Why Does Our Global Mindset Let Rape Slide?

Every community, every country has its excuses. A girl showed a seductive ankle. A girl was out without a male escort. A girl was out after dark. A girl was dressed inappropriately.  

Last week, a 5-year-old girl was brutally raped and nearly killed in New Delhi India. She remains in a hospital nearby another 5-year-old rape victim. A third young victim was only recently discharged from that specific hospital.

Over 7,000 cases of child rape were reported in India in 2011. Put bluntly, more than 20 children were raped every day for an entire year. And these deplorable statistics constitute only those cases that are actually reported — a fraction of the actual total of acts of violence perpetrated.

These cases are unfathomable to me, all such acts against women are. In a patriarchal world of increasing machoism — what better way to prove you are a man than to defend women?

Only months ago Delhi was filled with riots after the savage gang rape of an 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a public bus. At the time, reading reports of the growing protests it appeared like India was on the brink of real change, of actual meaningful steps in curbing the climbing rates of rape — the Indian National Crime Records Bureau reports that a woman is raped every 20 minutes. (As there is a high percentage of unreported rapes, this statistic is most likely inaccurate.)

Meaningful progress has yet to be made. And India is not an anomaly.

According to United Nations reports, the five countries with the highest per capita rates of rape are, in order: Botswana, Sweden, Nicaragua, Grenada, and the U.K. (Perhaps not exactly the list you might have initially listed in your head.)

I was living in Cambodia at the time of the rape riots in Delhi — yet another country with an abysmal record. While I was there, newspapers reported a 10-year-old girl raped and murdered in a temple and a 19-year-old disabled woman gang raped in a banana field.  

But equally shocking were the excuses constructed out of nothing, not only by police officers quoted in the local newspapers, but by young Khmer women.

What exactly will it take to force a complete change in the mindset of the world: that rape is abhorrent and NEVER the victim’s fault. 

Lets not forget our own sullied shores.

The CDC reports that US women have a one in five chance of being raped over their lifetime. It is widely known on college campuses that college women are in danger of being raped at a rate at or just below the national average — many organizations cite a one in four likelihood.

The Department of Justice reports a low estimate of 300,000 rape cases per year on US soil — if that figure is accurate that is still 821 rapes perpetrated every day — 34 rapes committed every hour of every day — one rape committed every two minutes.

But more than 50% of all rapes in the U.S. go unreported. And who can blame those women, when even in the U.S., young girl victims are often accused of acting too old or dressing like a slut.

There is never an excuse for rape. Never in any country, in any community. But what will it take to alter these vile statistics?

The riots in India have not yet proved to be the tipping point — and we have yet to see any similar public demands for action on the streets of America.

Partly it is a matter of police action — of law enforcement making rape cases a priority. But significantly our inaction is rooted in a mindset — we condone rapists  who causally glorify rape, we allow discussions in our highest offices on a confounding “legitimate” rape, and we deliberate whether a minor was “drunk enough” for an act of violence to be deemed rape.

Our inaction is rooted in a mindset — that as a community, as a nation and even as a globe, while we do not condone rape, we have failed to condemn attacks on women as deplorable and utterly inexcusable.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Jessica Lander

Jessica graduated from Princeton University with a major in Anthropology and a Certificate in African Studies. Her undergraduate thesis was based on an extended ethnographic study of a school for under-privilaged children in Arusha, Tanzania. Since graduating she has continued her focus in education. She has spent a year teaching college students at Chiang Mai University in Northern Thailand, and a year teaching 6th grade in the Boston inner-city with the non-profit Citizen Schools. Over the past two years she has worked in theater, teaching and directing Shakespeare both in Thailand and in Boston. When not teaching, Jessica writes - keeping an education focused blog: Chalk Dust (http://jessicalander.blogspot.com)

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