By Eva Bell
Rape is a social evil that has reached explosive proportions. It has ruined many lives and continues to do so at a frenetic pace. No one is immune, and age is no bar. From infants to senior citizens to corpses, rape has become a diabolic symbol of power in an iniquitous world. In USA, a rape occurs every two minutes; In India, every 54 minutes, and in Pakistan, every three hours. The tragedy is that 80% are perpetrated by fathers, brothers, relatives or friends. Six out of ten occur in the home or in the home of a relative or friend. The story of an Austrian father, who raped his daughter for 24 years, and sired seven children through her, is still fresh in our minds.
Though rape occurs in all social groups, it is more frequent among minority groups with low social status. A molester need not necessarily be a sleazy character. He may be well educated, well groomed and have a high standing in society such as a judge, government official, policeman or priest. Even doctors have been known to rape patients in their clinics. The rapist may be of any age from an old man to a young teenager. The increasing trend of raping minors by force or through allurements is frightening. Children of 14 years or lower, have been known to rape their classmates, and kill them out of fear of being caught.
Reasons for under reporting:
A habitual rapist may molest about 8-10 women before being caught. As conviction rates are only about 2%, many cases go unreported.
- Most women fear the stigma attached to rape, especially when the Law does not convict the rapist. They become secretive and even believe that they are in some way guilty.
- Lack of faith in the judicial system: Many times the court puts the victim on trial, questioning her about her morality, and probing into her sexual history. When a constable in Mumbai raped a 15 year old rag picker the judge proclaimed, “She is a rag picker and of no consequence.”
Because of such perverse reasoning and warped sense of justice, many judges pass it off as an ‘act of passion’ and award minimum sentence.
Also, legal battles are long and tiresome. The onus of proving rape falls on the victim.
- Fear of retaliation by the rapist or his goons.
- Fear of adverse reaction from society, parents, husbands, employers or peers.
- Fear of tarnishing the family image, especially when there are unwed female siblings.
One study showed that 43% of women are ignorant of the law; 23% are too shy to come forward; 12% are afraid of the police; 12% think complaining will not make a difference.
One young girl said, “I blame society for giving men the right to rape and regarding women’s suffering as unimportant. A rapist may get off with a light sentence, but the victim’s sentence is for life.”
What is rape?
It is a form of sexual sadism involving unlawful sexual penetration either by coercion, force, blackmail or under false promises. “I believe that whatever violates the integrity of a woman’s body should be considered rape,” says Brinda Karat, a women’s activist. “Sexual violence apart from being dehumanizing, is an unlawful intrusion of the right to privacy and sanctity of the female,” says Justice A. S. Anand.
Situations under which rape occurs:
– Custodial rape when a woman is in custody for some small offence.
– Child rape is the pastime of pedophiles. 1 in 5 children raped are below 15 years of age. Some don’t even spare infants in cradles.
– Casting couches are routine in the film or modeling industry. When a person is desperate for a job she becomes vulnerable.
– Date rape has been escalating. The assailant is usually known to the victim, and drugs the victim with GHB, Rophynol, Ketamine or some such drug. These drugs are in powder form or liquid and dissolve in any drink. These drugs make the victim physically helpless and incapable of resisting sex, also incapable of recalling the incident. Alcohol enhances the action of the drugs. No trace is found in the blood stream after 72 hours
– Aggravated rape is when a rapist introduces an instrument or foreign body into the victim, to build up his own orgasm.
– Marital rape which may not be recognized by the law.
“In marriage, the weakest, stupidest, insignificant men of the world receive license to rape or beat their wives,” says Virginia Woolfe
– Necrophilia: The raping of corpses is common in certain tribes. Sometimes sexual perverts can also indulge in such activity.
Reasons why men rape?
– It gives men a sense of power, and is linked to their identity. Forcing a woman into sexual subjugation validates their manhood. They enjoy it.
– Lust in men who have not disciplined their impulses. Testosterone makes male libido flare out of control.
– Economic causes: In some communities the bride price may be too high. Poverty, low socioeconomic status, unemployment, lack of skills, make men vent their frustration through rape. The victim and rapist may live in the same area. Girls in inner cities have 1 in 70 chances of being raped, whereas in rich areas it may be 1 in 2000.
