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25Aug

Next Time You’re Raped, Have A Shower, Put Your Feet Up and Have a Cuppa! Especially, If You Have a Chequered Past…

“I learned implicitly that a woman’s word is not enough that we, the women harmed by rape, serve merely as witnesses. The rendering of our specific brutalities as in any other case in court, becomes “The Commonwealth vs. the Defendant.” Our names do not appear.” Charlotte Pierce-Baker (Surviving The Silence: Black Women’s Stories of Rape.)

Like most people, I followed the Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) and Nafissatou Diallo sexual allegations or should that be attempted rape case, sometimes in utter disbelief and at other times in total confusion. I have read news articles, blogs, watched news broadcast, kept my eye on Twitter and Facebook posts and comments about the case.

I dare say some have been very interesting, others despicable and dear oh dear, there are a lot of depressing ones too. After the case was dismissed on tuesday, I wasn’t sure what was more depressing? That the DA decided against going to trial or that people had been so bold to express the vulgar and vile thoughts they did.

I remember commenting on one of my FB post after an individual left his comment, which at best seemed like there was amusement to be found in a case where the word rape existed. That may not have been his intention but that was the way it came across. In my book, Rape and humour don’t go together. There are things you find humour in but for me, any joke about rape or an attempt to create humour out of it is a no, no. I should lighten up right? I will…when thousands, if not millions of people affected by an incident of rape, directly or indirectly are no longer in pain. Until then, there is nothing funny or amusing about the word RAPE.  I’m not suggesting that I will carry their pain. Hell no, I’m not the saviour of the world and don’t have the strength for that but I do think we have to know that there are things, where a line has to be drawn somewhere and the violation of any human being in that manner  should be one of such.

What I have found very disturbing about this saga is the attitude some of us in society still have towards rape, be it a man or a woman that’s the victim. Just when I thought we had made progress, an event of ‘epic proportion’ on the global stage reveals we still have a lot work to do. At this point, let me state, I’m not writing from thin air…the subject of rape and its impact on the lives of victims is one I have been interested in as a woman, writer and journalist for a long time now. That’s how I came across the book, Surviving The Silence: Black Women’s Stories of Rape by Charlotte Piece-Baker.  This was before I ever wrote a single word about the use of rape as a weapon of war in the DRC. Different country, different circumstances but the pain of being a rape victim, I think we could fairly say is universal. Nevertheless, I’m fully aware that I’m not an expert when it comes to dissecting rape matters.

Let’s get one thing straight, at least, we can manage that…two people know what happened in Room 2806, Sofitel Hotel, on the fateful day this mind boggling tale started. DSK and Diallo. However much anyone one of us would like to prove she is the victim and must get justice or that she is not a credible witness and an “innocent” man cannot be sent to jail or that this is/was politically motivated, among other issues we want to pick with the case, we’ll never get the video tape of events to replay and decide the truth. We know what we know based on the reports we have all heard. And based on those reports, we know she was not honest about her tax claim, made a phone call to a convicted criminal serving time in jail after the alleged attack, which has been questioned. She lied about her immigration challenges/circumstances that brought her to the US. Her story was just not strong enough and the DA didn’t have any faith/confidence in what she has or had to say as a witness if they go to court. The list is long… On the other hand, DSK is a man with a sexual history that is…well, you know the rest. The two people involved know who is telling the truth and who is telling a lie. I believe it is safe to say we should leave that to them to figure out and come to a place, where they can both live with what happened…

When I started writing this post, it came to mind that when sexual allegations were made against Julian Assange, a huge majority and I shamefully admit that includes me, said it was politically motivated. That case was just as interesting…I remember a commentator stating ‘the only crime he had committed was not using a condom.’ Now, I’m not saying or insinuating that Assange was guilty…what I’m pointing out in hindsight is the fact that due to the nature of the work Mr Espionage was doing at the time (I have not heard much of him lately, so I assume he is on a break) we ignored the fact that serious sexual allegations were indeed made against him. Men and women came out to defend his honour. Our hunger to defend ‘first class journalism,’ the right to the truth and YES, on some level, the anti-American sentiments some of us have but refuse to admit meant we did not want to know. After all, he is dong a great work. Something some of us dream about for a lifetime but never achieve. Again, I’m not saying MR was guilty of a thing for nothing has been proven. Simply pointing out the attitude that was present in that instance…

So, I come back to DSK and Diallo, I think the news has been well covered, you don’t need me to go over it. However, if this is the first, you are reading/hearing of it, may I suggest that you kindly Google both names. As you already know, there is nothing you cannot find on Google, let alone when it is a case involving one of the most powerful men in the world and a ‘poor’ African migrant in search of greener pastures, who lied about why she left her country of origin to get her immigration papers. Oh, shoot! I said I was not going to go there…Belinda Stop…

Of course, it would be wrong to see an innocent man go to jail. The law should work for both men and women like the same FB commentator said, which I agree with…the law is not and should not be a one sided affair. While the law should protect all sides but more times than not, our judicial system is not keen or courageous when it comes to prosecuting rape cases because ‘we’ are certain of the slim chances of getting a conviction when we go to court. The prosecutors are (let’s be honest) concerned about getting it wrong. After all, you don’t want to be responsible for sending an innocent man to jail. The media hype about one case making anyone’s career is enough to scare the life out of you for starters.  It’s also about what the implications would be if the wrong person is convicted. Even I think about how the life of an innocent person could be turned upside down if they are in fact not guilty of the crime. I remember there was a news package a while back about the way police officers grill alleged victims, they are practically the accused when being questioned. Needless to say, it is a complicated mess.

