The funny thing about it is, everyone thinks they know what rape is. If you try and ask the average person to define it and its implications, they are likely to give a textbook definition along the lines of ‘A man wanting to have sex with a woman when she says no’; or a loose description of something they saw in a movie at one time in their lives, but still the fact remains that not many people fully understand what rape really is.
So what is it then?
In a neo-conservative Catholic country like the Philippines, people are discouraged to talk about sex. They become afraid of the subject or anything related to it so the lack of knowledge about rape does not come as a surprise. It has only been in recent years that sexual imagery has been allowed to grace our TV screens, spurred on by the our countries un-realistic ‘demand’ to mimic the west in its attempt to keep up with international standards. It seems however, that rape has become somewhat glorified in the media, and despite its horrific impacts on its victims and society, from a typical male’s perspective it is socially considered as more of a ‘macho conquest’ to validate one’s manhood, rather than a gruesome and terrifying violation of one’s human rights.
I was recently tagged in someone’s status on FB where the writer had complained of a joke she had heard on the radio about rape. A man told his friend that he saved a girl from being raped. His friend asked how he did it. The man tells him, he stopped himself from raping her. I’m guessing this was followed by the laugh track that is always customary after such ‘jokes’. In the shadows of these type of media antics, the very bright and socially progressive people at the radio station are indirectly teaching their audience to laugh at things like this, in essence bringing the concept of rape back to the dark ages when it was an acceptable part of everyday life. In a country where people (yes, women AND men get raped) have no access to sex education, where victims of this heinous act still don’t know if they were raped or if they just had sex, this type of insensitive and tasteless humour is detrimental to their wellbeing.
I read a news report that the other day, a one year old boy was raped and left under a jeepney to die. I didn’t hear anyone laughing then.
Rape has existed in society since the beginning of time, yet in our country only 3% of all rape cases (and only 10% are ever reported) are ever successful in court. Women and men who are raped here are victims not only to their rapist, but also to the victim bashing culture and shame based control social norms that are prevalent in our culture. In other words, we suffer from ‘RAPE CULTURE’, deny it as we may. I have heard many stories about rape cases not being filed because processes were full of corrupt officials or simply too slow. I’ve even heard about a number of rape cases being thrown out because of ‘lack of probable cause’, I’ve heard about people being raped by their fathers and uncles in their own homes and their own mothers shaming them for even speaking out about what happened to them and turning a blind eye to the reality of the victims suffering. People assume they know the difference between someone who is a rapist and who is not, they also assume they know who was raped and who wasn’t based on what is shoved down their throats from ‘pop’ culture and the media’s take on what are acceptable values in our society.
Ergo, unless society has been listening to rape victims and understand what happens when they are raped, they truly do not and cannot fully understand what rape is.
Yet these are the same people who automatically call alleged victims liars, because everyone thinks they know everything about rape based on what they’ve seen on TV or what they’ve heard from someone else. Victims are called liars by those who know nothing about rape, so they say nothing and people continue to know nothing. And the problem of rape in this country not only continues, but grows larger by the day.
What people don’t realize is that there is no auto reaction to rape. It is not a natural occurrence and our bodies and minds do not have an auto function which helps us process the act of rape. It is not a natural thing for a human being to experience so how would you even start to process and understand what happened to them? How would they even begin to pick up the pieces? How do you as an open minded reader of this article begin to comprehend that someone, that ANYONE who wants carnal knowledge of you, has no regard for you or your rights and just decides to take your dignity form you just because they want it and do not care that you are extremely opposed to giving it to them? People seem to think that rape is a long a drawn out process wherein you are comprehensive and in control of your mind and actions and have any presence of mind to stop what is happening to you. Think about how fast it would be to grab someone’s genitals, to touch someone’s body in inappropriate ways that would be considered molestation. In just a matter of seconds, a person can be violated. You don’t even have time to scream by the time the act is done. Touching someone inappropriately is minor compared to rape, as being rape is the ultimate violation of a person’s dignity and it is much worse than the words in this article have the capacity to describe.
