I am bothered by the discourse surrounding the brutal rape and disembowelment of seventeen year old Anene Booysen( here) in which some people are asking why she was out that late in a tavern. Or where was her mother? Implicit in these questions is blame, it was her fault that she was out late at night or it was her mother’s fault that her daughter was out late and got raped. Just to illustrate how flawed this kind of thinking is, there is another recent story. A 15 year old girl in Chicago was taking trash out when a car pulled up, dragged her in and she was taken to a home where she was gang raped by three men for hours (here). Who do we blame for this girl’s abduction and rape? Whose fault is it that she was taking the garbage out to the trash can? Why must women live in perpetual fear and change their behaviors when they are NOT the ones committing rape?
Rape is never the victim’s fault or anyone’s fault but the rapist. Subtle language that insinuates that the victim or someone other than the perpetrator of the crime is to blame is part of the reason we are not angry enough about this issue. When we fully accept that rape is a violent crime and that those who rape should face the full extent of the law (by law here, I mean either jungle justice on the streets or the courts of law).
I remember a time when a man would get beaten up by other men if he dared to beat his wife either in public or in private. Women knew to scream blue murder because someone would come to their rescue. Now it seems that men will form a mob to humiliate and to encourage the rape or beating of a woman in broad daylight. There are numerous stories of women in Harare being stripped naked by mobs of men for wearing a mini skirt. Yesterday I watched a video of a group of about 8 men beating up two girls for stealing a bottle of wine. Earlier this year I watched a video of a Nigerian girl beaten up and stripped naked for stealing a cell phone. What is seen in the videos is the sexual humiliation of stripping the women down to their underwear or totally divesting them of all clothing and kicking their legs apart. These men video tape their atrocities and share them with the world. What happened? When did the streets we walk on become war zones for women? What is the difference in terms of safety between a woman in Harare or Johannesburg and a woman in a remote part of the Congo? Nothing because in both cases these women can be gang raped, with impunity for the perpetrators. In both cases these women are not safe and their womanhood places them at risk for assault.
We need to be angry and the decent men need to express more outrage at this violation of the feminine. Men need to step up, and be heard speaking unequivocally against the violation of their mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, colleagues and children. When good men are silent and remain uninvolved then they are sending a message of endorsement to this sickness. Yes, in your silence you are all complicit and perhaps you can live with the fact that the women most precious to you are at high risk for being violated. If you cannot accept this then you need to be heard and you need to RISE! When enough men Rise and pitch their voices with those of the feminine, this madness will stop. If this does not happen, then policies will not change, the law and penalties will not be enforced and the rot will get worse and deeper. Men need to challenge every circumstance where a woman is harassed or degraded in their presence. They should be affronted by this and they should become intolerant of misogynistic comments among their friends and colleagues. They should shame their fellow men who talk trash about women in the name of “locker room banter”. The words expressed by people often reveal the darkness hidden in their hearts and given an opportunity, many will act on their dark thoughts. When they are shamed for this and made face the ugliness that they harbor, perhaps they will find it that much harder to act out those things. And if they do go ahead and rape then there should be swift, effective application of the law, such that the perpetrator and potential perpetrators will be shocked out of their sick spiral towards hurting women.
The more we allow rape and violence to go unpunished the more desensitized society becomes and the more normalized it becomes. To remain sensitized we need to have ZERO tolerance towards rape and violence against women. ZERO tolerance means NEVER ever blaming the victim ever.