So when is rape not entirely the rapist’s fault? The answer should be as obvious as the fact that, for too many people, it obviously isn’t. So if you plan on following India’s gang rape trial (which started last week), prepare yourself for a total onslaught of jaw-dropping victim-blaming as defence attorneys attempt to weasel their way around the distinct possibility that their clients are murderous rapists.
It started weeks before the trial. One of the lawyers, Manohar Lal Sharma, said earlier this month that the raped and murdered woman’s companion, who was also assaulted, was "wholly responsible" for the attack, because an unmarried couple shouldn’t be on the streets at night. He added: “I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady.”
And let’s not forget the Indian “spiritual guru”, Asaram Bapu, who famously commented: “The victim daughter is as guilty as her rapists... She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop.”
Now I can almost see you sitting there shaking your head and going, “Tsk tsk. Crazy beard-faces. Thank [insert your deity here] that we don’t think like that down here.”
But actually, some of us do. So to illustrate this, let’s put victim-blaming into a South African context.
An attractive young woman (we’ll call her Muffin, and say that she dots the ‘I’ with a little heart) is drunkenly walking herself home after a night of clubbing. She’s wearing the skimpiest skirt ever invented, her pierced belly exposed, and a tiny tank top, which says “porn star” across her boobs. She stumbles into the most predictable and clichéd dark alleyway you can think of, and that’s when the stalker who has been following her from the club, decides to pounce.
And suddenly it becomes a whole lot easier to start thinking like the spiritual guru and the defence lawyer.
Here are a few comments from Women24 users on a previous rape-related story:
- “Both the person raped and the rapist share some degree of responsibility for the incident”;
- “a lot of young girls are pushing the boundaries in the way they dress and act”;
- “the woman enticing the man and placing herself and the man in a compromising position, needs to also take responsibility”;
- and my favourite rape prevention tip: “Everyone who called on the name of JESUS shall be saved.”
Victim blamers like to think of themselves as walking rape-prevention kits, magnanimously offering advice on how to lead a molestation-free life. But their tips make them sound like the Taliban. They want to tell you what to wear, where to go, who to go with and how much to drink when you get there. And if you don’t do what they say, you’re a stupid slut and deserve what’s coming to you.
Isn’t it just a bit weird that victim-blamers think it’s perfectly acceptable to prescribe limiting behaviour to women, but never seem to offer their wisdom to men? You know, the ones doing all the raping?
So that’s how I’d like to end this column – with a tip for men on how to avoid rape.
- Whatever a woman is drinking, doing, wearing, wherever she is, don’t rape her.
Shit, that was easy.
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Do you think there are mitigating circumstances for rape?