My post published in News24
By Fareed Kaloo
I don't want to bore you with stats and figures of rape in our country.
I don't want these words to be lost in the cacophony of the debate on rape.
I don't want the two statements above to minimize the very real importance of having serious discussions on the subject of rape.
What I do want is for us to instill some very real truths in our dialogue on the subject.
I will have achieved this objective if, at the end of reading this, you don't simply exclaim “Oh no, not another rape victims story!”
Now, it is incumbent upon us as human beings not to just talk about the truth, but to actually seek it, to find it, to live it. My teacher taught me that. My parents instilled this in me from a very young age. The same truth I hope to impart upon my two young daughters. To be the seekers of truth, but to have the firm conviction that their voices are powerful enough to have their truth heard. And for those voices to carry an equal weight, equal to the voices of their male peers.
What is it in us that seeks the truth? Is it our minds or is it our hearts?
I set out to prove that men and women perceive rape from the same perspective; that those demanding justice for the victims of rape are as much men as they are women; that the punishment for rape is the same requested by women and Rape Crisis Centers and Rape Support Groups as it is from men and male driven rights groups; that we are all equal in the eyes of the law.
That's not the truth, because the eyes of the law are human eyes -- yours and mine -- and until we can see each other as equals, justice is never going to be evenhanded. It will remain nothing more than a reflection of our own prejudices. So until that day, we have a duty to seek the truth, not with our eyes and not with our minds where fear and hate turn commonality into prejudice, but with our hearts -- where we don't know better.
Now I want to tell you a story.
I'm going to ask you to take your time, and read each sentence slowly.
I want you to imagine every aspect of this story as I relate it to you.
I want you to read these words, and truly understand their meaning.
I want you to listen to yourselves as the words sink in.
This is a story about a little child walking home from the grocery store one sunny afternoon. I want you to picture this little child. I want you to imagine this little child dressed in a school uniform, walking home and looking forward to watching some TV and laughing and playing with the rest of the family. I want you to see the innocence of youth in this little kids eyes.
Suddenly a car pulls up.
Two men jump out and grab this little child. They drive off and after some time, drag the kid into a nearby field and they tie the kid up, and they violently rip the clothes off the panic-stricken child. Now they climb on, first one then the other, raping, violating, and shattering everything innocent and pure -- vicious thrusts -- in a fog of drunken breath and sweat. And when they're done, after they've killed every ounce of innocence, murdered any chance for a normal life, desecrated the very sanctity of youth, they decide to use the limp and almost lifeless body as a sheath to plunge their rusty sharpened knives into. So they start savagely beating and stabbing this child. The fear and terror in those innocent eyes have now been replaced by complete numbness.
A numbness borne of trying to understand why.
Why is this happening?
What have I done to deserve this?
Why is nobody here to hear my screams?
Why is nobody here to protect me?
Why is everything around me suddenly going dark?
Why is my world suddenly so silent?
Can you see this child?
This beautiful child raped, beaten, broken body, covered in dirt, soaked in their semen, soaked in it's own blood -- left to die.
I want you to picture that little angel.
Still dressed in a school uniform.
A school uniform symbolizing all the hopes and dreams of our precious little children across this beautiful land.
Now I want you to imagine this child as a little boy.
Until men of all races and creeds, in every nook and cranny, in every suburb and every township, in every sports-bar and every shebeen across our amazing country, begin to realize that the discussion of rape is a human epidemic and not just a female issue, we will never understand the problem.
Until men realize that it takes a village to raise a child, and that downplaying rape by accepting rape culture and condoning rape jokes teaches our sons that the village protects rapists, we will never stop this plague.
Until men realize that their duty as fathers is as much about teaching their sons to respect women as it is about teaching their daughters to respect their bodies, we will always find a victim in the females and never find a rapist amongst our males.
For far too long men have associated rape with female victims, perpetrated by rapists who are nothing like them or their friends and peers.
Speak to the friends and families of every rapist, and they will tell you that it was completely out of character and they simply cannot believe that he is a rapist.
I say “he” without dismissing the fact that females can be rapists too.
The premise of this piece however is to focus more on the culture in which we are bringing up our young men.
Until we change the culture of what is expected of our young men; until we challenge the gender bias that it's acceptable and expected of boys to compete to win and failure is not an option; until we understand the destructiveness of teaching these young men that women and jobs and trophies and acclaim are not challenges to be won at all costs; until we reprogram our sons to respect all women as they would and should their mothers and sisters and wives and daughters; until we make each of these young men and boys champions of all rights and liberties, never afraid to raise their voices and call out injustices against women; until we shame the rape and sexual abuse apologist with the same vigor we've begun to shame the racist with; until we're ready to send our sons into the world with the absolute certainty that they have neither the capacity to condone rape culture no the capacity to commit any acts of sexual abuse; until then, we will always react to shocking truths with “Oh no, not another rape victims story!”
I'd like to end with this quote, which epitomizes the fear men have of broaching subjects they're uncomfortable with.
A fear we need to urgently overcome.
“Most of us tend to belittle all suffering except our own," said Mary. "I think it's fear. We don't want to come too near in case we're sucked in and have to share it.”
― Elizabeth Goudge, The Scent of Water
It's time we get sucked in and it's certainly time we overcome our fear.
Begin the dialogue with our sons and fathers and friends.
Break down those barriers to discussions on rape and sexual abuse.
Be the ripple that begins the tsunami against this societal ill.
And never ever think it's ok to say “Oh no, not another rape victims story!”
For until we completely stop rapists, we are all victims.
I make no apologies for this article being loosely based on Jake Tyler Brigance's closing argument in trial in John Grisham's book “A Time To Kill”.