RAPE! THE EPIDEMIC THAT WILL NOT GO AWAY
Yes, our culture. Surprised? Guess what? We are part of a society that evidently has accepted domestic abuse, rape especially, as our tradition. Now, just because you may not have seen lately a screaming headline about another “Rape Story” does not mean our Godgiven caretakers are not being ravaged in the worst way.
We have a tendency, whenever some form of violence is trending, to suddenly become “activists”. But such activism is usually seasonal and short-lived. A one-shot affair. Remember how we carried on when the “two serial rapists in our midst” was hot news? Or have we forgotten? How about the pre-election lunchtime rape? The one involving a young shopkeeper at work. Ah, you’re saying to yourself: “Yeah, I remember. I wonder what happened to that?” Nothing, that’s what. To date, no arrests.
Is it possible we’ve forgotten the young mother who was raped in the presence of her child? A police officer was accused. Is he in custody? Or has he been released, like so many other “suspects” before him, for lack of evidence? Is he on bail? Has he skipped town? Do we care? Remember how “outraged” we were at the time? How we imagined ourselves activists against the abuse of women and domestic violence generally? We blogged till our minds gave up on us. We called every talk show to complain and to commiserate and to say, well, you know what you said . . . what you heard from the other singleshot activists. Hell, even our politicians came out of their cocoons glibly to talk their election-time anti-rape talk. Heard from any of them lately?
We’re such hypocrites! Even when there’s every chance we could be the next rape casualty. Or someone close to us. A blood sister; a cherished friend—for goodness sake, a grandmother. Remember the 87-year-old who was attacked by a young man as she slept in her bed? Oh, that one really shook us up, didn’t it? But for how long? Three days? A week, maybe? More forgotten victims come to mind: Giselle, Verlinda, Trisha (she was just a baby!) Let’s not even talk about Mary Rackliffe who was decapitated by a man who professed to love her and her children . . . especially her youngest daughter whom he raped because he wanted “some virgin blood” for who knows what ritual. It happened more than ten years ago . . . there was a big demonstration and a lot of talk by a lot of people who imagined themselves, yes, activists. Most of them carrying placards with bold letters that shouted “Woman Stand Up!” Like Mary had stood up. Her lover-rapistkiller’s name was Shaka. And yes, he remains free to this day!
In case you may be wondering, this article is not about taking you down memory lane. It’s about the rape culture that one way or another we perpetuate. The casual attitude towards rape in our country is clearly evident in how our justice system handles it. Possibly this is one of the reasons why society appears to live comfortably with rape unless it’s the day’s headline. As they say: out of sight, out of mind.
Too often we lay blame on “our broken justice system”. But then we seem to think about this only when another horrendous crime has occurred, then move on to regular business; to partying like it’s 1994; to getting drunk; to staying in our section—until a relative, another sister, gets what she never asked for.
According to a recent press release by the Saint Lucian Association of Social Workers (heard about them?), “For a significant number of victims, justice was not their reality and experience. The long period of time spent on remand by individuals charged with crimes is a major injustice plaguing our justice system.”
Did you hear the report this week about a man who grabbed a young girl by her breast and roughly reminded her that he could rape her if he chose to “and get away with it?”
Did that ring your bell? Did it make you think? Did it rock your comfort zone? Or did you shrug it off and blame the girl who may or may not have been wearing short-shorts or belly riders? It’s what we say, isn’t it? If only in our twisted minds! “Why was she dressed like that at night?”
We seem totally oblivious of all the research that proves a woman’s clothes have little to do with her getting raped. That octogenarian earlier mentioned was certainly not in thongs and high heels when that monster crept into her bedroom and attacked her. The alleged antirape campaigns seem less a deterrent than a perpetuation of the over-sexualization of women. The actors in those TV campaigns are nearly always young, attractive females dressed up like Kylie Jenner at a photo shoot for some men’s magazine.
I like the line by American clinical psychologist Mary Pipher: “Young men need to be socialized in such a way that rape is as unthinkable to them as cannibalism!” As a society it is our job to teach our boys to respect another person’s body, that ‘no’ should always be taken as ‘no’. No amount of prison rehabilitation can change a mindset indelibly imprinted from childhood. We must all demand an end of our judicial system’s lethargic attitude toward rape and other sexual offences. Otherwise it runs the risk of leading otherwise good citizens to take the law into their own hands. When a society has lost faith in its justice system, it turns to the law of the jungle.
On Tuesday, an exasperated mother turned to Facebook following an attempted rape attempt of her daughter as she waited with several other commuters at a bus stop, none of whom offered her the slightest assistance. The mother included pictures of the attempted rapist. Yes, you may be wondering, as I did, how many times this mother had been let down by our justice system and whether turning to FB was a last-ditch effort to draw attention to her plight.
On the other hand, taking the law into our own hands is not without its repercussions on the victim. Suspects also have constitutional rights. Even rape suspects. Cyber bullying is another crime fast becoming commonplace. We owe it to ourselves to demand our government takes a serious look at our justice system—from our police to our courts—and do what must be done for the protection of all who live here. In particular, the more vulnerable among us. We’re supposed to be a civilized society after. So why does it appear our country has gone to the dogs?
Rape is so commonplace in Saint Lucia that countless victims don’t bother to report attacks to the police. More often than not, reported cases remain unresolved!