First World Problems

Abdulrahman Katanani, “Girl with Hula hoop,” 2011
Photo courtesy the Artist and Agial Art, Beyrouth

Last night in my perusal of my favorite news sites, I came across this article on Huffington Post about how the 112th House Rapepublicans failed American women by letting the Violence Against Women Act expire for the first time since it was passed in 1994. VAWA provides, among other very important legal protections, funding for rape crisis centers. While they were at it they also effectively killed this bill that would have allocated funds to finally get around to processing the backlog of 400,000 untested forensic rape kits to help identify and prosecute rapists. I don’t get it. Do they think Republican women don’t get raped?

Last night I also read this extremely disturbing article about a gang rape case involving a high school football team in Steubenville, Ohio where the “accused” rapists “allegedly” used a variety of social social media outlets to brag about their crime, including “reportedly” posting a 12 minute video about it on YouTube where they callously and repeatedly referred to the victim as a dead girl. So far it seems not a whole lot has been done about this crime in the town of Steubenville, because everyone knows fine upstanding gentlemen on the football team would never commit a crime like that, right? And most likely none of this would even be news at all were it not for Anonymous uncovering and releasing the video, or this blogger who was sued by one of the football players for defamation of character (hence my rampant use of of terms like “alleged” and “reportedly”, because in America you are innocent until proven guilty, unless of course you’re a rape victim and then you’re just a drunk slut who was asking for it). At least when our elected officials fail us, we still have Anonymous.

I painfully watched this entire 12 minute video because I knew that 22 years ago I was that “dead girl” and a couple groups of fine upstanding high school boys much like these had the same conversations about me. Twice. I watched it because I needed to understand why, what goes through the mind of boys you think are your friends when they pre-meditatively plan and execute raping you and then harass you afterwards? I don’t know if I got the answers I was looking for and I can’t help but wonder what difference it would have made if Facebook and smart phones existed when I was a teenager except a whole lot more harassment. The overwhelming evidence doesn’t seem to be helping this poor girl much in the face of a misogynistic country more concerned with football than public safety, unless of course we’re talking about Muslim terrorists, then by all means pull out the big guns! Save us GOP!

And then last night I also came across a whole flood of global media coverage of women protesting about a gang rape in India, including this article by Naomi Wolf about ending India’s rape culture. How is it that we can be outraged, sympathetic, and supportive when we read headlines about a woman gang raped in India who spawned a national movement of women protesting:

“What began 13 days ago with a handful of well-wishers holding a hospital vigil for the rape victim swelled into thousands as a young generation of Indians demanded an end to the culture of violence that produced more than 24,000 cases of rape last year alone.”

and think wow 24,000 rapes in one year. That’s an epidemic. Brutal gang rape. Police doing nothing to protect or prosecute. Culture of rape. But something like that would never happen here in America, right? India is dirty and dangerous and overcrowded and backwards and misogynistic and this is just a third world problem, right? A really sad problem, but it would never happen here, right?

And yet where is our outrage and protests here in America when:

“The Department of Justice estimated that 188,380 Americans were victims of sexual violence last year.” (2010). And that’s just the low estimate of the number of reported cases. 1 in 4 women in America (or 5 or 6 depending on who you ask and if it’s a good year or a bad year for women) will be raped in their lifetime. So think about yourself (or your wife), your mother, your sister, and your daughter and if you don’t believe the stats, try asking them. You may be surprised at what they never told you. And which one of these four women does our congress think is worth protecting? Zero!

We are outraged when an Indian police officer tells a rape victim she should marry her attacker but not when a California judge says a woman wasn’t really raped because she didn’t put up enough of a fight. We are outraged at 24,000 rapes in India but not 188,380 in America. And lest you think there’s some sort of per capita explanation for this staggering difference, check out these comparative crime stats:

  Indian Crime stats

  American Crime stats

Rapes 1.7 30.2
DEFINITION: Number of sexual assaults recorded by police in that country per 100,000 population.
SOURCE: European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control International Statistics on Crime and Justice, 2011
Ranked 68th in 2006. Ranked 5th in 2006. 17 times more than India

And I can’t help but wonder how many American women like me right now are wondering where was our massive global public outcry? Our calls for protection and prosecution? Why did nobody protest for us? Is it so everyday and commonplace and part of our culture that we just don’t think it’s a big deal in America? Or such a taboo and shameful and uncomfortable subject that we’d rather pretend it doesn’t exists here in the “free world”? Who here speaks for us? Clearly not our elected officials. We must speak for ourselves.

Please watch this video by One Billion Rising and imagine one of these women is your wife, your sister your mother, your daughter, your friend. Or if you’re like me you don’t have to imagine at all, you simply remember.

Photo courtesy of Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region
Act. No Matter What. ~ Photo courtesy of Rick Maynard

Trust me when I say I don’t write about this topic lightly. It’s very personal to me and it makes me simultaneously both extremely sad and extremely angry to think about all of this. Watching these videos disturbed me more than you can ever imagine. But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that the more I keep my words in silence, the easier it is for everyone to pretend it doesn’t happen and do nothing to stop it.

And if you managed to make it through all those videos and articles and stats and still don’t think this is really a problem in America, here’s a cat video. It’s really funny. Now go back to your regularly scheduled football while the rest of us dance.

[EDIT: Regrettably procatinator is apparently currently offline due to bill payment issues. Viking Kittens may tide you over for now.]

In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.

– Albert Camus

P.S. For the record, I think what happens to women in India is truly horrible too and I have a great deal of admiration for Indian culture and American culture. I think the culture of rape is a global human rights problem that affects cultures everywhere. I am thankful women in India have the guts to stand up and fight for what they believe in. I hope they can be a shining example to women and men everywhere.

Sexual abuse affects men in America too. This makes me just as angry.

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