RAPE! THE EPI­DEMIC THAT WILL NOT GO AWAY

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By An­gel­ica O’DonoghueHolder

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!

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