Over the past two days, I’ve read about four or five stories online about the Steubensville rape trial (for those of you unfamiliar, two teens from a small town in my state sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl while she was intoxicated and unconscious, urinated on her, and then posted the damning proof of it on Facebook). The two teens who committed the act were found guilty yesterday and sentenced to juvenile detention centers till they were 21. What upset me though, and what has upset many people as well, was not only that the poor girl was sexually assaulted, but the defense attorneys for the case tried to twist the concept of consent out of order by saying that since the girl was intoxicated, she never really said “no”; that there may have been a cover-up by the local high school, whose football team these boys belonged to and which is a source of pride among the local community; that those who witnessed the crime and were responsible for the photos on Facebook were not charged (though that might change pretty quickly, according to the Ohio AG); and that some of the coverage of the trial, which has gained nationwide attention through the Facebook posts, were actually in favor of the two boys charged.
Yes, in favor. ABC News first reported the case not too long ago by saying the boys “took liberty” with the girl, which is definitely a new one if ever I’ve heard one. And yesterday, CNN seemed only able to lament the fact that these boys had promising futures stolen from them, that they could’ve made names for themselves at Ohio State and then in the NFL, that now they have to register as sex offenders, possibly for the rest of their lives. Underneath the spoken words, the silent implication: that the “good boys” weren’t to blame, but the victim for getting drunk and presenting an all-too-appealing oppurtunity for these boys to have a little bit of fun.
The same day, a story broke out about another gang-rape in India, where a camping couple from Switzerland were attacked, beaten, the wife raped, and then robbed. Arrests were made hours afterward (a record for India), but some public officials have blamed the couple for camping in that area. More victim blaming? I guess after the initial outrage of the bus gang-rape, some people still don’t know when to shut their yaps.
As an ardent supporter of women’s rights and of human rights, I’m abhorred, appalled, and disgusted. This victim blaming turns every woman out there who is the object of unwanted sexual advances into sex toys and shames them into being quiet, tells them they should accept what they get or they will be the ones at fault, that they will be scrutinized for their clothes and behavior and will be called sluts forevermore. Meanwhile, men can wear whatever and drink whatever and screw around as much as they want, and they’ll rarely be called a “man-whore”. This double standard mystifies me as much as it makes me ashamed to be a man. Yes, ashamed! I’m ashamed that my sex gets away with so much while the other half of the species is put down and turned into objects so much.
It also makes me think of a novel I plan to write in the future. I first came up with it by thinking to myself, “What’s the worst event that could happen to a singular person and then use whatever happens to them in the story to help them at least begin to heal?” Being so influenced by Law & Order: SVU (for better or for worse), my mind went right to rape. Only the victim can feel that terror and trauma that comes from rape, they often suffer in silence, and when they do come out, they are often at the recieving end of brutal victim-blaming and stigmas and questions about what they experienced that are never about clarifying the events as they happened. It fit what I was looking for to a tee.
At first though, I considered changing what that tragedy would be for this character. I mean, even I have my limits for what I’ll write, and that’s a lot for a horror writer. But I decided to stick with rape, though at the time I wasn’t sure why. But when I see articles in the news about victims of rape being blamed for what happened to them, even just subliminally, I’m reminded of why I kept rape as that character’s tragedy. Just like Reborn City has themes of the evils and lies of Islamaphobia, this novel of mine and this character can be a way to encourage women to come out about their attacks, to show men that rape, under any circumstances, is rape and their own fault, and perhaps a wake-up call for many readers that rape is a problem and our attitude towards it needs a major change.
I’m not sure if I’ll write an actual rape scene when I do end up writing this novel, but I do know that when I do write this novel, I’ll be channeling my rage, my disdain and my disgust for rape and rapists into it. Perhaps some will feel this underlying rage and learn something from it, like rape is never the victim’s fault. Or that the rapist is the only one to blame. Or there are no circumstances where rape is okay.
And perhaps then, the world will change for the better. Because you know what? I shouldn’t have to be writing about this! I shouldn’t have to be telling people on my blog that I find rape and the double standards surrounding it disgusting, or that I plan to channel my rage over this insanity into a novel! I shouldn’t have to check my email and then see that another girl was raped, or that someone in an important position insinuated that the victim had no one to blame but herself. I shouldn’t have to, and neither should anyone!
But we live in the sort of world where all this happens on an all-too regular basis. And you know what? I’m not going to stop raging about it until it does stop, until change does happen, until that novel’s heroine is able to break free of her chains and start the move towards healing. Because I know the world should not be in this state, and I see a moral and an ethical duty to try and make it better. If what I write here does end up helping someone, then that’s great. In the meantime though, I have a lot of work to do, and I’m getting started right now.
For the victims who are blamed. For those who live in fear. And for those I can help before it’s too late, and this dark culture gets them into the wrong mindset.
What about you?