Rape – It’s everyone’s fault except the perpetrators.

// 25 July 2008

According to the International Centre for the Advancement of Reproductive Health (CIFARH) men rape because they lack a “sound religious background”.

Now aside from the dodgy methods on this (they asked a general population sample, not a perpetrator sample, for example) this is one of the most abhorrent conclusions I’ve ever read.

Firstly men rape because they can and they can get away with it. Any attempt to mask that as “ignorance” or a lack of “ethics” is appalling. How does one explain abuse by religious personal (which the Anglican and Catholic churches have been dogged by) – are they merely the students who fell asleep in seminary classes? How does one explain this or this or this or this or this or this or this and why is it the Vatican released a report acknowledging that priests in some countries were forcing Nuns to have sex to lessen their risk of exposure to HIV? (Also here and here).

But it’s also the implicit woman-blaming here – mothers are presumed to be the ones who do the primary socialisation and instil basic religious or ethical knowledge. So if rapists lack that then it’s a lack on the part of the mother. So, victim of sexual violence, your abuse is the fault of another woman – not at all to do with the man who committed it. He’s just a hapless victim of poor upbringing.

CIFARHs advice, in the face of their own findings that 85% of the sample knew someone who had been raped, was avoid walking home alone, dress decently, fear God, avoid bad company, punish rapists severely and provide sexuality education. Only two of those (and that’s focus on the positives and rephrase that ….Two of those) might actually help, the others are a mixture of the usual victim blaming stuff and, frankly, measures of no discernible impact.

Executive Director of CIFARH, Professor Innocent Ujah:

He urged students to join in the campaign against sexual violence by taking up the fight against the malaise with their fellow students and discouraging indecent dressing among them.

From All Africa.Com

Yes dear students, don’t fight against this by policing male student behaviour, no, go out and police female behaviour because rape is obviously about “indecent” dressing rather than male impugnity. But the contradictoriness of this is stunning – if lack of religious knowledge is the key cause then why not demand students tackle that? Or generally tackle the misogynistic culture that allows men to rape without fear of capture or punishment? No, obviously men’s behaviour must leads to women being held responsible for it – it’s standard apologist stuff – a man committed a rape? His mother didn’t raise him properly, the victim was indecently dressed and therefore asked for it, his female friends didn’t education him or challenge him. It’s everyone’s fault except the perpetrators.

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 25 July 2008 at 10:50 am

Yawn – now where have I heard these excuses before – yes I know it is patriarchal speak because of course men who commit rape and sexual violence against women must on NO ACCOUNT BE EVER HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS. Why capital letters? Because it appears men who commit rape and their apologists refuse to accept that it is men who commit rape NOT WOMEN. Yes, men commit rape not women.

So what is the answer? Why of course it is women’s fault we are the ones who are supposed to stop male sexual violence being committed against us because we supposedly have the same political, religious and social power as men. Ah but here is a reality check – women do not have the same power as men and sigh for centuries now, men have been regularly ‘trotting out’ the same old misogynstic women blaming excuses and justifications. When will it end? When finally and I say, finally, men accept rape is a male issue and it is men’s responsibility to stop raping women. Also, it is men’s responsibility to challenge those men who commit rape and not stand by and say ‘it has nothing to do with me because I’m a good guy and I’d never commit rape.’

Helen McConnell // Posted 25 July 2008 at 11:38 am

Although I agree with your argument that women are frequently blamed unfairly for sexual violence committed against them, I think the statement ‘men rape because they can and they can get away with it’ is unfair. By that reckoning all men would rape women, which is not the case. I don’t think most people refrain from committing murder because they know they would be punished – they don’t murder because they find it morally abhorrent. The same, I hope, goes for rape and the majority of men.

Shev // Posted 25 July 2008 at 11:50 am

I was having a look around that website, to see if this position was typical of the site- it’s actually an all-Africa news collective, with news articles drawn from news agencies in different countries. Whilst I am really quite shocked that the ‘International Centre for Reproductive Health’ is giving quite such Victorian advice regarding rape, I was more heartened by stories by women on gender issues throughout the whole continent.