– In communities with strict codes of behavior, where no mingling of sexes is allowed, repressed males give expression to their masculinity through rape.
– Antisocial and borderline personalities behave irresponsibly. This is enhanced by drugs and alcohol.
– Misogyny: Men who hate women commit violent crimes against them. Many have aggressive mothers and timid fathers. A mother’s verbal abuse may have given the man a poor self-image. As an expression of anger against mother or sisters, he finds a victim who cannot defend herself or is mentally retarded, and rapes her.
– Men with poor self-worth are convinced that no woman would voluntarily sleep with them. They are aroused by sexual fantasies and express themselves through rape.
– Revenge: When men are rejected or ignored, they feel insulted enough to use rape as a form of revenge.
– Growing Feminism: Women are breaking down every male bastion. They are becoming economically independent and upwardly mobile. Male bashing is occurring like never before. Assisted reproductive technology and genetic engineering make some men feel purposeless and disempowered. As a result they resort to rape.
– Sex Industry and Pornography incites men to treat women as commodities and humiliate them for their pleasure.
“Rape is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear,” says Susan Brown Miller.
– Men have blamed women for flaunting their female attributes through indecent exposure, skimpy costumes and suggestive behavior. This they say precipitates lust in men. Women refute this because rape occurs in small towns or villages where women dress modestly.
– Rape in war is sanctioned by the highest authorities as a means of demoralizing the social fabric of a nation, by impregnating their women. It is also supposed to relieve aggression and promote bonding among soldiers.
Effects of rape on the victim:
The Rape-Trauma syndrome is akin to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It has two stages. The first is Disorganization due to the shock of rape. Fright, anger, guilt, and shame may follow. Reorganization is the second stage which gradually takes place over a period of 3-4 months. Sometimes it may take much longer. The victim feels vulnerable, timid, and not fully in control of her life. Residual Damage is what rape leaves in its wake. Depression, sexual dysfunction, vaginismus, fear of sexual interaction and inability to adjust socially are common. The person may take to alcohol or drugs to fight off fear and depression. A survivor of rape is nine times more likely to commit suicide. But if the victim gets immediate support and is able to ventilate her grief, fear or rage, the chances of recovery are greater.
Solutions to minimize rape in society:
o Education of the public by raising rape consciousness in society through education and awareness programs. Men, politicians, police, judiciary and the general public should be sensitized about violence against women. New insights into sex roles are needed. Stereotype gender roles only make men more aggressive and women more vulnerable.
o Education of girls: Strong parental support will give girls a sense of security and belonging. They will have confidence to express their fears and anxieties. Parents should encourage their children to report to them incidents like physical proximity, inappropriate touching even if it is father, brother or relatives. Girls should be made aware of dangers lurking in society. 60% of teenagers have a tendency to act boldly and impulsively.
Women should also be made aware of the laws against rape and molestation. Male judges are too easy on rapists and too hard on victims. Because of such injustice, the law has been brought into disrepute. Trials must be time bound and punishment swift. Rape Crisis Centers should provide counseling and support to rape victims.
o Education of girl children should include specific “do’s” and “don’ts.” They should be told never to let a stranger within arm’s length, and never to accept sweets or toys from strangers; never to lead a stranger to some isolated place he wants to visit; to beware of over-friendliness. Children from unhappy homes are easy targets as they are starved for affection. Even van drivers who ferry children between school and home may take advantage of a friendly child. Teenagers may be lured by people who promise roles in films or in modeling. If attacked, the child should be told to drop on the ground and scream for help.
o Education of parents: The lines of communication between them and their children should always be tension-free. Many parents think that children are too young to be told about rape as it will frighten them unduly. Children must be made aware that there is a small number of wicked people in society.
Parents should also be alerted by sudden withdrawal, loss of appetite, nightmares or refusal to go to school, and investigate into the matter.
Parents should check the sites children visit on the Net and the type of books they read.
A child who is aware of dangers will be more likely to ward off a rapist. Vigilance is the solution.
Eva Bell is a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. She is a freelance writer, and her articles, short stories and children’s stories have been published in magazines, newspapers, on the Net, and in several anthologies. She is the author of: Novels – “Silver Amulet,” “When Shadows Flee,” “Halo of Deceit.”