Peace on Earth – Goodwill to Girls

Rape is used to destroy not just individuals but entire communities. Rape is so commonly used as a weapon that Major General Patrick Cammaert, a former UN force commander said –

“It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”

In 2008 the UN declared rape, ‘ a weapon of war’.  In the resolution, the UN Security Council noted that,

“…women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.

Rape is a heinous crime, acknowledged as torture by the United Nations and yet apart from the physical, emotional and psychological scars that rape inflicts, there is another source of pain for rape victims – social exclusion.  In many countries the shame experienced by the victims after rape is as traumatic as the incident itself.  Many women kill themselves as it is seen as the only way to restore honour to their families.

How can this be true?

Surely the perpetrators of heinous crimes are the ones who should be ashamed?

And who are the people who exclude or look down on these victims?

Do these excluders and condemners include women?

If so – why?

What is it about rape that makes the victims ashamed and not the perpetrators?

When will men – and women – begin to speak out against this violation?

What sort of social conceptual framework exists to support this victimisation of victims?

If we could find it could we dismantle it?

All thoughts appreciated.



15 comments on “Peace on Earth – Goodwill to Girls

  1. granbee says:

    Evil men rape what they fear most: the power of creation, the symbol of new birth, of life-giving! Amazon women were always my favortie heroes from ancient mythology!

    • What I can’t understand is the social exclusion after the rape – this has to be at least partially created by women. What glitch exists in us that causes us to blame the victim not the perpetrator? Is it some crazy idea that if this were true it’d make us safe? I am totally puzzled by this and seeing it everywhere at the moment. Thanks for the comments.

  2. talesfromthelou says:

    I have 3 daughters. I really see the evil and unfairness. Men have to take a stand on this issue and never rest until this abhorrent behavior is neutralized.

    • I agree but I think we women have to take a stand as well and at least refuse to be part of the tyranny of disapproval and social exclusion. We – men and women – need to really see victims of these heinous crimes as innocent and turn our disapproval on the perpetrators. Thanks for the comment.

  3. pamela says:

    gender inequality and stereotypes should be addressed, rape is an evil as granbee said. The effects of using rape as weapon of war is double evil because apart from the damage to the victim and the post traumatic effects, entire communities and countries are damaged.

    • I totally agree with you, Pamela rape is a heinous crime and using it as a weapon of war is reprehensible in the extreme – but (sorry but I am obsessed with this point!) – why are the victims seen as less after being raped? Why not the perpetrators? What is embedded in our unconscious that could make us blame the victims and exonerate the perpetrators? Thanks for the comments.

  4. Ann Gray says:

    I think it must be something to do with dominance and submission. I was very struck by one survivor of rape, who is spending her life rescuing victims of sex crimes, declaring “I was never a victim” she said that the social exclusion was the most painful part of the tragedy for her. Doubly victimised. Yet she is insisting that she was never a victim. There might be a problem of language here. I think she meant that her spirit was never dominated though she suffered rape and social exclusion. If there is a glitch to discover it might be this, when it comes to our response to victims of sex crimes we must engage with it at a more sophisticated level of thinking beyond simple ‘dominance, submission’. Roger White puts it like this in his poem A Place Beyond

    “..he labours over me,
    abstract as an animal.
    His coarse invectives,
    harmless as petals,
    brush against my balking, distant soul.
    Hollowly, a world apart from my immaculate privacy,
    his spasmed groan announces
    the profundity of his defeat.
    How pititful, after all,
    as means of profanation,
    the perverse ritual,
    the vaunted, swift-shrunk telecope of lust..

    ..I know your torment, tormentor. Your
    humid eyes invade obscenely my dark dreams
    where hate festers, but you are not my victor
    nor I despoiled
    while I forgive – yes, even this.
    My poor, my sad, my lonely brother!
    I yet shall see you break against
    the wall of my endurance,
    drown in self-disgust
    before my inviolate, annulling gaze….

    • Thanks for the fantastic poem, Ann – and the comments – I agree with your point about language – in fact I wholeheartedly agree with all of your points. The social exclusion part has me stumped though. The more I think about it, the less it makes sense.

