BLOG: How much do we know about rape?
Hürriyet image.A few days ago, a man called me telling me he had found my number via a job search site and asked me if I could help him out with his career plans as, he said, he admired my CV and believed I could advise him. “Of course,” I said, without giving it much thought. He then told me he would call back later for a longer discussion. The same night he called as he had promised. The classic “Hello, how are you” chitchat followed, until I asked him how he was, to which he answered, “Well, how is it possible to not feel good talking to such a beautiful voice.” I immediately felt tired. As I was speaking to him while I was cooking dinner, he heard the clinging of pans, and asked me if I was busy. Without giving it much thought, again, I answered, “Well, my husband will be home shortly, so I’m cooking dinner.” He then wished me good luck with my life and hung up.
Here is what has been bugging me since this discussion: Why did I need to use my boyfriend to say what could have been said with a shorter and simpler word: NO. Plus, my boyfriend and I are not even married, but I probably felt the need to use the word “husband” for its social weight. Now that I think of it, why does my NO weigh less when it stands alone than when it’s backed up by a man? I feel ashamed as a woman for hiding behind someone to express myself. A large number of women do this. If they do not want someone to flirt with them, follow them or ask them personal questions, they immediately insert the “cock-blocker” boyfriend (imaginary or not) into the picture. But why does a “NO, THANK YOU” weigh less?
I believe this thought mechanism, as small as it sounds, is the source of the main problem when talking about inequality. My words weigh so much less, and I, unconsciously, am so aware of it that I feel the need to use a man’s existence to express myself.
Most women are constantly living in a paranoid state of mind. While walking on the street, having a man walk behind might generate some stress, or when ordering food home, we act as if there are people in the house to block any thought of intrusion we think the delivery guy might have. When we take a cab at night, we avoid looking at the driver in the mirror, and have our phones in our hands in case he turns out to be a vicious rapist. There are times we feel suffocated by compliments that we should adore, just because we’re not sure if they’re innocent compliments or not. So we use the abstract existence of a man to block other men away. However, sometimes, that “abstract boyfriend” doesn’t turn out to be enough.
This week a 20-year-old girl in Turkey, Özgecan Aslan, was raped and murdered by a bus driver while she was going home. She was the only passenger on the bus, which probably made it easier for the bus driver to look at her as his prey. Following the events, protests have been staged, and women are shouting for justice. I keep on reading the comments under the Facebook posts of Turkish newspapers, and here are the main comment themes:
• I am ashamed to live in this country where men are animals.
• I am sick of reading so much rape news in the newspapers, sick of this country where women have no value whatsoever.
• We should hang these men.
• God will show them justice.
• She probably did something to deserve it.
Let’s analyse this;
First of all, Turkey is not the only country where rape happens. A recent survey in the U.S. showed that the chances of a woman being raped in the U.S. were 1 out of 5. However, there are two statistics that should be known:
• The high estimate of the number of women raped, according to the Center for Disease Control, is 1.3 million, while the percentage of rapes not reported is estimated at 54 percent. The 54 percent of women who do not report it is quite high as it deeply affects the statistics. A large number of women will not report their rape, especially in countries like Turkey. Why? Because it’s shameful. Many countries still do live by the belief that rape is more shameful for a women then for the perpetrator. In India for example, or in Middle Eastern countries, or in Turkey’s rural regions (and still in some cities), this very fact is why it is a good thing that the media nowadays are talking about it more often – and should do even more so. Rape exists, and not reporting it does not make it non-existent, and not reading about it does not mean it happens less. So you might be sick about reading rape news in the papers, but know that at least it is being talked about. For years, the subject was ignored as it was “too shameful and inappropriate” to talk about.
In another survey conducted in the U.S. with high school and college students, researchers discovered the following shocking statistics:
• In the survey of high school students, 56 percent of girls and 76 percent of boys believed forced sex was acceptable under some circumstances.
• In the survey made with 11- to 14-year-old students, 65 percent of boys and 47 of girls said it was acceptable for a boy to rape a girl if they had been dating for more than six months.
• In a survey of male college students, 35 percent anonymously admitted that, under certain circumstances, they would commit rape if they believed they could get away with it while one in 12 admitted to committing acts that met the legal definitions of rape, while 84 percent of men who committed rape did not label it as rape.
• In another survey of college males, 43 percent of college-aged men admitted to using coercive behavior to have sex, including ignoring a woman’s protests, using physical aggression and forcing intercourse.
These statistics are monstrous. However, they show that the “idea of what rape is” is not quite settled and clear in young people’s minds.
Let’s move to France; in April 2014 a 29-year-old woman in Lille was raped on the subway. A man approached the women while she was waiting for the subway like other passengers next to her and started shouting, “You’re a whore.” The women got scared and tried to escape next to a man who was waiting for the subway as well. The man she hid behind did not budge to help. On the contrary, he ran away like all the other passengers to the next wagon, leaving the woman behind to be raped. Finally, the woman did get raped under the watch of the dear passengers who did nothing to help or prevent the situation. The rapist was subsequently arrested and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
This case is not unique to France, and used to be quite common in Paris where women would get raped in a subway wagon while there were passengers right next to her who would ignore the situation. A commercial was aired to draw attention to it, but the fact that the situation has repeated itself shows that it wasn’t quite as effective as expected.
All in all, rape does not happen in Turkey alone; it happens all around the world, even in countries where women seem to have equal rights as men.
Then what is it? Why are we still scared to walk down a street alone at night?