While gang rape is widely reported on in many parts of the world — like this recent incident, where a 17-year-old girl was gang raped, murdered, mutilated, and dumped at a construction site in South Africa — precise information on the extent of the problem of gang rape is scarce.
This type of attack on women is not a new phenomenon, but the limited amount of information makes it difficult to recognize gang rape as a serious problem, which thus makes it difficult to remedy the problem..
Gang rape, which occurs when a group of people, usually two or more, participate in the rape of a single victim, has been shown to be a crime committed often, in all kinds of circumstances, by all kinds of groups.
What makes gang rape drastically different from conventional rape are the group dynamics involved, and the element of ridicule and humiliation felt by the victim, who is being sexually assaulted by multiple people — either engaging in the assault or acting as bystanders.
Dealing with the aftermath of gang rape can be especially isolating, and quite frequently victims who have gone through this type of trauma undergo a form of dissociation during the experience, making it difficult to reconnect that experience to the self.
A 2006 study titled, “A Comparison on Group and Individual Sexual Assault Victims,” found that group sexual assaults were more violent and harbored greater resistance from the victim than individual sexual assault cases and that while victim of group sexual assault were more likely to seek crisis and law enforcement services, they were also more likely to contemplate suicide and seek therapy.
While women in South Africa have gathered in the streets, marching toward the scene of the crime to display how the high levels of sexual violence in the area have hardened them, more needs to be done for victims of these atrocious attacks in terms of helping them heal and holding their perpetrators accountable.
There needs to be a concerted effort to meet reports of sexual harassment with more than a shrug. Victims of rape need to feel safe and know that they are being taken seriously when reporting sexual assault. These reports also need to be methodically consolidated in order to produce accurate and far-reaching statistics, which will help to raise awareness and expose the true extent of the problem.
According to CNN, a local radio station in South Africa broadcasts a ping every four minutes as a reminder that a person is raped there on average. Robbing someone of their dignity is not a women’s issue—it is a human issue, with severe consequences on the health of society as a whole.