by Eva Callueng
It is appalling to know that some people still think that rape is something that is called for. They think that some are raped because they provoke their rapist by wearing short shorts, lacy or sheer blouses, and heavy make-up, or even when they wear long skirts, as if the person is challenging rapists to exert more effort as it is not easily given away.
The recent gang rape in India that sparked interest across nations allows us to rethink our positions and take on an issue that preys on the vulnerability of women. The ringleader of Delhi’s gang rape even calmly said that the 23-year old victim deserved it for she dared to stand up with him, a disturbing sign of how some men see women. It is no secret that the majority of victims choose to be quiet because of the stigma and discrimination they experience when they come out and seek justice.
Worse, there are those who believe that women who choose to press charges are merely after the attention. In fact, the whole experience causes trauma as it is not just about the physical and sexual violence a victim may have experienced, but it is also about how the act robs her of her ability to integrate and interrelate. Rape can be as violent as murder, as only a few are able to survive, if not able to totally integrate with, the community to which she belongs.
The heinous crime in India may have horrified us, but according to statistics that have come to light after the New Delhi incident, the act, heinous as it may be, was not an aberration. One girl/woman is raped every 22 minutes worldwide, and 7 out of 10 women experience physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime.
In the Philippines, the monthly crime report of PSA (Pacific Strategies and Assessments) shows that in October 2011, there were 9 rape cases, including the rape-murder case of a nine-year old kid, in Metro Manila. Also, records of both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Women’s Crisis and Child Protection Center (WCCPC) reveal that there were 14,201 recorded cases of rape (76.56% of all crimes committed against women of a sexual nature), attempted rape (18.68%) and incestuous rape (5.74%) from January 2000 to August 2011. From January-June 2011 alone, 28 recorded cases of gang rape were recorded. Further, it was approximated that after every two-and-a-half hours, one child is being raped. The youngest rape victim on record was 3 years old, and the oldest, 86.
As rape destroys one’ self -esteem, only a few file charges. Their perpetrators enjoy life without feeling any sense of guilt or remorse. Some victims even commit suicide to end their agony, or join the sex-work industry, believing that it is the only work left for them where they won’t feel or be treated differently. Others try to live with a new identity, a new self.
Horrendous everyday stories about these abuses are part of every news outfit and equally horrifying is the fact that justice is served cold, if ever at all. I personally know of a teenage rape case that was settled for a few thousand pesos, as there was no one who helped the victim to pursue a serious case in a proper venue.
The victim, a young girl who came to Manila to work as a house helper, just decided to go back to her province, uncertain whether she would tell her parents about the misfortune.
Rape, whether provoked or carried away by lust or emotions, will never be justified. There is no sure way of getting rid of these criminals, but as Ra’s al Ghul claimed in Batman Begins, criminals thrive on people’s compassion. Managing compassion may be one way of getting rid of these problems. We should show little compassion towards perpetrators of these heinous acts. Instead, our compassion should be reserved for the victims in order to help them and their loved ones get over the ordeal and move on. Others who file charges and then later on exonerate defendants by accepting out-of-court settlements and plea bargains add to the horrors and struggle of claiming justice, as they raise doubts regarding the real reason behind the victims’ calls for justice. It remains a fact that some may just pretend to be ‘victims,’ which further victimizes real victims since it makes it harder for them to fight for justice. These opportunists rob real victims of the opportunity of building support, especially since supporters are put off by retraction and changes of mind. This reality confronts not just the women’s sector, but everyone, as perpetrators prey on the vulnerability of the issue, the victims, and justice system as well.
It may take a while until society exhibits enough compassion to victims of these abuses, but changing our personal views and the improvement of facilities to rehabilitate victims and prosecute perpetrators would be a step in the right direction.
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