings on him while he repressed his desire to beat the boy’s mother. So keep in mind that batterers are often cruel to animals and children.
Batterers also try to isolate their victims, leaving them without help or support. So characteristically, Shane moved Maggie and her kids far away from family and friends within months of beginning their relationship. Moving everyone in with him may have also created a sense of “debt owed” and dependence on him.
But with a criminal record and facial tattoos Shane had difficulty finding work, so he couldn’t really afford to support the family. Abusers can come from any class but men who feel disempowered sometimes beat up their partners partly because it gives them a sense of empowerment in those moments when they are raging and pummeling a smaller, physically weaker person. And Shane’s difficulty finding work may have created a sense of powerlessness.
Once Maggie had fallen in love and was isolated and dependent, Shane only needed an excuse to beat her.
Jealousy works especially well for this trigger. The whirlwind courtship had already marked the relationship as passionate, and so administering a beating over jealous love promotes the storyline that he only did it because he loves her sooo much. And that makes her more likely to stay afterwards.
So Maggie and Shane went to a bar where Maggie became jealous over some flirtations and left. After a friend drove him home, Shane became enraged that Maggie had abandoned him. He then turned the jealous accusation around. Furious that one of his friends had flirted with Maggie, he claimed that she had betrayed him.
As they fought he told her to choose between getting beaten in the kitchen or going to the basement where they could talk privately (they were staying at a friend’s home).
Any police officer will tell you to never go to a second, more isolated location where something more brutal is likely to happen. Maggie was smart enough not to do that.
Hearing her mother’s screams, two-year-old Memphis ran to her mother’s side. Maybe because Shane had always been so sweet to Memphis, she felt she could protect her mom. So the little girl screamed, stomped her feet and finally put her body in between the two of them.
But the abuse didn’t end until a housemate called the police. Shane told the officers that he was just trying to keep Maggie from leaving the house with the children while she was drunk.
When that didn’t work he cried out, “Please, Maggie, I love you, don’t let them take me, tell them I didn’t do this,” apparently hoping that his “love” would persuade her to save him.
Often, it works. And it nearly did here as the officer had to coax the truth from Maggie and then talk her into signing a protection order and getting a medical exam.
“I don’t want to get him in trouble,” she wept.
“You aren’t getting him into trouble. He got himself into trouble,” the officer assured her. “You know, he’s not going to stop. They never stop. They usually stop when they kill you.”
What’s not typical is that Maggie left. She now lives in Alaska with her children’s father. Maybe she left because she had someplace to go. Maybe the publicity and the pictures made it difficult to deny the gravity of the abuse.
Most women stay, thinking that he will change. It usually takes months or even years of violent outbursts to see that it is about him and not about her, to see that he will not change, and to see that love is nowhere to be found.
When women decide to leave they should first call a domestic abuse hotline to make plans. And then go without warning. Because leaving is the most dangerous time.
800-799-SAFE (TDD: 800-787-3224)
SIGNS OF AN ABUSER
Before an abuser starts physically assaulting his victim, he typically demonstrates his abusive tactics through certain behaviors. The following are five major warning signs and some common examples:
Abusers can be very charming. In the beginning, they may seem to be Prince Charming or a Knight in Shining Armor. He can be very engaging, thoughtful, considerate and charismatic. He may use that charm to gain very personal information about her. He will use that information later to his advantage.
For example; he will ask if she has ever been abused by anyone. If she says, “yes”, he will act outraged that anyone could treat a woman that way. Then when he becomes abusive, he will tell her no one will believe her because she said that before and it must be her fault or two people would not have hit her.
Another example; he may find out she experimented with drugs in her past. He will then threaten that if she tells anyone about the abuse he will report her as a drug abuser and she will lose her children. The threat to take away her children is one of the most common threats abusers use to maintain power and control over their victims.
Abusers isolate their victims geographically and socially. Geographic isolation includes moving the victim from her friends, family and support system (often hundreds of miles); moving frequently in the same area and/or relocating to a rural area.