  5. Ann Gray says:

    You ask very good questions Trish which got me thinking. Are we just simpleminded maybe? If someone is deemed to have been dominated then they are a loser? Losers are a burden. Losers are ashamed. Losers will hold back the family, tribe, clan so they are shunned and abandoned. People with disabilities were once hidden away in our culture. It’s not so long ago that people with cancer were careful who they told about it, it was a death sentence. Now it’s more curable and cancer victims talk about ‘fighting and overcoming the illness’. If you are a loser people stop investing in their relationship with you. The tribe sees you as having no future and not able to make a valuable contribution so to expend perhaps scarce resources on you will diminish the tribe. If you are raped which is often described as violated then you are ‘damaged goods’ less valuable in a society that still sees individual women as the possessions of men. So a man will not want ‘spoiled goods’ especially if it was at the hands of another man. It’s cruel and primitive and just as bad for men who are raped. In groups we make simplistic choices or none at all really we just go along with the crowd. To do otherwise is to risk social exclusion so it’s a viscous circle. The few occasions in my life when I publicly went against the crowd I was isolated and believed I was alone only to discover that others in the crowd (who approached me privately afterwards) were glad that I had spoken up and wanted me to know that they supported my position but still they would not risk doing this in public and were fearful of being found out. It’s unthinkable for some people to go against the culture. Those who dominate also dictate the values in society – who’s included and who will be outcast. Perhaps this state of affairs will continure until we move beyond ‘dominant / submissive’ kneejerk responses and start to doubt them as the wisdom of the ages.

  6. Another one of your posts that I will be saving for later so I can give it more thought.

  7. Abusers have a way of making their victims feel like it is their fault and are really good at cementing the root of shame deep down in their souls. Abusers are master manipulators. I know this to be true because I’ve endured years of sexual and physical abuse in my lifetime. Fear takes over you and desperation can and will kill your spirit if you let it.

    It has taken years until I finally had the courage to write about the horrors I’ve experienced in my life. Its a long journey but I know there must be some good from all the evils I’ve survived from. I am the sole survivor of a psychopath, although my memories are painful and scary, I must share them. I want others to know they are not alone and they are loved and they matter. I want to inspire people to speak up and be the voice for the silenced ones who cannot defend themselves.

    It takes a village to protect women and children from these horrible acts. We ALL must stand up and fight for whats right.

    • I am so sad to hear about your suffering and you are very brave to speak out.
      I think you are right – abusers do have a way of making victims believe they are at fault – luckily most people are not abusers they are just ordinary folk – the thing is that these are the very people who need to stand up – these are the inhabitants of the village.

      Thanks for your comment.

  8. ANN O'SULLIVAN says:

    I think you’ve asked a complex question, and maybe there’s a complex set of answers, rather than just one. But here’s a thought: the social exclusion that follows rape can be the logical extension of an attitude that existed before the rape happened – i.e. that women are somehow responsible for the fact that they were raped, that ‘they asked for it’ – either through being flirtatious, or dressing seductively, or not being careful on their way home, or how much makeup they wore, or whether or not they were sexually experienced….. – or any one of a whole host of spurious things that have been levelled at women down through the years. it’s not so long ago that, when rape came to court, it’s the victims who had to account for themselves, not the perpetrator: accordingly in court any aspect of a raped woman’s life was open to detailed and agressive examination by perpetrators lawyer, including her sex life, whether or not she used birth control pills, her way of life, her mode of dress, the number of boyfriends she’d had, how sexually experienced she was….you name it, she could be made accountable for it in a court case in which she was the victim. Though the lot of rape victims in the judicial system has improved in some places, in other places it hasn’t improved at all. But even in societies where the judicial system has improved its handling of rape cases, the thinking that women are responsible for their own rape is still prevalent. So the skewed thinking must go something like this: if you are responsible for the fact that you were raped, then by definition the rapist is your victim, and you deserve the social exclusion that follows.

    • I agree, Ann and I have noticed that exactly as women are held to be some way responsible for their own sexual assault, men are held to be some way responsible if they are physically assaulted or even murdered. In much the same way as the attitude towards women is that they must have somehow provoked their own sexual assault, men are seen to have provoked their own physical assault.
      I like your definition – ‘if you are responsible for the fact that you were raped, then by definition the rapist is your victim, and you deserve the social exclusion that follows.’ It makes sense.

      What still doesn’t make sense to me is why we can’t see through it.

      Thanks for the thoughts.

  9. ElizOF says:

    Rapists are cowards who can only feel powerful when they intimate others… an important topic that needs more attention.

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