If you’ve been on social media in the last couple of weeks, you would have witnessed the moral outrage over an alleged rape by a public figure. The man in question is someone many considered ethically untouchable. Now, although there are mainly still allegations, I applaud the victims for speaking up. Especially because there is still so much controversy around sexual assault and rape.
As horrible as rape is, the backlash many victims receive when they come out to tell their story is disheartening. And based on what I’ve seen or read over the past couple of weeks it is clear that many do not know what to say or how to treat a rape survivor as I like to call them. Imagine the emotional, mental and psychological torture the survivors go through.
Why are they just coming out now?
I honestly wonder where we get the notion that there is a time period to report a rape case. People who ask this question conclude that the rape survivor is just looking for attention. Or looking to make money of the matter. Why are our first instincts to accuse the survivor? There is no set time period for a survivor to report a rape case or share their story. People heal differently. For some it takes months, for some, years and for these people talking about it may be part of their healing, even if that is a decade later.
It was a long time ago, and doesn’t matter anymore
It doesn’t matter how long ago it was, it will always matter if justice wasn’t served. I watch a series called ‘Cold Case’. A team of investigators who handle criminal cases that were abandoned or not properly seen through years and decades ago. Sometimes as they investigate, they come across new allegations that weren’t reported but still happened. And then, they go on to find evidence and prosecute. The perpetrator may even be a grandfather or grandmother at this time. However, if found guilty, they must pay for their crimes, even if it’s 100 years later. It matters.
The story doesn’t add up. Why didn’t she just push him away or scream?
As onlookers, it’s very easy to say theoretically how one should or shouldn’t behave in certain situations until you find yourself in that same situation. Then you realise it’s not black or white. Also, people react differently. One person may scream, another may be paralysed with fear, whilst another may just zone out and mentally block what is happening to them at that moment. You cannot decide for another person how they should have reacted in that situation.
Blame the victim
It has nothing to do with what the victim was wearing, or the signs she should’ve seen at the time. Or the reason why she went to ‘his’ house. It has everything to do with the sexual abuser and the fact that a human being thinks it’s ok to force another human being to have sex with them. Many survivors have gone through life wearing a blanket of shame, unable to speak up and think it was their fault because society has indirectly or directly placed the blame on them.
As a society, we need more empathy, in general. Don’t wait till sexual assault arrives on your doorstep before you empathise with others. It doesn’t have to your relative or friend before you see things differently, the fact that this is happening to your fellow human is enough.