Social isolation usually begins with wanting the woman to spend time with him and not her family, friends or co-workers. He will then slowly isolate her from any person who is a support to her. He dictates whom she can talk to; he tells her she cannot have contact with her friends or family.
Jealousy is a tool abusers use to control the victim. He constantly accuses her of having affairs. If she goes to the grocery store, he accuses her of having an affair with the grocery clerk. If she goes to the bank, he accuses her of having an affair with the bank teller. Abusers routinely call their victims whores or sluts.
The goal of emotional abuse is to destroy the victim’s self-esteem. He blames her for his violence, puts her down, calls her names and makes threats against her. Over time, she no longer believes she deserves to be treated with respect and she blames herself for his violence. For some survivors of domestic violence, the emotional abuse may be more difficult to heal from than the physical abuse.
Abusers are very controlled and very controlling people. In time, the abuser will control every aspect of the victim’s life: where she goes, how she wears her hair, what clothes she wears, whom she talks to. He will control the money and access to money. Abusers are also very controlled people. While they appear to go into a rage or be out of control we know they are very much in control of their behavior.
The following are the reasons we know his behaviors are not about anger and rage:
- He does not batter other individuals – the boss who does not give him time off or the gas station attendant that spills gas down the side of his car. He waits until there are no witnesses and abuses the person he says he loves.
- If you ask an abused woman, “can he stop when the phone rings or the police come to the door?” She will say “yes”. Most often when the police show up, he is looking calm, cool and collected and she is the one who may look hysterical. If he were truly “out of control” he would not be able to stop himself when it is to his advantage to do so.
- The abuser very often escalates from pushing and shoving to hitting in places where the bruises and marks will not show. If he were “out of control” or “in a rage” he would not be able to direct or limit where his kicks or punches land.
Here are some more signs:
1. Jealousy of your time with co-workers, friends and family.
2. Controlling behavior. (Controls your comings and goings and your money.)
3. Isolation. (Cuts you off from all supportive resources such as telephone pals, colleagues at work and close family members.)
4. Blames others for his problems. (Unemployment, quarrels – everything is “your fault.”)
5. Hypersensitivity. (Easily upset by annoyances that are a part of daily life.)
6. Cruelty to animals or children.
7. “Playful” use of force in sex. (May start having sex with you when you are sleeping or demand sex when you are ill or tired.)
8. Verbal abuse.
9. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. (Sudden mood swings and unpredictable behavior – one minute loving, the next minute angry and punitive.)
10. Past history of battering. (Has hit others but has a list of excuses for having been “pushed over the edge.”)
11. Threats of violence.
12. Breaking or striking objects.
13. Uses force during an argument.
Any woman who sees herself in this column should call the nearest women’s crisis line and tell someone what is happening. She will be provided with support and safety options.
Some women do not realize they are being abused until someone points it out to them. They have been made to believe that abusive treatment is what they deserve and that most women are treated this way. Women who see themselves in his should check out the nearest shelter and keep the phone number handy. They can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (TDD: 800-787-3224).
1. Controlling behavior: “I know what’s best for you” and “I know what you want (or need).”The reality is that no one knows what is best for another adult.
2. Blames others for his problems: “Look what you made me do” and “If you hadn’t done that, none of this would have happened.”
3. Use of force in sex and/or saying that sex was a “wifely duty.” There is no law requiring a woman to have sex if she doesn’t want to. Forced sex is called rape.
4. History of battering: Excuses include the classic, “If you hadn’t provoked me …”The truth is that he chose to hit, push, kick, slap or punch you. If he hit you once, he will hit you again.
5. Verbal abuse: If someone deliberately hurts your feelings by word or deed, it is abuse, even if it is as simple as “You look fat in that outfit.”
6. Threats of violence: Threats are almost always precursors to the deed. If he threatens you, leave him before he does it.
7. Use of force during an argument: Most women feel, as I did, that if they haven’t been hit, they have not been physically abused. Restraining someone is also physical abuse. Pushing and shoving are physical abuse.
Abuse and battery take a toll on one’s physical, emotional and spiritual energy. It is easy to say no. We say this word all the time. Unfortunately, we find it especially difficult to say no to those we love and those we fear.