When your mind cannot comprehend something, it will go into a state of emergency. Based on the fight or flight response, we react in certain ways based on how we comprehend the situation and how it affects our wellbeing. People believe that after a victims is raped, their auto response should be either to fight back or to run and tell the police and get a rape kit and file a case against your rapist and have them thrown in jail. Whoever started telling people that this was how to handle being raped was only thinking about the ‘practical’ emotionally detached aspect of handling the situation. The emotional and physical trauma in addition to the societal aspects of this were wrongly skipped over. Arrogant commenters claim that they would be able to do this if they were ever raped without ever really thinking about being physically violated in one of their orifices and how much shame that would bring to them in our culture.
Too often a person’s first reaction to alleged rape victims is ‘why didn’t you get a rape kit?’ and ‘why didn’t you tell the police?’ or the worst of all ‘Are you sure you didn’t ask for it or want it?’ it makes me want to scream just thinking about the number of times I have been asked every single one of those very insensitive questions. When your brain cannot make sense of a situation, to protect itself, you go into shock. You freeze. When you are being raped and you cannot stop it, this is what happens. Your brain switches off. You become a spectator and your mind glazes over unable to process what is happening to it. You do everything in your power to stop it, but when you have tried everything and you are still being abused, your mind stops fighting. Instead of going crazy, it goes silent.
In my case it was worse because I was drugged.
What happens afterwards when it’s over? When you are face to face with your rapist and its over, what do you think happens? Nothing. Nothing at all. What can you do? The act itself is finished. There is no taking back what they have done to you, there is no cleaning off the feeling of being violated. There is only feeling violated, traumatized and helpless.
I do not wish this feeling on anyone. The feeling that someone has taken something from you and you can’t ever get it back is absolutely horrible.
As a victim, you try to understand. You try to figure out what happened, why it happened, and WORST OF ALL tell yourself over and over, it was your own fault. People mistake this feeling that rape victims have as them being unsure as to whether or not they lead their rapist on and provoked the act of rape. Let me first explain that NOTHING can or should be seen as an act to ‘provoke rape’. Rape is rape even if a person is ALREADY having sex with someone and refuses to continue in the middle of it. According to the LAW, if a person wants to stop having sex and their partner continues this can already be classified as rape. There is NO PROVOKING rape. Rape is a person taking carnal knowledge of another without that persons consent.
Victims blame themselves all the time for getting raped because society makes it sound so easy to prevent and say that they should have done something to protect themselves. With all due respect, this mentality is part of the farce. Think about every time a person REALLY wants something, how EASY it is for them to get it. If you want something, you plan, save, work out how you can get what you want, and all the positivity books you read nowadays will tell you that you can achieve your goals. Think now about if you were a rapist and WANTED to rape women, if you plan and work out how you can do it, JUST HOW EASY IT WOULD BE.
If a rapist walked around calling himself a rapist, he wouldn’t get very far, would he.
Rapists have the intention of raping people. Yes, fair enough there are people who rape once as a spur of the moment thing and aren’t serial rapists. It’s common knowledge that in our country the honor of the public officials we call ‘The Honorable Justice’ is for sale to highest bidder, so our extremely corrupt justice unsurprisingly only manages to successfully prosecute 3% of all rapists who are actually tried in our courts. What are the chances that the rest of the rapists are still out there raping people who are all too afraid to say anything because of the way our society shuns rape victims? How many people have to be raped before anyone actually starts to realize, there are rapists running free in our country? How many people fail to realize that there are that are serial rapists who are being allowed to live fruitful lives and continue to rape while their victims live in fear? There are sick, deceitful sociopaths that get away with raping 100’s of women (and men) who feel like they are safe because no one will ever believe they are a rapist. How many babies have to be raped and left for dead under a jeepney to prove that our attitude towards rape as a society has to be remedied or cause serious damage to our society?
Perhaps you don’t realize the impact that rape and abuse can have on a person, hence why you do not understand the detriment to our society. Victims of these crimes suffer from a form PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). These events are traumatic to the system and require intense counseling and rehabilitation in order for them to recover even remotely from something that is unnatural to them. Being raped is no joke. When you don’t understand what has happened to you, you become numb to it. In order to survive and continue living without losing your mind or crumbling into an emotional wreck you put on a brave face.
