Defender of Rapists Claims "Respected Ladies" Don't Get Raped Meghan O'Keefe

Ugh. I really, really, really don’t want to talk again about rape and people trying to get away with it or blame the victim for it, but it’s still obviously happening.

Last month, a 23 year-old woman went to the movies with her boyfriend in New Delhi, India, and while they were walking home together at night, a bus stopped, offered them a ride home and when they went inside, both of them were assaulted, stripped and thrown from the bus in the middle of nowhere. The woman was also brutally gang raped by six men and died two weeks after the incident from her injuries.

It’s a disgusting case that has sparked international outrage and calls from Indians for stricter punishment for rape. (If you are curious about more of the details, you can check them out here or here.)

One of the most outrageous things about this particular case is that the accused rapists’ lawyer, Manohar Lal Sharma, has publicly stated, that although the woman’s boyfriend has identified the rapists and the police have DNA linking all of the accused to the crime, that his clients were obviously innocent. His reasoning? “Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady. Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect.”

The phrase “respected lady” is complicated.

Here, the lawyer is using it to infer that “respected ladies” are women who don’t stay out late at night. “Respected ladies” don’t wear revealing clothes. “Respected ladies” don’t hang out with men who aren’t their fathers, brothers or husbands.

Basically, “Respected ladies” don’t enjoy personal freedoms like the right to choose when to go out or what to wear or whom to spend time with because “respected ladies” are silent, subservient and live their lives how others demand them to.

Personally, I respect women who are trailblazers, women who are educated and intelligent, women who are strong and caring, women who are constantly challenging themselves, and women who live their lives according to their own rules. And so, I respect women like Oprah Winfrey, Tori Amos, CBS reporter Lara Logan and Dame Helen Mirren. How can you not look up to a woman who built her own media empire or a woman who writes and performs music to the beat of her own drum, or a woman who does investigative journalism in war zones, or a woman who is not only one of the best actresses alive, but also a stone cold badass in her 60s?

Coincidently, all four of those women I just described are survivors of sexual abuse.

Winfrey was molested as a child, Amos was raped at gunpoint by an early “fan”, Logan was beaten and sexually assaulted by a group of people while reporting in Tahrir Square in Egypt and Mirren was date raped as a student.

Each of these women have been open about these experiences in the press and each have a different take on the experience, but each of these women are wonderful, brilliant, glorious, unique, and in my mind, very respectable.

When Sharma says that “respected ladies” don’t get raped, he is not only blaming the victim for her own brutal sexual assault and murder, but he is also suggesting that a woman’s only worth is in how she is perceived sexually by society. Is she a virgin? Is she a whore? Is she a tease? Is she a matron? These are roles that are assigned to women by society that have nothing to do with a woman’s kindness, intelligence, courage or creativity. These are roles that are assigned to women when the supposition is that women should be ashamed to enjoy sex for any other purpose than having babies and satisfying their husbands. It is a supposition that women should not have inner lives or desires or voices of their own.

Perhaps it’s true that Sharma hasn’t heard of a “respected lady” being raped. I mean, I can’t imagine why in a society where women are shamed for being victims a woman would even want to come out and admit to someone like Sharma that she’d been raped. She would instantly lose his “respect”. And apparently, without “respect” a woman is nothing.

Respect isn’t something given to you for conforming to society’s expectations. Respect is something a man and a woman both earn when they stand up for themselves and fight against what’s wrong in the world.

Anyone who says a rape victim isn’t “respectable” is a person who doesn’t deserve a modicum of respect.

Rape is evil. Victim blaming is equally wrong.

Image via MSN

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  1. :) Respected ladies are made of wood. Wood floats on water. Therefore they are not witches.

  2. As an Indian woman, I feel increasingly angry and disgusted with the low social standing that women have in India. Indian culture claims that it worships women as Goddesses. But it forgets to mention that any woman who is remotely un-goddess-like (read not subservient) in the eyes of men, is treated disrespectfully and in some cases brutally.
    Victim blaming is a disease prevalent in all cultures, but it is more pronounced and shamefully condoned in India. I feel my country is one the worst places to live in, if you’re a woman.

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  4. While it is horrible that there are people who think that it is alright to speak this way and to justify the actions of rapists, I am glad that society has reached the point where we can talk about it. Having been raped isn’t something to be ashamed about and, for every lowly person who resorts to victim blaming, there are at least a handful of people who will go out of their way to tell that person that they are wrong and support the victim. Just look at the way female victims of rape were supported after Todd Akin’s comments and how popular SlutWalks are getting. We won’t be able to destroy all the ignorance in the world, but at least we are able to get rid of a lot of it and are able to help these women to feel supported… “respectable” or not.

    One issue that I have is the focus on female victim blaming rather than just victim blaming in general because I can only imagine how much it hurts to be a male rape victim and read about “respected” ladies not getting raped. A male who is very close to me was sexually assaulted as a child and it hurts to think about how ashamed he feels. I understand that the number of male rape victims is smaller, but I do wish that we will get to the point where we can work on helping them feel less ashamed as well.
    I hope we will get to the point where no victim will have to feel like it is their fault.

  5. As someone that calls New Delhi home, welcome to the world of the Indian woman, where respect for women is non – existent. Unborn female children are terminated because they are female, children are raped, women are burned and honor killed, have no freedom, and are subjected to molest, abuse and rape every day. For the soul of my country, I plead.

  6. This is sick and horrible in so many ways. Really blaming the rape victim. Such a brutal crime was committed and i hope they get what they deserve.

  7. Keep fighting the good fight, this rape survivor appreciates it!

  8. Victim blaming just lends fuel to the criminals. The whole issue is so crazy that I don’t even know where to begin ranting.

    How on earth can anyone with half a clue think that rape is any fault of the victim? What about the instances where senior citizens are attacked? I’m pretty sure that “granny” is not hanging on the corner in fishnets and a mini skirt.

    Giving any leeway to criminals is criminal. It sets up a dangerous precedent that will definitely make things worse.

  9. Given the sheer brutality of the crime and the outrage it inspired, I was hoping, hoping against hope, that at least this time, at least in this case, the self-appointed moral police of my country would just shut up, would, for once, introspect, would, at least, not blame her, not this time, not after what those six men did to her.

    But, no! Even that was too much to hope for. As soon as she died, the men began and the defence counsel is just the latest to join the chorus.

    Oh, what will it take for us men – us Indian men – to learn that the fault lies not with women, but with ourselves!

  10. This news story was sickening! Thank you for your commentary on it, I agree completely. While there are things that women can do to better protect themselves, this does not mean that the victim should ever be blamed. I also did not realize so many public figures and women we look up to have been victims of sexual violence, and those are just a few that have been open about it. Its sad that even in a country where we enjoy so many freedoms, that there is still so much violence and oppression. Thanks for writing!

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