Like most girls who end up in prostitution “Alissa” grew up in an abusive home. But at age 16 a deceptive Prince not-so-Charming came to her “rescue.” He told her she was attractive and that he’d like to be her boyfriend. Flattered, she accepted. Soon after, he prostituted her.
Alissa stayed with him, partly because she felt emotionally attached. Girls who have lived without love crave it and often take whatever they can get. Pimps know this and use it. But she also stayed because she feared his violence.
Nick Kristof told this story in the New York Times:
She was sold to johns seven days a week, 365 days a year. After a couple of years, she fled, but a pimp tracked her down and — with the women he controlled — beat and stomped Alissa, breaking her jaw and several ribs, she said. That led her to cooperate with the police.
Perhaps the strangest part of this story is that she was sold on Backpage.com, which is owned by Village Voice Media. Strange, since Village Voice is a well-known alternative journal whose aim is to speak truth to power. Yet Backpage makes up about 70% of prostitution advertising among similar Web sites. Most of the Backpage ads are legit, but the sex slavery that it promotes is troubling.
The Village Voice was born out of the desire for an independent media voice for the people, a voice that had the freedom and authority to hold those who abuse power accountable for their actions… As my father’s son, knowing all of the hopes and dreams that went into the work of creating this particular paper, the Village Voice appears to have lost its way…
Pandora Young, now at Media BistroI, has also felt the pangs of conscience. For years she worked at the Village Voice-owned LA Weekly. She said:
I knew that I was being paid in some small part by blood money. And while I felt lousy about it, I did nothing beyond kvetching about the problem with fellow employees. I always cashed my paychecks, and I never gave a dime to help victims of sex trafficking.
Some defend Backpage’s right to free speech. And Village Voice says they work hard to make sure all ads are legit. But too much gets through.
The only reasonable argument I’ve heard to keep from shuttering Backpage is that it provides a tool for law enforcement to identify trafficking victims. But Kristof points out that:
Village Voice makes some effort to screen out ads placed by traffickers and to alert authorities to abuses, but neither law enforcement officials nor antitrafficking organizations are much impressed. As a result, pressure is growing on the company to drop escort ads.
Change.org has a petition to shut down Backpage. Weigh the pros and cons yourself. If you want Backpage shut down, sign the petition here.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good [people] do nothing.”
- Edmund Burke.
Rhuksana’s husband threw acid on her face and then her sister-in-law lit her on fire. Shortly after, one of her children got sick and she was forced to move back in with them because she couldn’t afford to feed her kids.
Zakia was divorcing her husband and just leaving the courthouse when he found her and threw acid on her. She is now disfigured and has lost an eye.
I learned about Rhuksana and Zakia in the documentary “Saving Face” which tells of the many Pakistani women who are victims of these attacks — about 100 cases each year. Women who consider themselves “the living dead.”
A patriarchy that devalues women appears to be the culprit.
Men who feel disgraced or embarrassed because of an argument over the dishes, or discarded advances, or who hold a generalized hatred of women, lash out. If women don’t do what men want, they deserve it.
These men want to ruin the women’s lives. And they succeed.
Agonizing acid burns through skin and fuses it together, making it difficult to eat or breathe. It blinds and kills. Women who survive become ashamed of their bodies and are ostracized. They are emotionally wrecked from being burned alive by their own husbands.
Abuse is rife in Pakistan with 65% of men saying they were abused as children and about half now say they abuse their wives. Through generations the men become diseased with a lust to harm women.
For years Pakistani women had not fought back because they had no voice. They may have believed that this was life and there was no other way. But recently the scales are falling from their eyes and the women are seeing possibilities and working to end the abuse. The government is listening and passing bills to protect them.
Here we see the cycle of abuse and how it can be broken. We see women once disempowered and blind to the possibility of change gaining both sight and muscle.
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And liking it, she claims. Or not.
But as a single mom at age 42 she met “the Cowboy,” a conservative ranch manager who watches Fox News and believes women must submit to men. Her book blurb:
Their relationship finds harmony (and) she finds the strength, peace, and happiness that comes from embracing her femininity.
