Friday, 28 December 2012

In memory of the New Delhi gang rape victim

The 23 year old woman who was gang raped on a bus on the way home from a cinema in New Delhi on December 16 has just died in hospital from her injuries.

Here's the article. You should read it.

As a result of a metal rod used in the rape (how exactly it was used is not specified and I don't want to begin to imagine it) the woman had to have all her intestines removed in hospital.

I'm writing this because I actually felt physically sick when I read about her death - and I'm still feeling sick now.

This rape took place because, in India, sexual violence against women is an every day part of life. Gangs of men regularly chase women and grope them or rape them - it's called "eveteasing" and is so routine that the police don't bother to even investigate it.

And today in Punjab an 18 year old girl committed suicide after being kidnapped, drugged and repeatedly raped. But she committed suicide not because of the rape, but because the police forced her to recount the rape in humiliating detail and, despite multiple visits to the police station where she and her mother were forced to wait for hours upon end, the police did not register the crime until two weeks later - because they were too busy talking to local elders and the rapists to try to come to a "settlement". Typically these settlements result in the rape victim being forced to marry their rapist and no charges being brought. In this case no settlement was reached and the rapists harassed the girl and her family with impunity, threatening to kill them unless they withdrew their complaint to the police.

But this just isn't an Indian problem. In the UK, this year we had an MP describe having sex with a woman while she was unconscious as being nothing more than "bad sexual etiquette". We had a judge tell off a rape victim in court for "letting herself down" because she had been drinking before she had been raped. And we had thousands of people bully, attack and disclose the personal details on twitter of a woman raped by a footballer - while one of the teammates publicly called her a money grabbing slut. And this despite the fact that the footballer in question had held her down while she struggled to escape and then invited in a friend who did the same.

I will also point out here, that the bast majority of rapes are not by men grabbing women in dark alleys but by men who are friends, relatives or otherwise known to their victims.

And, on the internet, and in culture, we see a disgusting attitude towards rape victims. Women, for the victims are usually women, are regularly blamed or questioned in a way that no victim of any other crime would be for what has happened to them. This year a premiere comedy festival headlined comedians who made dozens of jokes about rape. This year the most read online student publication in the UK, with tens of thousands of readers, wrote "85% of rapes go unreported - those sound like pretty good odds". And a famous DJ being investigated for sexual assault, described as nothing other than harmless touching what he had done to women. Despite the fact that I personally know one woman who he came up to and whose breasts she groped while on a cigarette break and who was then told to just "laugh it off" when she complained to the producer.

And I'm not even going to begin to mention the cowardly lowlifes online who routinely question and abuse and insult any woman who speaks out against sexism or sexual assault.

The thing is, this is endemic. This culture and attitude is all around us. And, without even realising it, it affects our views and subconscious prejudices - which is why any woman who appears in court as a victim of rape is likely to face the defence doing everything possible to blacken her character and to pass her off as some kind of slut. Which they do because juries believe it and acquit rapists because of it.

And, in our modern society where violent porn is incredibly widely viewed and influential, especially amongst young people, it is incredibly easy for people to fall into the trap of forgetting about consent and seeing women as sex toys rather than real people. The vast majority of us are perfectly decent people and would never abuse others but the potential for people to fall into that way of thinking is something which now incredibly easy if people don't stand up to speak for consent and for ending the treatment of women as objects rather than people.

Furthermore, rapists and predators are often "good" people. They can be that friend of yours, or that nice, respectable pillar of the community, or the charming young professional. Good guys, nice guys, can be rapists and it's society's unwillingness to accept this which is why so often victims of abuse are met with scepticism and hostility just for talking about what has happened to them. Why every single discussion about this throws up dozens of people arguing furiously about the problem of false accusations out of all proportion to the fact that it is much, much rarer than instances of abuse.

And it's this attitude, this approach to women in general and victims of rape and assault in particular, which is why rape takes place. Why rapists get away with it and rape again and again. And, ultimately, it is why people like the woman in New Delhi end up dying in hospital - all because of a culture, around the world, that remains far too wilfully blind to its own tolerance of rape and abuse.

So this is me, speaking up about it. Because I'm too sickened to stay silent any longer.

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