No means no

No means no

Monday, 29 April 2013

Not so old

40 years ago. I was 17 when I was gang raped.

Two years older than Rehtaeh Parsons, a young woman from Canada who was raped in November 2011 and photos of this spread around her school mates via text. Rehtaeh committed suicide because of the bullying and harassment she received, yet she was the victim. At the time of writing her abusers are still to be brought to justice.

Five years younger than Jyoti Singh Pandey, raped on a bus in New Delhi, India, brutalised with an iron bar and left to die in November 2012. Jyoti did die due to the horrific injuries she sustained. Justice is yet to be served, despite the Justice Verma Committee Report on Amendments to Criminal Law.

One year older than the teen from Steubenville, USA, whose unconscious body was carted in August 2012 from party to party like a sack of garbage, and whose abusers repeatedly interfered with her sexually and took photos of themselves doing it. Two students, 16 years old at the time, were convicted in juvenile court for rape of a minor.

These are high profile cases brought by people who had the courage to stand up and say ENOUGH.  Not Rehtaeh - her parents brought suit on her behalf after she committed suicide, standing strong despite some disgusting misinformation and victim blaming from the supporters of the offenders.  Not Jyoti - the Indian justice system stepped in when Jyoti died because she was so brutally damaged that despite extensive medical treatment she never really stood a chance. The victim in the Steubenville case did bring her own matter to court, but she has been brutally castigated by people in her own community who claimed she had "brought it on herself" because she was drunk.

The point is, if rape culture had not existed in any of these cases, two young women would still be alive and a third would have her "normal" life back.

These cases are just the very public profile of a huge international problem.  Rape cases, victim suicide, "honour" killing, victim blaming and shaming happen every day.  Some make the international press, most do not.  It has become commonplace - perhaps too commonplace for most people to give it a second thought.  

Our sons are not taught that rape is NOT okay, it doesn't matter what she is wearing or how drunk she is or how many people she has slept with before. NOTHING excuses rape. "No" has always meant no, but because so many more matters are coming to light with no consent, the saying has been changed to "Yes means yes" - if there is no positive consent there is NO consent!

This needs to be taught in schools, in churches, in sports clubs, in youth clubs.  There need to be signs in every bar, every bus stop, every train station - every possible locale where young men and women might gather for whatever reason.

Until "Yes means yes" is the standard by which all youth are taught, we will continue to see horrific stories like these.

Forty years - I was excited by the international uproar over Jyoti's rape and absolutely needless death. I thought there must surely now be some action to stop these atrocities, but it seems that apathy rules in far too many cultures. The victimisation of women worldwide continues almost unabated.  

Surely there has to be change soon??  How bad does it have to get before it gets better?

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