Femininity. Which here means doormat.
Instructions from Cowboy include: No back-talking; no second-guessing; no sarcastic, smart-ass remarks…
… and apparently, stay monogamous while he cats around.
In one incident she hears a women’s voicemail telling Cowboy she wants him in her shower. Alisa feels the agonizing pangs of jealousy. But she remembers that women are biologically wired to find cheaters alluring. What can you do?
Through it all she celebrates her submission, embracing women’s “natural role.” So does anti-feminist, Christina Hoff Sommers who calls the book,
An irresistible, post-feminist Taming of the Shrew… a riveting tale about how a brilliant, strong-minded woman liberated herself from a dreary, male-bashing, reality-denying feminism.
But weeks before going to press the two broke up. A problem since, as Amanda Marcotte points out, Valdes insists women will live happily ever after in orgasmic bliss if they just submit to controlling, misogynist men.
The abuse escalated soon after turning in her manuscript. During one fight he
dragged me down the hall to the bedroom, bent me over, and took me, telling me as he did so that I must never forget who was in charge.
Later, when she accidentally got pregnant and wanted to keep the child Cowboy got violent and left her. She returned to him after a miscarriage, but the violence escalated. Mostly verbal, with threats of violence.
The last time she saw him she jumped from a moving truck, fearing he would hurt or kill her:
I landed facedown on a bunch of rocks, nearly crushed under the back tires, dislocating my shoulder, badly cut and bruised everywhere, my hip filling with blood. I screamed. He stopped the truck, walked over, looked at me on the ground as I begged him to call an ambulance. “Only you would be stupid enough to jump out of a moving truck,” he told me. He did not help me, or come near me. Instead, he said he was going to the hunting lodge to get some witnesses, in case I tried to tell the police he had done this to me.
Noah Berlatsky at The Atlantic explains that:
Finally, Valdes realized that “this man did not love me. He could not love anyone,” and she left him for good—though, obviously, something of the terror remains. She notes that writing the (blog) post (about the violent incidents) puts her “in danger—real physical danger.”
Plenty of people, men and women, celebrate male dominance and female submission. But it hasn’t been so great for Ms. Valdes, and I have friends who’ve tried it and not liked it.
There is much wounding in this story that passes, in her mind, as “the natural order of things.” And Ms. Valdes as is now in a relationship with another abusive man.
The poet and writer, bell hooks, asks us to consider the nature of relationships.
“Pleasure + wound” vs “pleasure + love.”
Which makes you happier?
Which will you choose?
She’s deader than a doornail.
She’s deader than Trayvon Martin.
What if she was pregnant and gave birth to a dead baby?
Jokes like that bolster rape and rapists. It’s all just fodder for wisecracks. No big deal.
Even the feminist blog, Jezebel, received comments on this story that support a lighthearted view:
Yes, it’s tasteless and twisted and offensive. But as far as we know, it’s also just talk…They’re probably just a bunch of dumb high school kids, most likely drunk and/or stoned, making terrible jokes.
Unfortunately, this is how young men joke around these days.
I guess these folks don’t get that the blasé pose contributes to the crime.
Another commenter told about rape culture from her high school days.
They would pull all kinds of pranks that I wrote off then as just typical asshole stuff, like leaving Playboys out open to the centerfold, with lit candles on every girl’s crotch, whenever girls came over to their hangout. I figured they were testing us girls to see if we were cool, if we could take a joke. Until one of them raped my friend when she was drunk. He dropped her off at a sleepover where she cried because she was a virgin and she was scared. Those guys proceeded to prank call us every 5 minutes and when we answered it was just laughter. Laughing!
Rape culture also arises when drunkenness is thought a worse crime than rape. It’s “her fault” for getting drunk. And indeed, as the 16-year-old became drunk at a party some taunted her and cheered when a baseball player dared someone to urinate on her.
The day after the assault, photos and comments went up on the Web. One tweet claimed, “Some people deserve to be peed on.” Others retweeted, including one of the rapists.
