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