20 March 2003
We refer to the letter, Women’s lifestyle can also lead to rape, by Christine S (The Star, 19th March 2003, p 27).
It is saddening, frustrating as well as dangerous to see the propagation of such erroneous beliefs that not only continue to perpetuate the myths surrounding rape, but also provide the perfect environment for rape to continue.
Rape is not about sudden loss of sexual self-control due to provocation. It is a crime of violence where sex is used to demean and subjugate women.
Babies from below one year old to elderly women of ninety have been raped, girls in covered up school uniforms and women in what is considered “sexy” clothes have been raped – the only common factor lies in the fact that they are all women. Women and girls have been sexually violated by their fathers, brothers, grandfathers, boyfriends, acquaintances and co-workers. As Christine S. herself recognised, a woman cannot feel safe anywhere anymore. Rapes happen on dates, when you are parking your car, in your own home. Therefore, it is fallacious to state that if only women would take heed in where they go with whom and wearing what, they would not have been raped. Beliefs like these limit women’s life and ability to participate fully as members of society, and further create the inequality in gender relations that makes it enabling for men to exert their power over women using sex as a weapon.
Blaming the survivor only releases the man who commits the violence from the responsibility for what he has done. What this will do is again to create an environment that is acceptable and facilitating for any man to be a rapist because they are not at fault – the fault lies with the woman for no other reason than that she is a woman. Sometimes women blame the survivors to cope with this terrible crime, to convince ourselves that “rape will never happen to me because I will not go out late at night/wear sexy clothes/go on a date etc.” It is urgent to realise that this does not address the root of the problem; no matter what a woman chooses to do and how she behaves, she does not deserve or ask to be violated.
We plea to Christine and to every person who considers rape as an abhorrence that should not happen to any woman, to start looking at the issue where it rests: rapists who disregards a woman’s right to make decisions about her own bodily integrity, rapists who do not think women have the right to say “no”, and rapists who thinks they can get away with rape because the fault does not lie on their blatant disrespect for women’s human rights.
The issue will not disappear unless we start to examine our own attitudes and values which allows for rape to happen.