Let’s talk about rape

After the chain reactions received on the previous version of this post, I decided to edit it. Most of the comments have been deleted since they made no more sense. The same events could happen anywhere on this planet. As a Lebanese blogger, I’m mainly interested in Lebanon and its problems as I strive for progressive laws, social change and breaking taboos. Not talking about problems doesn’t mean that they will go away. Awareness is the purpose and nothing else.

I will not use anyone’s example this time to illustrate my point. Many just stopped their analysis there arguing about details. Long story made short, when a person gets raped, people tend to try to justify the rape. How could raped be justified? How could a person wounded in the most intimate parts of her/his body be blamed?

This happens to foreigners and to locals as well. I have heard countless stories about taxi/bus/school bus drivers, teachers, husbands, boyfriends, family (father, brother, cousin, uncle, etc..) raping men and women.

He/they could have been someone/people the girl/boy knows or he/they could have been someone/people she/he doesn’t know. She/he could have been 5 years old as much as she/he could have been a mother/father with kids. It doesn’t matter. She/he could have been smart or naive, corned or lured… It doesn’t matter. She/he could have been threatened with death, she/he could have been beaten till she/he passed out, she/he could have screamed and fought back… It doesn’t matter. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Due to the media and other preconceived ideas blondes, for example, are mistaken for Russian/Romanian prostitutes. I’m personally a fake blonde. But because I have very short hair and European features, I encounter this issue as well. People would address me immediately in a foreign language or harass me on the street and call me names.  Many even mistake me for a guy JUST BECAUSE I have very short hair.

It is not uncommon to hear: “If she/her got raped, it’s her/his fault.”, “Maybe she/he wanted this.” and other sick comments. I mean come on, really? No woman/man on the planet wanted/wants/will ever want to be beaten, raped and left half dead. Get real.

If something like that happened to your mother/father, sister/brother, daughter/son, aunt/uncle, girlfriend/boyfriend etc.. wouldn’t the first reaction be “I will kill this bastard?”

Questions:

  • Is it OK for people to bully any blonde girl? To ask about nationality, do the “Russia, Russia, how much?” dance and harass people on the streets?
  • Is it OK to rape prostitutes? Was there an irresistible sign saying “Rape me”? Ever wondered why/how she/he ended up here/like this and in what conditions?
  • Is it OK to rape gays? Liking men doesn’t mean liking violence.
  • Is it OK to rape helpless refugees?
  • Is it OK for a husband to force himself on his wife?
  • It is OK to rape the foreign housekeeper?
  • When someone drops money, we have 2 choices: Either make the person realize their money is on the ground either steal. ( Don’t tell me you “found” it when you saw it falling from the person’s hand/pocket/purse..) Would stealing be justified? Would you think “This person wanted to be stolen”?
  • If you forgot your car open, is it OK to steal it?

Since 2005, Kafa is the organization that can provide support in such cases. (So before that, victims had no support…) In a society where rape is a big taboo and a shame, a girl/guy wouldn’t even file a complaint because this means it has become public and even if she/he does, there are no clear legal procedure for the police indicating how to go about these cases. Many victims drown into depression and commit suicide while rapists are out there free, perpetuating their unpunished acts.

Unfortunately, the law seems to encourage men to be violent against women since the rapist is exempt from prison if he marries his victim and beaten women have no protection whatsoever unless they show broken bones. As far as I know, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women has been signed by Lebanon in April, 16, 1997. What about the unwanted pregnancies? What about the refugees? What about the men who get raped? (There is also this idea that “men cannot get raped”)

Are we, men and women unprotected by the law itself?

It’s never 100% safe anywhere on the planet whatever travel guides may say. We all know that we should:
  • Limit talking to strangers. (Moms knew what they were doing when they insisted on this.)
  • Never get in strangers’ car unless there is a clear Taxi sign. (Even then safety is not guaranteed)
  • Never give away too many personal details.
  • Limit walking unaccompanied on the street and never walk alone on the street at night.
  • Keep a serious face as smiles nowadays are interpreted as an invitation.
  • Never leave drinks unattended at all times. Not only that, do not send anyone to bring it AND keep an eye on the bartender while he is preparing it.

But still, shit can happen. Not all people are nice by default. Sex should ALWAYS be consensual. You could land on a person with whom you have a one night stand. It should still be consensual. NO means NO at any time.

So, this is not about Lebanon. What is about Lebanon is something else: it’s the way it’s it taken in charge, the way protective measures are taken at the source of the problem, the way the law is written, the way justice is given and the way society deals with it which makes ALL the difference. The WHOLE issue is HOW WE DEAL with it (The law, the justice system and everything else).

Updates: Follow up on this case here: The aftermath of a rape in Lebanon

Sources:

11 thoughts on “Let’s talk about rape

  1. The horrible thing is we’re not even safe from the “authorities”. I’ve been harassed countless times by the darak saying things like “bonjour ya 7elwe” or “2amoora” as I’ve walked by. These are the same people I’m supposed to complain to if someone harasses me? I remember this other time when an army truck driver started following me in the evening down the highway and shouting and making obscene hand gestures from his window. I had to drive at high speeds to escape him and was shaking all over by the time I got home. I think the behavior of these so called authorities should be addressed as well…Thanks for the article Rita!

  2. A very nice post.
    I agree with you, people are not nice by default and a girl (even a boy) should always be attentive while talking to people especially strangers.

