Before I joined the Gender Day and the discussions that took place during workshop, about “Masculinity and Violent Nationalism”, which inspired me to read up about using rape as a weapon in conflicts- I thought that the rape is mostly sexually motivated. I changed my mind after reading up on the topic and learning that actually “(…)rape is not an aggressive manifestation of sexuality, but rather a sexual manifestation of aggression. In the perpetrator`s psyche it serves no sexual purpose but is an expression of rage, violence and dominance over a woman”(Rittner&Roth, 2012:20). During workshop, questions were raised about the influence rape has on a community. It was interesting to see that all the students already understood that such sexual assault is not just an attack on an individual person, but it is a social issue. Even though the horrifying topic, I was drawn into reading about it and these two books impressed me most: “Rethinking Rape” by Ann J. Cahill and “Rape: Weapon of War and Genocide” edited by C. Rittner and J.K. Roth.
I wonder if I am the one of few people who thought that rape is mainly sexually motivated and then I have red interviews with prisoners who committed rape. In “Rapist talking about rape” I found stories that made me feel, well let say at least disturbed, for example:
“With my victim, it wasn’t sex I was after. I wanted to destroy her completely. The more fright I could see in her eyes, the more I got a kick out of it. If she had struggled or maybe screamed, I would be sat in here for murder. It was that bad.”- Grendon prisoner, convicted of rape.
“You`ve got to push your luck, haven`t you… if you don’t some girl might think you hadn’t really wanted to…”. (Teague,1993).
While reading Cahill’s fascinating book I asked myself many questions and found myself rereading some paragraphs over and over again finding relief that finally someone “gets it” and has put it into words that I could not articulate myself. Ann J. Cahill wrote in the first paragraph of the introduction: “I was rapable and therefore I had to be careful.”(Cahill, 2001:1) Once again, back to Cahill, who wrote: “The possibility of rape shapes the space I inhabit (…)” or “It makes me think twice (…)”(Cahill, 2001:1). Why do I have to think twice before I go for a walk in the late evening, or go for a jog in the park? Why do I have to overpay for a taxi to feel secure going home after a few beers? Why are there special sections for “females travelling alone” in Lonely Planets guides?
So I asked myself again, what damage rape does to community? I felt that just writing it down, simplifies the point I would like to make, which is that harmful effects of rape does not stop on just one person, it goes beyond one`s mind and pours on family, friends, relatives not to mention generations that are an effect of sexual assault. Therefore I have designed the below graph to show how rape destroys communities (based on: Clifford, 2008).
It is a horrible concept to use rape as a weapon of war, a mass destructive one. Unfortunately it has a “logical” explanation, that can be found in answer given by Franz Stangl- boss of Treblinka (one of the nazi extermination camps). Journalist asked him , why all the humiliation and cruelty took place if they were going to kill everyone anyways, Franz said:
“To condition those who actually had to carry out the policies. To make it possible for them to do what they did”. (Rittner, Roth 2012)
It works, raping men and women during armed conflicts works. Having in mind the graph I made about the influence of rape on victims and their communities, plus the below numbers one can just imagine a post-conflict society where most of the members are victims. How to heal such trauma, or can you? Is there enough done on international level to address this issues?
Victims of sexual assault are:
3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
I strongly agree with the argument that rape should be considered as one of the world’s most powerful and destructive weapons against humanity in the 21st century (Clifford, 2008). In my country it was a big issue in the 20th century when Poland was firstly invaded by Germany, then by Soviet Russia. I have heard many stories about rapes and how my grandmother was hiding as a young girl, the stories about fear. The cruelty of these acts was shocking, so was the sculpture portraying a soviet solider raping pregnant woman (Brady, 2013) created by Polish art student from Gdansk. The sculpture was removed by police in a haste, while Russian Ambassador to Poland emphasized his outrage and the Polish society immersed itself into a heated debate. This only shows that even 70 years after committed crimes, it was still very delicate topic for the public. It reminds me we still live in culture which endorses masculine power and control. (Teague, 1993)
I think that the Gender Day was not about getting answers or reading long articles, in my view it was more about asking questions and directing them to ourselves, as the topics touched upon during workshops felt so intimate and private. When I wonder how I can connect the obtained knowledge to the field of my studies and my future job I realised I am already using this knowledge while trying to understand and assess risk at my current work. People tend to think that they would be able to recognise if someone has tendencies towards sexual violence. But from my own experience I can tell that this is not always the case.
