Rape is any form of non-consensual sexual intercourse. Rape is recognized as a criminal act in most countries. It is a form of violence in which a person uses force to have uninvited sexual activity. Rape is a very serious problem in Africa. A report by the United Nations states that 60% of Ethiopian women have been victims of sexual assault. South Africa also has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world.
Rape and other forms of sexual violence is also common during armed attacks. For example, during the civil war in Rwanda rape was used a strategy to weaken ethnic minorities. This is despite the fact that rape is prohibited under international law regulating conflicts.
RAPE IS NOT THE FAULT OF THE VICTIM
When a crime is done violating a person’s bodily integrity it is not the fault of the victim. Subjecting the victim to stigma in society and in the legal system is not the way towards tackling the situation.
It can be easy to put the blame on the victim – so called “Victim Blaming” – and say that she is partly responsible for rape. People often say that the woman was trying to lure the man. This attitude is very disturbing. It has been shown that rape is a crime to assert power. Society often builds up notions of manhood where the man is supposed to be sexually aggressive.
Rape is a terrible crime. The victim deserves justice and the offender must be held responsible. Often the magnitude of the crime is trivialized. Family members don’t initiate action upon being told of rape.
Whenever a rape is reported it is usually the victim who is put on the spotlight. Rape laws are often directed in ways in which the victim is asked to recount details of the traumatic experience. They are humiliated in proceedings by being asked about their sexual history. This makes it harder for victims to disclose sexual assault.
WHY IS VICTIM BLAMING TROUBLING?
Victim blaming is very common in crimes of sexual assault. It is because of this that a majority of rape crimes are unreported. The victim feels marginalized from society and so decides not to come forward. The victim is socially shamed whereas the offender is not.
In this process, victims also start blaming themselves and they lose their self-esteem which makes the healing process much more challenging. The victim suffers continuously from the day that the sexual assault happened. Also, by blaming the victim, society seems to give the message that it is the victim’s fault for not being able to prevent the rape, rather the offender’s fault for committing the rape.
WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD?
As a society, we must realize that it is never the fault of the victim. Trivializing the crime only makes prosecution difficult. Many women do not report rape as they feel they won’t get justice.
Institutional reforms are required to make the victim more comfortable during proceedings. This involves training of police personnel and also the lawyers and judges. This is of particular importance due to the sensitivity of the crime. A strong support group must be set up where victims of rape can speak up and voice their concerns. The healing process can only be effective if there is an environment of trust.