JULY 28 ― Lately, my timeline on Twitter has been filled with talk about rape, why it happens and how we can prevent it. What I realised is that most of the discussions revolved around women’s clothing and their aurat.
Women have been compared to unlocked houses, food and candy, and how they “tempt” men to rape them. Showing off skin is apparently an attraction to most men, and due to this attraction, they decide to rape.
Some of the more neutral arguments would say that both genders have a role to play. The woman has to cover herself and the man has to lower his gaze, as religion has instructed.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was raped in Kuala Lumpur. What was she wearing? A hijab and jubah. The most heartbreaking part was that this isn’t the first time that she was raped. And finally, she came to the conclusion that maybe perhaps this was her destiny, and there was no way for her to fight it.
Do you see the poison that we are planting into the minds of young girls when we choose to blame the victims instead?
Some people have tweeted me saying that her rape was a result of men getting aroused by women who wear revealing clothes, but choose to channel their desires on a modest woman because being covered up made you more “mysterious”, and men just can’t wait to tear off her clothing to see what is underneath.
Others told me that the more faith a person has, the most obstacles they have to face, and apparently getting raped is a test from God.
People get attracted to many things. Even myself, as a woman, have a type of man I am attracted to. We all have different preferences and fetishes. Attraction is a completely normal thing. But it would take someone who is mentally sick to act upon these desires and choose to harm someone just for their own sexual pleasure.
In a Muslim-majority country, it is very convenient to use religion to justify rape and police women’s clothing. Women have to take care about where they are, what they wear, who they are with and they have to take all sorts of other precautions. Everything is on the woman. If she got raped, then there must have been something that she did wrong.
Because covering ourselves is a part of religion, people will tell you that you should cover yourself because it’s “better to be safe than sorry” and that “prevention is better than cure.” Just follow the rules, stay away from what is forbidden and you will be safe.
Although I cannot deny that rape cases are driven by lust and that self-defence is important, I find these arguments extremely troublesome. This is because it excludes rape victims who are non-Muslims and are not women.
What is forbidden and what is not, or what is considered modest or not, is subjective. It varies from culture to culture. When you only talk about Malay culture and Muslim women, it immediately dismisses victims who do not fall under this category.
Let’s just say, for example, covering up really did solve the problem for Muslim women getting raped. How then, do we help the children or men who get raped? Whenever there is talk about rape, it is almost as though Malaysian Muslims forget that rape is not a Muslim problem, that women are not the only victims of rape, and men are not the only ones who commit it.
Rape is sexual violence and assertion of power through sex. There is no denying that when rapists commit the offence, they aim for sexual gratification, but this is not their only priority. There are many different kinds of rape: Male rape, bestiality, child rape, prison rape, marital rape, correctional rape, payback rape, war rape, incest rape, and gang rape, just to name a few.
Rapists can be divided into three categories: Anger rapist, power rapist, and sadistic rapist.
An anger rapist is one who performs rape to humiliate and hurt his/her victim. They commit the act in conscious rage, and think that rape is the ultimate offence against those who have angered them.
A power rapist, the most common type of rapist, is one who rapes due to feelings on inadequacy, thus trying to prove his/her power, strength and authority over another person(s) through sexual assault. This is usually accompanied with threats, violence and intimidation. Most power rapists have rape fantasies, where they think that their victims who initially resist them will end up enjoying the rape. They will more commonly become serial rapists.
A sadistic rapist is one who keeps their victims as prisoner for periods of time and assert physical abuse on their captives. They are aggressive, and inflict pain on their victims. They usually use some sort of instrument or object to sexually assault their victims. For some offenders, the ultimate satisfaction comes from the death of their victims.
One of the most well-known sadistic rape cases was that of Junko Furuta, who was kept captive by her rapists for 40 days, and was tortured, raped and eventually, murdered.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), 68 per cent of sexual assaults go unreported and 98 per cent of rapists do not spend a day in prison for their offence. Mpower, a UK-based support group for male rape survivors, say that males are much less likely to talk about their assaults for fear of being deemed as weak and incompetent, thus they keep their emotions and trauma to themselves. Is this the kind of statistics that you want your daughter, son, sister, brother, family or friend to live with?
What we are teaching society about rape is extremely narrow. Because of the endless talk on women’s clothing and aurat, rape culture is still thriving as people continue to blame and shame victims. Instead of questioning the perpetrators, society questions the victims instead. Not only that, but the voices of rape victims who are not typically Muslims or a female gets drowned out.
It takes an awfully long time for someone to get over the trauma of getting raped, and it does not help them in any way when people place on them the added burden of making them feel like it was their fault.
No matter what circumstances a person is under, no one ever asks for rape.
Would you tell a man kept captive in war that he deserved to get raped because he agreed to join the army? Well, he could have avoided it if he never joined the army, right?
If you answered no to this, why would you answer yes to people asking if a woman deserved getting raped because of the choices she makes?
Rape is never the victim’s fault. And while in Utopia, we could hope for a rape-free world, in reality, rape is a crime that might never end. Even though there is no foolproof way to prevent rape, that does not mean that education and awareness should stop. What we should do is continue to raise a generation that is respectful of all human beings, and we should give our support to those in emotional need. Stop the shaming. Stop the blaming.
On an end note, I’d just like to remind everyone to stop making rape a religious or gender-exclusive topic. Rape is everyone’s problem, not just women’s. We are all potential victims, so let’s look out for one another.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.