Rape Victims Shamed Into Suicide. In Pakistan. In America.

Assiya was sixteen when a “family friend” sold her to two Pakistani criminals who beat and raped her over the next year. Eventually the criminals traded her to the police in exchange for pinning one of their robberies on the girl. 

Assiya had thought her troubles were over. But instead, the officers took their turn beating and raping her for several days before letting her go. 

The police weren’t worried Assiya would tell. She was expected to commit suicide, as sexually assaulted girls had always done to rinse the dishonor of sexual assault from their families.

But instead, Assiya did the inconceivable. She accused her attackers.  

This story is shocking. Why would anyone, or any culture, expect a raped girl to commit suicide? As though the shame were hers. 

Yet sometimes America doesn’t seem so very different. 

Cut to the U.S. where fourteen-year-old Samantha Kelly’s mother told police that her daughter had sex with eighteen-year-old Joseph Tarnopolski. He was arrested, though it’s unclear whether the charge was statutory or forcible rape.

After a local Fox News affiliate identified Kelly by name, she was bullied so much at school that she finally committed suicide. Yet another reminder of the stigma victims can face when they report this crime.

It’s sad to see that even today, in Pakistan and in America, rape victims can be shamed into killing themselves. 

Georgia Platts

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on November 15, 2010, in feminism, gender, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Certain-to-be-wrong

    How horrible to have to go through what Sara Kruzan went through in her childhood and adolescence, then to finally stand up for herself just to end up in prison. I’m not a person that believes in killing someone for retribution, but what’s done is done. That is obviously what she believed had to be done in her situation. Nobody can possibly understand what she went through except for people that have experienced the same thing. Who knows where she was emotionally and mentally at that point.
    While watching the video, I find myself wondering if her harsh sentencing had anything to do with the stigma that goes along with prostitutes.

  2. I am glad you mentioned this news in your blog. This is crazy. After I read the article and watched the youtube video, I immediately signed the petition and asked all my family and friends to sign the petition. I really cannot understand how people define the word “justice”. I studied in a Catholic high school. I remember according to the Bible, Jesus teaches his disciples the meaning of laws. Jesus clearly says that Lord set laws to guide people to live a fruitful and meaningful life. This is to say law is only one of Lord’s ways to help humans generally define what is right and what is wrong. Thus, law can be amended as it has always been about love and human rights. In this case, I definitely think a life sentence is too much for Sara. Of course it is a wrong and immoral to kill someone. However, I think what Sara has done is understandable. No one can possibly understand how much pain and suffering she has been through. I wonder if she has not killed the pimp, what she would be doing right now. I think she would be still working as a prostitute for the pimp and living a miserable life. Would anyone have saved Sara from this poor life if she had not done it herself? I doubt it. When the judges decided to sentenced Sara to a life in prison, I do not think they are judging fairly. First of all, Sara was just sixteen when she killed the pimp. In other words, she was just a teenager that time and she surely deserved to have a chance to make up to her mistake. It just broke my heart when I heard she said “I am gonna die here.” Sara is obviously a kind-hearted girl. She expresses regret over killing the man, despite the fact that the man had ruined and traumatized her life. The early life of this girl is too sad. I think she has been punished enough already. As I have said earlier, laws are made to protect people and lead people to live a better life. I seriously hope Sara will get released as soon as possible because she really deserves hope and a chance to see the world.

  3. Yuxing Zheng(R.Splitter EWRT 1B)

    in “Violence as Proof of Masculinity,” James Gilligan talked about that women have been treated as sex objects for a long long time. As far as I can see, in Assiya’s case, Assiya was obviously treated as A sex object by other people involved in the case, not only the “family friend” and the “two Pakistani criminals,” but also the police officers. Firstly, Assiya was “sold” by her “family friend” as a product or object or something like that to the two criminals. Then, she was traded to the police in exchange for pinning one of their robberies on the girl. Assiya’s case is not unique but common because as James Gilligan said, “this is a historical problem.” In my idea, as Tamara mentioned earlier in her comment on this blog, “women’s rights have come along, there is still a long road ahead.” All people can do now is to strengthen women’s rights globally, not only in places like the U.S and other developed countries where societies are under the rule of law (I’m just saying that the U.S is doing a FAIRLY good job in women’s rights than other poor countries like those in the Africa), but also in countries like Pakistan, and Congo, etc. This is a LONG way ahead, but we’ve got to move on!

  4. I think that shame leading to suicide doesn’t only happen in America and Pakistan. Its a growing problem globally. Shame effects women in all society more that it does men because women perspective of shame is is highly regarded and their only escape is suicide. Shame has restrained many women from speaking up. Rape is not a pretty thing in our society we often look at rape as the women asking for it. A 12 yr old girl in Viet Nam was repeatedly raped by father(50yrs)-son(30yrs) for 4 yrs because they threaten to say that she seduced them. How they came to discover this is the girl now 16 is pregnant. Look at the injustice in that, raped for 4 yrs in silence because of shame. The father and son had no shame when raping her.