The lingering unanswered torture of not understanding what happened and not knowing who to turn to becomes too much and you have to repress the memory. This is common for many victims. Because they cannot talk to anyone and they are ashamed and afraid, they repress these painful memories, which cause them in turn to manifest them in other ways. For example, a woman who has been raped may either become more sexually promiscuous and cling to men in an attempt to bring back any semblance of control she might have about her sex, or she may shy away from sex altogether, the thought of sex repulsing her. Either way, it becomes difficult to have relationships. Victims can become aggressive in nature, always on the defense, scared out of their minds that something else will happen to them. You never know real fear until you have experienced it first hand, then you never want to go back. Depression, anxiety, isolation, hysteria. All of these things go through the minds of victims who have not been allowed to speak and have closure. But they still have to exist, they still have to survive and become some of the strongest people we have because they have to deal with all of this in silence and show the world that nothing is wrong. Can you imagine the psychological torture these people are enduring in their everyday lives?
In the first three months after I spoke up about rape and I was bashed online, I suffered from many of these things. The paralyzing fear of being afraid that one of the threats of being raped again would be real, the attacks on my integrity, the intense scrutiny under which I was being held with people prepped to attack me and tell me that I was wrong, that I was never raped and that I should just shut up. I broke down. Not only was I being attacked for doing something that i believed was morally right, to make people understand that rape is real and that they don’t understand the truth about it, and I was being called a liar and being made to feel ashamed. People don’t realize that I never said anything about it in the first place because I knew how society would react. I didn’t want to have been raped and go through it all again. Something triggered my trauma and I spoke up. I had to. I couldn’t go on letting people believe the misconceptions they have about rape. vicious online trolling or not, I spoke up because rape is happening in our country, and we are still trying to pretend it’s not. Victims are suffering everyday, trying to find a way to speak up about the wrongs that were done to them, only to be shamed back into silence, all while their rapist continues to have a normal life. What are we doing to our people?
When a victim points out their rapist, people say, “It’s impossible that that person is a rapist, he doesn’t look like a rapist and he’s a good guy, there’s no way he’s a rapist.”
You think that rapists look scary and dress in black bad-guy costumes so they can get close enough to their victims to rape them? I mean, look at our politicians, most of them look like “good guys”, they dress in fancy clothes, they make great speeches that get them into office, they have nice cars and seem like they are honorable public servants; yet how many have been implicated in plunder cases for being part of the Pork Barrel scandal for stealing funds from the very people that put them in office? These type of narrow minded conclusions people draw about rapists have always confounded me. Like predators in nature, rapists are good at camouflage. As a predator, if you were going to attack someone, you wouldn’t scream, “Hey we’re coming to get you!” before you start to attack. It gives your enemy time to prepare and find a way to either fight you or run away. Fight or flight. In the case of rapists, they have to have access to intimate situations with their victims before they can rape them. They don’t rape people in the middle of the street or highway. In the majority of rape cases, the rapist is someone the victim knows, and in far too many cases here in the Philippines, it is someone they are related to. Fathers and Uncles, to ‘Titos’ and ‘Titas’ in our society where every close friend of your family is considered like a relative mean that we are told to trust people that we don’t assume are rapists. Yet there are people who are molested and raped by their family members and close friends every day. Think about it, nobody would ever suspect ‘Tito Boy’ who comes over for family lunch every Sunday and creeps into the back to molest your daughter while everyone is busy with themselves. But it is so easy for predators like him to do it. He knows he will never get caught because even if your 6 year old says something, in our society, nobody will believe her anyway. They will probably even tell her it was her fault.
Celebrities and Politicians have an even easier time. In our country, these two categories of people can do no wrong. Or at least no wrong that is too big to pay someone off for or turn a blind eye to. PR teams sit around and think of ways to twist public perception to make it seem that it is almost impossible to accuse either of these people of rape because hey, they look great on billboards and keep ratings high. The PR teams that they pay lots of money for don’t have their jobs for nothing. Their job is to keep an image (illusion for lack of a better term) in the public eye. On top of the fact that justice in this country is for sale to the highest bidder; so I don’t even have to explain that to anyone, that’s how corrupt our ‘honorable’ public officials are. So it is very easy to get away with anything here in this country if you know the right people and have the right sized bank account. Just look at the number of journalists that have been brutally murdered in this country as an example. Just like that, because of who they are in society, everybody automatically assumes to KNOW that they could never be rapists. Anybody who looks good and sounds good, could never be a rapist, they could never do anything wrong, right?
