OP-EDs

OP-ED: UNDERSTANDING DATE RAPE

It is unimaginable how many women, raped by their partners, have remained silent, for fear that no one will believe them or that at that time they valued the relationship more and did not report, yet again that does not wash away the crime of rape. The circumstances around which DATE RAPE occurs are a fertile ground for disbelieve and shame. No one believes the victim and everyone shames the victim for coming out and reporting.

By Seabata Makoae

The recent mainstream and social media frenzy around the case in which Sjava is accused by his ex-girlfriend Lady Zamar of raping her has triggered mixed reactions, condemnations and even utterances that could easily be deemed as uncaring and insensitive to the supposed victim, but most worryingly vile comments and reactions coming from women, unhesitatingly calling Lady Zamar an attention seeker, hell bent on revenging for the break-up with Sjava and so on.

There are a few interesting facts to be noted before one delves deeper into the matter.

This opinion piece does not in any way, seek to provide judgement nor closure with regard to the question of whether Sjava is or is not guilty of rape. I have no powers in that regard.

The intention is to ignite debate and raise awareness about the scourge of rape and more importantly DATE RAPE. Amongst those facts is that men and women alike seem to doubt that indeed rape occurred, across the spectrum, men and boys, women and girls, young and old have questioned the authenticity of the rape claim, thus casting doubt on the story and the supposed victim’s intentions, more so after such a long time since the occasion of the alleged rape. Timing and the break up seem to be core in putting in to question the legitimacy of the accusation.

Did Sjava rape Lady Zamar?

Your guess is as good as mine. One thing for sure though, is that between Lady Zamar and Sjava someone is lying and the other is telling the truth or part of the truth is told by both parties with an oblique and obscure version of the rape or consensual sex version.

Only this duo can tell the public the truth. Suppose for a second that you are a man in the shoes of Sjava today; would you confess to the crime of rape?

Which man in your knowledge and memory has ever come out to confess that they did, when accused by their ex-girlfriend or ex-wife of such a crime?  On a scale of probability, what are the chances that a man can agree and come clean confessing to the heinous crime of rape? Wait! I am not saying he did or he did not. I am just asking!

This opinion piece is not about this couple but about DATE RAPE and perhaps the culture of rape in our societies. I have however, elected to use this case because the story of Sjava and Lady Zamar carries or bears all the necessary and fundamental hallmarks of a DATE RAPE. Classic!   

Let us journey together through the spells and musings of my thoughts to take a look at these features of DATE RAPE and then draw your own conclusions.

In most cases the victim is female, knows the perpetrator, and the rape takes place in the context of actual or potential romantic or sexual relationship between the victim and the perpetrator or when that relationship is about to end or had ended. According to the findings of the U.S Bureau of Justice Statistics; DATE RAPES mostly take place when the use of alcohol is involved and in most cases targets will be young women.

Society cannot be blamed for reacting the way it did, our upbringing and societal expectations coupled with male privileges have blinded our judgement to think that rape that happens between two people involved in a romantic or sexual affair is not that big an issue to worry about.

The challenge with this type of violence is that it is hard to verify, hard to believe and makes reporting a much harder task to do. It would therefore, be easy for anyone to understand the controversies that some members of the society who believe that the problem is overstated and that many victims were in fact willing and consenting participants.

Yet, I think, the problem is not so much with the victims or let me say women consenting or not consenting, but with the notion held by many men and women, that a woman cannot agree to be in a romantic relationship without consenting to sexual intercourse, that by agreeing to be in a romantic relationship is synonymous with sexual consent, hence unreasonable that a woman can accuse their lover with rape.

This is a misplaced sense of entitlement on women and their bodies by men. Many will frown at facts that a woman can consent to sex now, but after assessing the “assets” withdraw her consent. The timing, reasons for withdrawal of consent and the place where she is, do not give any man the liberty to rape her.

Society and most importantly women who take a strong stand on the timing of the filing of the rape accusation after almost two years by Lady Zamar, play directly in to the notion that there is a template by which every rape case can be reported and that women’s reaction to the rapist(s) is according to a particular mould in to which all must fit.