  5. It is common that many rape victims experience both guilt and shame after being sexually assaulted, although what happened to them was not their fault. Rape victims feel guilty and shame, because they feel they did something wrong which caused them to be sexually assaulted, and someone else will think poorly of them because they were assaulted. Shame is an attack on the victim as a person. Shame is longer lasting, and ultimately more dangerous than guilt. Because of shame, many rape victims attempt or commit suicide. They also feel embarrassed to talk about what had happened to them. I admire Assiya and what she did after all she had been through. We should provide emotional support to them, find crisis counseling or support groups for them to share their feelings with others, and help them to cope with feelings of isolation, guilt, depression, or anxiety.

  6. melissaprice2010

    To feel that the whole world is against you, or does not believe you, can be a most terrible experience. Feeling like you are the only one who feels the way you do, can be such a lonely and troubling feeling, even if you know you’re not the only one. And then at the same time, to be betrayed by someone you thought you could trust, especially in the way Assiya was, I commend her so much for not giving up and holding on to life, and truly keeping faith that things will look up and get better, maybe not right away, maybe not even in the near future, but having faith that eventually it would, is just a most commendable feat. If only all people who killed themselves could’ve have had a similar mindset.

  7. I commend Assiya for her bravery to accuse her attackers after all she has been through. It saddens me that rape, and violence towards all ages of women are considered ok, in different parts of the world. It sickens me that police officers who are supposed to be there to protect, and convict criminals and rapists are working with them and are in a sense criminals,themselves. It is real sad that women are shamed into suicide after they are raped, because they feel as if they are no longer good enough for their family,friends or are pressured into it by peers from being ridiculed. Instead of supporting girls through difficult times like this, people judge,and families disown them? That is horrible. Sometimes girls do feel as if ending their lives are the best solution since they think that they are not worthy anymore, or everyone will look at them differently, and committing suicide is the only way. Which is isn’t the case, there are many coping centers and hotlines, but of course at that stage girls/women don’t want to talk to anyone, but if these centers were more talked about more openly, and the contact information was easy to access maybe girls would feel a little more comfortable. In situation like this, people should handle talking to the victim in a delicate manner, and not make them feel as if it is their fault they were raped.

  8. I admire Assiya and what she did. She sets a brave example to all rape victims, their families, and the society. We should encourage Assiya’s courageous actions. This is the most effective way to fight rape crimes, otherwise these crimes would be more rampant and there would be more victims. We should support and encourage them to start new lives instead of being haunted in the past. However, in most culture and society, sexually assaulted girls commit suicide in the end because they can’t bear the pressure from the family and the society. They were given up by the families and husbands because they were shamed. Moreover, media often plays a negative part like the local Fox channel in this story. It should support victims, not push them to over the edge. I am so sad that this kind of story keeps happening. We should all help and support all victims like Assiya.

  9. Ngoc Huynh (R.Splitter EWRT 1B)

    Your conclusion how both rape victims in Pakistan and America have a common trait in committing suicide is not necessarily true. In my defense, outside observers have to take into account how each country differs in political and social standards because women in Pakistan do not possess the same rights as women in America do. For instance, if a woman in Pakistan fails to prove her rape allegation, then she is guilty of adultery. Pakistani law dictates both rape and adultery fall under the crime of Zina, meaning illicit sexual relations. In America, women have to prove sexual penetration and did not give consent to her rapist. If she fails to do so, then adultery cannot be an added charge due to double jeopardy rule. Another account external observers have to consider is the environment in which the victims are raised and currently dwell in. Pakistan is much more severe and stringent social norms compared to ours. Thus, a Pakistani woman in rural area may be tough or capable to stigmatization than a fourteen-year-old girl in the states. It is immensely unfortunate that rape victims in Pakistan are expected to commit suicide, but this option exists because women lack the fundamental rights that U.S. women have. To them, death is only a way out so they won’t become another rape statistic again. Women who commit suicide in America may be due to the fact that they lack a coping mechanism that precludes the thought of suicide from transpiring.

    • Thanks for the details. I didn’t mean that rape and suicide were the same in every way in each culture, simply that raped women could end up killing themselves in each culture due to shame.

  10. As far as I feel women’s rights have come along, there is still a long road ahead. As much as we depend on the legal system to bring justice, sometimes even justice can not save a women from society and public scrutiny. Why is it that the men I see that are likely to commit suicide are men who are not considered manly men (ex. Gay, tiny, maybe smaller then most kids his age) in other words seen as more feminine then masculine. Women are seen as the weaker sex, but people fail to see that without women there would be no men! For a women to feel shamed because she was raped is appalling. Still in some cultures today if you are raped you are considered “damaged” goods, even sometimes a disgrace to your family. Reading this article reminds me of the movie The Joy Luck Club , where a women is raped and taken in as a concubine and considered a disgrace to her family ; as if it were her choice. No one chooses to be helpless and taken advantage of, and even worse because of the stigma of women promiscuity a women definitely cannot control how she feels after that which ordeal.

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