So instead of showing support and sympathy to victims in this culture, those who cry rape are publicly crucified. We are so willing to turn the other cheek in order to save ‘face’ in our country that we would rather shame and silence the things that make us look bad, arguing away any credibility the victim may have with statements such as “look at the way she acts, she must have asked for it”, “She was drinking with men so she asked for it”, “She should have known better so she asked for it”, “She’s liberated so she asked for it.” We come up with reasons so fast as to why the rape couldn’t have ever happened because of the things we think we know about rape. We are also quick to come up with reasons why the rapist could not be a rapist. In fact, too often people even come up with justifications as to why the rape was ok. In a case where young boys were raped, a barangay captain was heard to say, “Let’s give the rapist a second chance.” A chance to live his life to rape again, while the people who cried rape do not have a second chance. Their lives have already been ruined. Yet no one makes a sound. As long as we have all decided the rapist is innocent, because we all know SO MUCH about rape, the rape in question could never have happened.
So what do you say to the above situation? “Sorry little boy with the damaged digestive system and trauma for the rest of your life, we do not believe in ‘rape’, you probably asked for this sick old man to violate you, therefore, your problem does not exist because we want to save face. Do us a favor and go back to pretending everything is okay because its easier for us that way”.
Cases are dismissed in our courts as having ‘lack of probable cause’ or ‘lack of evidence’. The U.N. has already cracked down on our judicial system stating that these acquittals are based on ‘misconceptions about rape and rape victims’, and that such dismissals are a violation of human rights and ‘a breach of the Philippines’ obligation to end discrimination in its legal process’. Let us delve into the two statements briefly to close. ‘Lack of probable cause’ meaning in essence, that they don’t believe that a rapist had reason to rape the victim. What reasons are there exactly to rape a person that are acceptable, I ask? What would be probable cause for raping someone? The clothes they wear, the way they talk, how attractive they are? All the things that people say are the reasons why people get raped and yet tell them they weren’t really raped because they asked for it for doing these things? ‘Lack of evidence.’ You have 24 hours to file a rape kit. Rapists don’t rape in public most of the time, they also don’t rape with the intention of anyone else finding out. They do it in private areas where they will not get caught on CCTV or be seen by anyone who could be a witness and end their raping. I think the appropriate phrase for this is, ‘DUH’.
In the case of every rape victim, after the initial traumatic experience they have endured are then expected to be put under scrutiny of countless other people from police to hospital staff to councilors to judges and their own family and friends, to explain and relive the experience over and over again, in our society being told they are a liar or asked for it, having to prove that a person is a rapist in a country where people believe they are the best judge of who rapists are (even though they do not listen to victims), in 24 hours they are expected to get a rape kit or forever stay silent about their rape because what a surprise, the rapist made sure there was none. Ever think about what happens if a rapist uses a condom? No evidence, no rape daw. After you are raped, before you can even start to comprehend or process, you are being told to be ashamed and keep quiet because nothing ever changes, you will never get justice and you should just move on. Trying to reason with yourself and battle the idiotic stigma of society is incredibly exhausting. Nobody wants to be seen as a victim because, NO MATTER what you’ve accomplished in your life, what talents you have and what good you’ve done in your life, going public about being a rape victim makes you be seen as just that, a victim. You were once a person that mattered in society, but now, after speaking out about what someone did to you, all you become is a dirty, shameful victim of someone else’s crime.
This is the country we are living in. This is the reality countless victims like myself and the others that have spoken up face day in and day out. This is the culture we are leaving behind and these are the values we are teaching our children through our own ignorance and confusion. What will it take for things to change? How many more people like myself have to suffer in silence before we say enough is enough and make a change for the better? The days of Spanish colonial rule are over. It is 2014 and part of our culture is still stuck back in the dark ages when it comes to sexuality. So many people here are proud to be Filipino, but take an objective look at the way our culture has us treating each other when someone speaks up about being a VICTIM.
If you are a victim of a robbery, a stabbing, an accident, people rush to your aid. Yet when it is a crime against humanity such as rape, we are guilty of neglect and turning a blind eye.
Enough is enough. You may not have been a victim, but there are enough rapists out there that mean there is no guarantee you never will be, or any member of your family and friends. If you wait until it happens to someone you know, it’ll be too late to start being concerned.
Are you willing to take that risk?