US Attorney delivers talk on rape at RENEW event

Rape is a tool to express anger, to dominate, to control, humiliate and hurt someone. It is motivated in the same way as any other type of violence but it is hardly reported so the number is cases is not always factual. Adolescent girls are the most likely victims of such violence and men are also prone to it.

That, was an excerpt from the talk delivered by Katherine S. Cross, an attorney in the US who has over a decade of experience in working with adult and child victims of sexual assaults in the US,

The talk was part of the program conducted by the Respect Educate Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) in collaboration with Division of Youth and Sports (DYS) at the DYS auditorium on 4 April to observe the rape awareness month.

The talk titled ‘Rape and Sexual Assault: The Silent Crime’ shared with the audience the US attorney’s general views on the matter at hand and also a wide range of statistics from different organizations like the UN and different countries. She also stated facts that were thought to be myths and corrected the misconceptions of the general public on sexual violence.

“It is little wonder that rape is one of the least-reported crimes. Perhaps it is the only crime in which the victim becomes the accused and, in reality, it is she who must prove her good reputation, her mental soundness, and her impeccable propriety,’’ Tashi Pelzom of RENEW quoted Freda Adler in her welcome speech.

However, she also pointed out that the weaker section of the society such as the elderly, infants and the disabled usually fall victim to this kind of violence more than others.

People who fall victim to this kind of violence usually face psychological trauma and it also affects the people around them but in most cases women suffer silently whereas men who are victimized go on to continue this cycle of hate and suffering. The signs of a child who may be a victim of sexual abuse show obvious signs such as failing grades, drastic change in mood or personality, sudden anger, depression, dropping out of school and pregnancy.

According to Katherine, rape and sexual assault is the least-reported crime for many reasons such as fear of reprisal, shame, fear of damaging relationships, self-blame and having to go through the whole trauma again. Shockingly ‘In majority of cases, the rapist could be someone you know and trust’ thus dispelling the usual idea of strangers being the perpetrator.

Hence this could be the main reason why the cases are not reported and the criminal walks free. What struck the audience the most was the fact that even men fall victim to this crime and are rarely reported because it usually occurs in the form of child abuse and prison rape. These cases are likely to go unreported due to societal attitudes about masculinity.

Also Katherine stated that reports are fewer also due to the incompetence of the disabled, elderly and infants.

Rape and sexual assault is widely spread due to certain factors such as gender inequality, objectification of women, weak laws and women being viewed as property and held responsible. Usually in most cases the public image of the victim is tarnished and not the rapists’. Marital rape is not viewed as sexual violence and in certain cases in India, the victim can even be ordered to marry the rapist and settled on a village level. The UN views this as ‘Forced marriage!’ and should be considered a crime. Human sex trafficking is one of the leading factors in promoting sexual violence.

To prevent such heinous crimes from taking place in our society preventive measures should be taken as suggested by Katherine like teaching children about’ good touching’ and ‘bad touching’ and the principle of ‘No, Go, Tell’, i.e. to teach your children not to freeze in such situations but to say no and tell others about it till they believe them. Also education of children about sexual violence at schools and homes should be a must so they are well prepared for such scenarios and know where to seek help.

A video was also screened at the talk which showed how some countries have professionals to help the victims through their traumatic experience and also bring justice to them. They are the SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) nurses and SART (Sexual Assault Response Team). The SANE nurses gather evidences to prove whether the crime did take place. Whereas, the SART professionals help the victims and their family get through the pain and horrible experience. They also promote public safety and bring light to such cases.

Lastly Katherine stated that three in every hundred sex offenders go to prison and the remaining ninety seven walk free. To change this attitude towards sexual violence people should turn the tables and blame the offenders, believe the victim, end the silence and most importantly make sure that such offenders are punished accordingly.  She said, ‘The measure of a civilization is in how it treats its weakest members.

“The world has a long way to go,” said Katherine.

Thinley Choden & Jigme Sonam / Thimphu

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