In the book by Charlotte Pirece-Baker, there is a trend from the various stories contributed.  Some women discovered they were the ones who had to prove that they were raped to the authorities before they could go to court. The accused does not have to do much in that regard. Surely, the facts should be looked at and yes, painful decisions have to be made but the road there seems to have created a trend where, again and again, victims become accused or made victims all over because their word about that one incident which will certainly change their lives is not good enough. I wonder when this trend will change and if changes are already in place, how long they will take to implement? Yes, there have been individuals who lied about being raped and such cases have done no one any good but for those, who are telling the truth, should we make more of an effort to believe them?

That is the reality with rape cases, complicated and hard to prove because there is always something about the witness, which will cast doubts over her/his story. Prosecutors are not sure about getting a conviction if the ‘victim’ turned ‘accused’ has a chequered past. The better the lawyer the accused can buy, the more likely it is that they won’t go to jail. We preach humanity, human rights and equality for all but have legal systems which by the way are said to be some of the best in the world, yet it sometimes fails some sections of our society. Maybe, it’s time we are honest with ourselves that some things are not so right after all with our ‘justice system/s’ and all that’s wrong has the potential of becoming right based on a technicality. This does not apply to rape cases only…as such I don’t speak about the DSK/Diallo case alone in this regard.

Regardless of any new argument anyone comes up with at this stage, we have to accept the criminal aspect of this case is over. Some of us have been caught up in this, sentiments have come into it and that’s to be expected but the fight is not over. Tomorrow, it could be a prostitute, who gets raped by her client. What happens then? Will her story stand? For sure, we will point out the fact that she is a prostitute? There are a lot of lessons to take from this case, one thing that stands out for me is that our media outlets need to get back to responsible reporting and have some ‘objectivity’ though I have been told it is a myth. Yet, I spent a full semester at university learning about flipping objectivity. The sensationalism and hype does not help. But I am fully aware that I’m preaching to myself on this one, so allow me to say amen to my own sermon. It was interesting the DSK was convicted based on public opinion and when things started unravelling, the very same media switched sides like it was a football game. A publication I shall not name went as far as alleging she was an escort at the hotel. How low can you get for sales and website hits? Our media outlets need to realise that behind a story is a human being with veins and blood running through them.

I don’t have statistics for every nation or race but it is reported that one in four black women in the US, will be raped in her lifetime. Yet, only 7 percent of them will ever report the crime to police, compared to 42 percent of the general population.  Faced with that reality, we can only hope this case, in spite of its complexity and technical jargon does not lead to more people, male and female holding back when they are raped or sexually assaulted. And when the realisation that they have a past sets in, they dare not come forward or if the risk that they might get aspects of their story wrong, they should just sit back. For me, that is my main concern because this case, admit it or not has the potential to serve as a reference point in the future…I believe that is what we call precedence…

Bottom line, this case once again shows that we all need to re-examine our attitude to rape, victims and perpetrators, as individuals and as a society. We need to ask ourselves the point where the victim stops being a victim and becomes the accused? We also need to think about the way we respond to and treat the alleged perpetrator until they are convicted. Surely, if innocent until proven guilty is the case, then we shouldn’t have made the conclusion within the first few days that Mr Dandy was guilty. I also think our justice system needs to take a step back and ask itself, what makes a person who has come forward with a rape claim credible enough to prove they were raped or sexually assaulted? The DA was sure to make a comment that women who have ben raped will be protected by the law. So, I ask, what evidence must one show and the type of life one must lead before a crime as heinous as rape is committed against one? That way, they know for sure that they can take you to trial and you won’t humiliate them? It would really help to have a hand book, don’t you think?

Nevertheless, rape is rape whether or not you have a past like Diallo, were a prostitute or grew up in convent and dress like a nun. When you are violated, it is a pain/memory,  no detergent in history can ever wipe off.

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One Response to “Next Time You’re Raped, Have A Shower, Put Your Feet Up and Have a Cuppa! Especially, If You Have a Chequered Past…”

  1. Deborah says:

    Rape is rape!

    It makes my skin crawl when I read such news. There are certain crimes I can(not) forgive but Rape/Pedophiles… God forbid!

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