This would be a serious misnomer. A rape victim, and most particularly a DATE RAPE victim does not stop being a victim after a certain period of time and the thought process is unique to the victim.

It is unimaginable how many women, raped by their partners, have remained silent, for fear that no one will believe them or that at that time they valued the relationship more and did not report, yet again that does not wash away the crime of rape. The circumstances around which DATE RAPE occurs are a fertile ground for disbelieve and shame. No one believes the victim and everyone shames the victim for coming out and reporting.

The courage to report and speak out should always be applauded and encouraged, we are a sick society that promotes patriarchal tendencies at the expense of women and girls for the benefit of men and boys. It is time that men stand in partnership with women in supporting efforts to dispel the notion that violence against women is a private affair and that it must never be treated as such.

The dynamics around DATE RAPE as mentioned above are complex, as evidence can be a challenge in proving that in deed rape took place, yet again, lack thereof, does not necessarily mean rape did not take place.

My Conclusive Introduction:

Lady Zamar’s Story, is undoubtedly a story of many women and girls, whom for the fear of shame, being unbelieved, blamed, criticised, and ridiculed have resolved to remain SILENT.

It is not surprising therefore that DATE RAPE cases tend to be minimised, denied, or the victims blamed for what happened to them. We live in an era and society that encourages rape and sympathises with the rapists, while silencing the victims and not taking a stance against the perpetrators.

The case of Lady Zamar and Sjava should attract the attention of those keen on cultural assumptions and social behavioural norms that help perpetuate harmful and toxic masculinities, and such cultural assumptions and behavioural norms can, in my humble opinion, be classified as follows:

What is love?

Does confession of love for someone exonerates them from being rapists? Is forcing oneself on a woman an expression of love? Can the fact that Sjava and Lady Zamar were publicly known to have been in a romantic love affair make it impossible to have one sexually violated, because the pair was in love? Is love enough to cleanse the rapists of their sins and crimes? Let us be honest here!

Blame the victim

Across the spectrum, society has blamed the victims and minimised the emotional and physical damage on the victims by shifting the blame to the victims by questioning their location and time with the perpetrators, their lack of resistance to the unwanted sexual act, their silence and them being sexually aroused as an obvious or implied consent.

Silencing the Victim

Society perceives rape victims as damaged goods in the eyes of men and that women’s bodies are men’s property. We live in a society that has made rape an assault against men, that women are supposed to remain pure and free of any form of defilement in order to be seen as morally fit for marriage.

Therefore, silence becomes the most attractive option for raped women, because a man whose wife or girlfriend has been raped feels more violated, because female sexuality is male property, therefore a question that arises would be if anyone who does not own their sexuality can claim violation over something they have no claim on.  That rape is more a disgrace to men than it is to women.

My take on Ethical Responsibility

It pains to acknowledge and appreciate that the foregoing discussions on DATE RAPE and the conclusions that commentators both on social and mainstream media, across the social, economic and gender spectrums have made, seek to conspire with assumptions that agree with the belittlement of rape.

Strictly speaking, the assumptions can be regarded as either wrong or right if and when tested on the basis of morality and ethics, a criterion can be drawn to decide whether they are ethical or not.

And as I propose here, commentators need to identify if their statements carry the potency to encourage sexual violence against women, thus by not addressing or condemning rape, they are implicitly supporting the rape culture in our society today, because they are blind folding themselves from seeing rape culture through the eyes of the vulnerable and the weak.

It is ethically questionable and utter biasness against women, that society favours and values the institution of marriage more than it values and protects women against abuse and rape and turning a blind eye on the infidelity of married men while being ruthless about the behaviour of women, as though men have no responsibility over their infidelity. NW

Seabata Makoae is a Social Worker and Gender Activist. He is Coordinator at MenEngage Network- Lesotho; a network of organisations and associations whose purpose is to engage men and boys in all efforts geared towards the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls.

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