You see rape culture in the townspeople’s reactions, with many blaming the girl for being assaulted, seeking justice and putting the football team in a bad light.
Her family received threats so that extra police were needed to patrol their neighborhood.
Rape culture arises when a girl’s friends ostracize her and parents encourage their kids to stay away. As happen with this young woman.
A commenter on Jezebel wrote that,
What they mean (in the video) by “dead” is her reputation is dead. Meaning no one will ever date her or sleep with her again.
That’s what happens when being raped is thought a worse crime than raping. That’s what happens in rape culture. You blame less powerful people – typically women here –to protect more powerful people – in the case of rape, most likely men.
Things are improving. Not everyone took the side of the ballplayers. And most of the reactions on Jezebel’s blog were sympathetic to the girl, not the rapists.
Even the dimwit on the video eventually got some pushback from the other guys:
That’s not cool bro.
That’s like rape. It is rape. They raped her.
What if that was your daughter?
But unfortunately, from America to India and beyond, rape culture is still all too common.
The group of drunken men who waved them onto their private bus actually wanted a “joy ride” (???!!!) so they spent the trip beating the pair with an iron rod and gang raping the woman with that same tool. Afterward the two were thrown off the bus and left to die. The woman survived but her intestines were destroyed. After three abdominal surgeries she suffered major brain injury, cardiac arrest, an infected abdomen and infected lungs. After fighting for two weeks to live, her body finally gave out and she died.
All so a few guys could have a little fun.
Six men have been arrested. And that may be the most surprising part of this story. Indian women are constantly harassed and raped and then blamed for the crimes. What were they wearing? What were they doing? Attacks are pooh-poohed.
Recently, an 18-year-old from another Indian province was kidnapped from a place of worship, drugged and repeatedly assaulted. The police had her describe the attack — in detail — several times, and then pressured her family to take money as compensation. Or, have her marry one of the rapists to make things right. The young woman continued to be threatened and stalked by the men who raped her until she finally committed suicide.
When Indian women aren’t being raped they are being sexually harassed on a regular basis.
Neha Kaul Mehra was only 7 years old when it started. A man began masturbating in front of her as she walked to dance class. She went on to face much more.
Sonia Faleiro says this sort of thing is pervasive:
I LIVED for 24 years in New Delhi, a city where sexual harassment is as regular as mealtime… As a teenager, I learned to protect myself. I never stood alone if I could help it, and I walked quickly, crossing my arms over my chest, refusing to make eye contact or smile. I cleaved through crowds shoulder-first, and avoided leaving the house after dark except in a private car…
The steady thrum of whistles, catcalls, hisses, sexual innuendos and open threats continued. Packs of men dawdled on the street… To make their demands clear, they would thrust their pelvises at female passers-by.
Sexual harassment and rape are increasing in India. Between 2006 and 2011 rape was up 25%. Last year only one attack resulted in a conviction.
What’s behind the assaults? Provocative clothing? Women asking for it? Sonia tried covering up. It didn’t work. Surely the young woman on the bus hadn’t asked to be mutilated so badly that her intestines would need to be removed. Surely she did not ask to be thrown from a bus and left for dead
Instead we must ask what these rapists are trying to do.
The rise in assault comes as women gain greater freedom and empowerment. Clearly, someone wants to stop them.
Rape lets women know who is free and who is not. Assault leaves them feeling disempowered, intimidated, in fear of men. Rape lets them know who’s boss.
It’s working. Many women limit themselves. Politicians tell them to stay inside and stop using cell phones. Brothers tell sisters the same thing. Some mean well. But the effect is to keep women penned in. And because the real problem is not clothing or being out at night the rapes continue, anyway.
Between blaming victims, marrying them off to their rapists, and failing to arrest or prosecute the crimes, rapists are not held accountable. That keeps them going. It all stems from a culture of misogyny.
Instead of focusing on the women, transform the culture. Stop believing that being raped is a worse crime than raping. And consider that the victim-blaming of India is not so different from what often happens here – sometimes in comments on my blog.
At long last a rape in Delhi has created such outrage that the people are rising up in protest to demand a more humane world. I hope for their success.
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