I read yesterday in SN (December 28) that in India the 23-year-old medical student gang raped, beaten and thrown out of a bus has died. Her injuries were far too extensive for her to survive. I am not ashamed to say that I cried. Over the years I have found myself crying too often, immobilized by my own helplessness when I hear or read stories such as this or worse when I am confronted by real women who have suffered similar fates.
I cannot count the number of times the thought has crossed my mind that perhaps women need to be armed whether with pepper spray or guns. Over the past week or so I have been following in SN a discussion centred on the modalities of dress and how it has the potential for leading to rape. So here is my response. Take it or leave it.
To say that a woman’s state of dress or rather undress can be a causative factor for rape is probably the most simplistic, unintelligent garbage I have come across in a long time.
It is an old excuse trotted out by some men and women to shift blame from the rapist to the victim. It has fuelled many debates and controversies over the years. So I will say what many have said before. Clothes don’t cause rape. Rapists cause rape.
We need to stop blaming the victims of rape for being raped. Don’t come to me telling me mini-skirts and low-cuts tops gives a man, any man the room, the space, the right to access a woman’s body.
Are men such savages that the mere sight of a cleavage or stretch of thigh will cause them to lose control to the point of beating, raping, murdering women?
The student in India travelling home on the bus wasn’t dressed provocatively, neither was the 11-year-old girl in the US gang raped by 18 men, nor the elderly woman in the UK raped and murdered outside her home.
What about all the women and children, here in Guyana, in all parts of the world who were raped for reasons that had nothing to do with the clothes they wore. The list is long, too long of women and children raped because they are physically weaker, vulnerable for reasons of financial, social, cultural and political inferiority or invisibility. Do any of us really believe that by donning garments that shroud our physical form rapists will stop raping? I think not. As one writer pointed out in a recent letter on the subject, women in burqas are also victims of rape.
By its very nature rape is about the domination of the powerless by the powerful. It empowers the rapist whether he is driven by lust, anger, boredom or any other “cause” that fuels his need. Any attempt to shift the focus, the blame for this most abhorrent of crimes to the victim is truly despicable.