Attending the Gender Day inspired me to read up on such topics, so I could understand how such a hideous crime can occur. I personally think it is important to talk about these topics and take off the stigma from victims. Recently this topic became more apparent to me as, lets face it, there is a serious problem of verbal harassment towards women in Bradford, as well as I noticed that often at work if dealing with difficult situations, sometimes I feel that being a women only makes an argument more heated, just because a female member of staff is requesting for rules to be followed.
“ Rape is an act that expresses a political dominance, that is already, by and large, accepted.” (Cahill, 2001)
I do think that an everyday person feels overwhelmed with information and yes, they know rape happens on a big scale but that is somewhere far away like Congo or that bad neighbourhood on the other end of your city where you just don’t go. So when you walk on dark street you squeeze that pepper spray in your pocket, car keys in another, have police on fast dial and look around you so that you make sure that that homeless person on the other side of street won`t turn out to be the most wanted rapist in the city. I am glad you feel safe when you finally get to the party or you doing overtime at work in an empty office, or just walking safely on your campus during night. I am glad you feel safe, but I am worried that you are fearing the wrong guy, because the research proves you wrong, only in 25% of rape cases women did not know their attacker (Cahill, 2008). So stop being afraid of that poor homeless guy but be more aware of the fact that almost 75% of raped women in USA knew their attacker in a social context (Cahill, 2008).
Ok, so you checked their facebook timelines from the last 5 years and there is nothing indicating that this nice guy from library will rape you. I am sorry to bring the bad news, but a recent research conducted at the universities of North Dakota revealed shocking news: A third of male students at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University admitted that they would rape women if there weren’t any consequences.
Such research makes me wanna give up on humanity sometimes… Because isn’t it disturbing that 31.7% of university students who should be educated and have some brains and sensibility said that they would have sex with a woman against her will, if no one would ever learned about it, and if there were no consequences? (Source:http://www.hegnar.no/kvinner/artikkel532705.ece).
This post just scratches the surface of bigger problems, like for example femicide… Just to bring some positive information into this depressive topic I would like to bring to your attention that there exist tribal societies where rape is considered “rare or absent” or could go as far as (WATCH OUT): “rape free” (Watson-Franke, 2002). Examples of such communities can be found in:
Ashanti (West Africa, data from 1920s)
Bougainville, Vanatinai (Oceania)
Mosuo of Southwest China
Apache (An Apache man suffers enormous status loss by forcing himself sexually on anyone).
Stay safe girls, and remember, we are all rapable…
Brady, T. Polish town tears down the statue marking the rape of millions German women by Russian Soldiers. The Daily Mail. 13 October 2013. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2458778/Komm-Frau-Gdansk-tears-statue-marking-rape-millions-German-women-Russian-soldiers.html (Accessed at: 03.01.2015).
Cahill, A.J. (2001). Rethinking Rape. New York: Cornell University Press.
Clifford, C. (2008). Rape as a Weapon of War and it’s Long-term Effects on Victims and Society. 7th Global Conference Violence and the Contexts of Hostility Monday 5th May – Wednesday 7th May 2008 Budapest, Hungary.
Rittner C., Roth J.K. (2012). Rape: Weapon of War and Genocide. Paragon House.
Teague M. (1993). Rapists talking about rape: An exploration of masculine culture in criminal justice. Norwich: Social Work Monographs.
Watson-Franke B.M. (2002) A world in which women move freely without fear of men: An anthropological perspective on rape