    Around 4 years ago, I used to work in burger king – dbayeh. I finish work at 11 and come home to dbayeh by bus or service or sometimes walking. One day, i was waiting at a bench at the gas station in dbayeh waiting if anyone i know might pass by and give me a ride (this is a habitual behavior by us) when suddenly an odd looking man walked in front of me and almost slipped. he sat on the bench too. I didnt want to be rude and leave, so I stayed. he started asking about me, if im coming from work and where i live and such. I responded quietly only for being polite. He has a weird accent and he seemed drunk. He appeared to be Iraqi.
    He started asking me to accompany him to his room (he was saying: ta3al netla3 asaw3ak –> asaw3ak coming saye3 صايع: saye3 is the one someone having careless fun)
    I refused. but he didnt stop and started talking me to it. I then walked away and decided I’ll walk home. He followed me but I started going through alleys to lose him and still reach home.
    When i got back on the main road, i looked back, he was still there but far away. Probably he thought its not worthy anymore to walk up this much.

    I was scared, yes!
    but i managed to survive.

  3. we hear stories about girls being raped everyday. let’s try to imagine it happened with us for a moment, with a friend, our sisters, daughters… what would we feel then? what would we do?
    the point here is not if she is stupid or not, or if she wanted that! it’s beyond that.
    does anyone like to be raped? does a 6 years old girl who was raped by her father and uncle at the same time and then died from internal bleeding want this? the real issue is how they deal with the problem here, how police don’t fucking do a thing about it, maybe only if it happens to their daughters or someone they know.
    we live in a fucked up society (and world) and this must change.
    everyday as i walk or drive, i hear disgusting words from men around me…once a guy followed me from beirut to my place in jounieh, until i got home… what do i do then? who do i call? who would help?
    just for a moment, feel compassion with this girl and everyone who went through these kinds of stories.
    this is so disgusting.

  4. Absolutely sad..Rita thank you for posting this story. I’m sure if everyone were more honest and were more in touch with their surrounding (not just the makeup covering it) we would recognize that this story is more common that we’d like to admit.

  5. I’m enraged at the fact that we have succumbed to giving safety tips to women on how to avoid sexual assault in Lebanon (and the kind of replies you are getting). It perpetuates the idea that sex is something men are supposed to want due to their biological structure and women are supposed to evade by acting and dressing in ways deemed suitable by society. Socialization plays a big role in the sexual-assault formula especially when society keeps training us to think that men should be thinking about sex all the time and that, unlike women, can openly seek it. Rape, as proven in many studies, is not about the sex but rather about the power and humiliation. That’s why even when repeat offenders were exposed to chemical castration(which erases the biological factor), some of them went on to rape again. Some people seem to forget that rape is usually committed by men that are assumed to be within the circle of trust (spouses, family, friends, etc) or ordinary men as opposed to hardened criminals. Are the women and children getting raped in the safety of their homes also asking for it?

    Ya3ni enough with the victim blaming and pointing fingers at women using sentences such as “she asked for it”. If the women is not clearly consenting to sexual activity of any type, and by not consenting clearly saying NO or asking the person to stop, and the person continues it is rape. We do not need to keep justifying the behavior of men who pull the biology card to do as they please. We all have urges to do unacceptable things at some points but because we live in society we learn how to contain violent impulses and urges. Isn’t that one of religion’s endeavors? Shouldn’t the law protect when all else fails?

    Thanks for sharing the story although it might be misleading in stereotyping some behaviors of our society. Sexual assault is a problem all over the world, the problem in Lebanon is that even with enough proof of a rape case, there are no standard procedures to my knowledge to deal with it properly. In other parts of the world while standard procedure for rape trials exists, the process itself is a further attack to the victim especially when she is less than perfect in the eyes of the judges. Some of your readers thoughts are quite alarming to say the least. Single Lebanese women working in the Gulf are stereotyped against as “girls of loose morals”, so using their line of thought, that would justify any male from the Gulf area raping any Lebanese girl and denying her the right of a trial. All of this post should be seen as nothing but a cry for procedures and laws to be implemented where the victim is not subjected to feelings of humiliation by the people who should be protecting her. While laws will inherently benefit foreigners, the larger gain will be for our own mothers, sisters and daughters.

    Apologies for the long comment and for probably mentioning points that were already made.

  6. Parts of a comment by Raghd Hamzeh:

    This is a horrible reminder about the antiquated laws we have here in Lebanon as well as the the tendency to just let things by. I don’t know how widespread this issue is in our culture, but a single case of rape or abuse is bad enough.

    Some points:

    How can people ever consider telling a person who has just been raped that he/she should be more careful?! It’s like it is their fault! You say “You should have been more careful” to a person who just broke a vase, not to someone who has just been raped!!!

    “..the rapist is exempt from prison if he marries his victim..” – I can’t believe this. To all politicians who the Lebanese people seem to love voting for time and again, how about you spare us the soap opera you call a government and work on solving this and other pressing society issues, or does your ginormous paycheck only extend for providing entertainment for the society in the daily news, while ripping off every single citizen?

    The Lebanese society, though it can be amazing at times has some lapses in conscience especially when it comes to sexism, racism, nationalism, and many other -isms. This case, though tragic is not the first, and unfortunately it won’t be the last. Do not forget the cases of the abused Ethiopian housekeepers, which is a kind of legalized human trafficking, or the kidnapping of foreigners, or the house abuse of many women and children. And don’t expect the situation to get better while we still value a man’s ego over a woman’s mind, a national’s ego over a foreigner’s life, and a politician’s ego and wallet over a citizen’s freedom. The laws have to be fixed and the society has to grow up.

    Thanks for sharing it

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*