America. Canada. Afghanistan. Great Britain. Not Much Difference In Way Rape Victims Are Treated

Rehtaeh Parsons

17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons was removed from life support after an attempted suicide following a sexual assault and subsequent bullying. Image from Australia’s News.Com.

After the Steubenville rape, rape culture in America was heavily highlighted in the media and admittedly there is a problem in this country with shaming the victims of sexual assault.  However, rape culture is not a uniquely American problem, it has spread across national boundaries. Yesterday, in Canada, seventeen year old Rehtaeh Parsons was removed from life support by her family three days after hanging herself in the bathroom. The story her mother told is one that is all too familiar:

“The [p]erson Rehtaeh once was all changed one dreaded night in November 2011. She went with a friend to another’s home. In that home she was raped by four young boys…one of those boys took a photo of her being raped and decided it would be fun to distribute the photo to everyone in Rehtaeh’s school and community where it quickly went viral. Because the boys already had a ‘slut’ story, the victim of the rape Rehtaeh was considered a SLUT.”

A few similar examples:

  • In Maldives a fifteen year old girl was sentenced to 100 lashes after admitting to being raped by her father.
  • In February of this year, a 27-year-old woman in Somalia was sentenced to one year in prison after security forces allegedly raped her.
  • Afghanistan, 2011, a woman was imprisoned for adultery after being raped by her cousin’s husband.
  • A 17-year-old girl in India swallowed poison in December 2012 after police pressured her to drop her claims of being gang raped.
  • A violinist in Great Britain killed herself after being labelled a liar during the trial of her rapist.

The list goes on and on, from country to country all across the world. The systematic shaming of woman and girls after being brutally raped is disgustingly common. Women are blamed for becoming a victim and it is ACCEPTED. They are told that it’s somehow their fault because of what they are wearing, how they were walking, their attitudes, for not fighting hard enough, for staying out too late, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

The Canadian case once again puts a glaring spotlight on this asinine assertion. A teenager is raped by boys in school and the boys somehow manage to walk away with their reputations intact. Rehtaeh, meanwhile, was harassed to such a degree that her family relocated so that she could start somewhere fresh. The harassment doesn’t stop, thanks to social media and technology and the victim becomes so overwhelmed that she feels like the only way to escape the shame of being gang raped is to end her life. The thought of what she must have felt as she put that noose around her neck makes me physically ill. In the ensuing days there will be shock and outrage.  People will wonder why, just like they do every time something like this happens all around the world. In Maldives there are protests over the 15-year-old girl’s sentence and everywhere else we are all left to wonder what can really be done to stop this? How can we change this practice of making the victim feel as if they are to blame?

The first thing that can be done is recognizing that this is, in fact, an issue all over the world. It is to be ingrained in society that women are still second class citizens. In America we need to teach are son’s that woman are not pieces of meat. We have to teach our son’s that rape is not socially acceptable. I have an eight year old son and I hammer it into his head the he is to respect women. Education is key, schools should teach sexual harassment and just like with bullying, they need to stand up and speak out against it not giggle and look the other way. In Middle Eastern countries it is going to be a little bit harder to change the way women are treated but I believe that is where it becomes important for us all to stand together and demand change for these women. As long as misogyny continues to be accepted here and aboard we will continue to hear stories about little girls and women killing themselves. As long as we continue to be outraged for three days and then forget about it, it will continue to occur. It’s not going to be easy to turn it around. Hundreds of years of the mistreatment of women will not stop over night but we must continue to fight for it. We must fight for all of the little girls all around the world. We must stand up and demand that they all be treated with respect and allowed to grow up and feel safe. Enough is enough, if we just sit idly back and allow it to continue the blood is on all of our hands.