To give a slightly more positive picture, I’d like to draw attention to these stories in particular…

Kenyans must totally reject gender-based violence: http://allafrica.com/stories/200807210266.html

Tanzanian initiative on domestic violence (it’s the clerics faults)http://allafrica.com/stories/200807210098.html

Women opopse pardon for rapists (in shock news) http://allafrica.com/stories/200807160072.html

And for those of you who have a slightly twisted taste for revenge, there’s this (warning: trigger alert): http://allafrica.com/stories/200807170063.html.

I’d like to particularly draw attention to this quote: “Feminists are not calling for the castration or emasculation of men. Our position is a lot simpler than that. If men decide to use certain parts of their anatomy as weapons of mass destruction to wage wars on the bodies of women and girls, they will be disarmed and demobilised.”

There is a lot of bad news out there, and we must never forget how much we have to fight against. However, we can remember the good stuff too, to give us heart in the fight =0)

Laurel Dearing // Posted 25 July 2008 at 12:18 pm

so the african women, amongst all their other problems are going to be policed by the decent religious men in college and uni now?

he says they are ignorant about rape. hell yes because you appear to think the cause is the womans outfit and the mans religion! not to mention maybe that some might not have been told there was anything wrong with taking sex when you want and that it was an offense rather than not knowing anything about it! not that one can really say they had no idea that a crying/screaming/upset/angry woman did not want to be violated

Sarah // Posted 25 July 2008 at 12:53 pm

I don’t think anyone was suggesting that all men would rape women if they didn’t fear punishment – where did you get that idea?

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 25 July 2008 at 3:43 pm

I was very careful not to use that oft mythical phrase wherein feminists supposedly claim ‘all men are rapists.’ Instead I am holding men who commit rape 100% responsible and accountable for their actions. Likewise, rape is a male issue and all men benefit from the actions of male rapists, because it ensures women as a group remain subordinated to men. One does need to commit murder in order to instil fear and terror within a group which does not hold the same power as the dominant one. There need only be a number of individuals murdering individuals within the less dominant group in order to maintain and uphold power and privilege over them.

I repeat rape apologists are legion and nothing they say is new because for centuries male rapists and their allies have consistently said the same things wherein it is always a woman/women’s responsibility and never, ever the male assailant(s). In fact it is not a case of a few individual men but it is the extreme continuum of male sexual behaviour wherein it is considered natural and normal for males to sexually coerce, pressurise or threaten women and girls in order to gain sexual access to their bodies. All of this is perceived as normal male behaviour not deliberate violation of a woman’s/girl’s right of bodily integrity.

The White Ribbon Campaign has no concerns in naming the gender responsible for violence against women and its members refuse to remain bystanders. Instead they challenge dominant beliefs concerning male sexuality and entitlements.

Globally the message remains the same – women are to blame for men raping them and that is why we must challenge and refute these lies each and every time we hear/read them. Such misogynstic propaganda reinforces the widespread dominant belief that male behaviour is sacrosant and as such no man’s/boy’s behaviour or actions must be criticised or challenged.

Fran // Posted 25 July 2008 at 3:50 pm

I’m always bemused that more men don’t get angry about these “women should dress decently” pronouncements. Really, what we’re being told here is that all men are potential rapists who simply cannot control themselves when they see a piece of exposed flesh. If I were a man, I’d be pretty pissed off about this. Come on, guys, please stand up and prove to the world that you aren’t all irresponsible rapists!

Aimee // Posted 25 July 2008 at 4:57 pm

Every time I read another excuse for men raping women it makes me more and more angry and more and more inclined to go and do something the hell about it. All these excuses regarding women dressing provocatively, men not having ‘decent male role models’ and other such bullshit, it’s all skirting around the issue that men are socialised BY OTHER MEN to consider women inferior and to be inclined to express their socialised masculinity through violence and sexual violence towards women. All these reports are nothing more than skirting around the issue of men not being accountable for their actions, and it being the fault of, essentially women. Women for not being good enough mothers, women for being fundamentally immoral, women for dressing too ‘sexily’ and deserving it, women buying into contradictary patriarchal sentiments and then being punished for being the victims that men want them to be. If anyone’s planning an anti rape march any time soon, i’m all up for being right there at the front of it.

Anne Onne // Posted 25 July 2008 at 5:44 pm

I suppose then that all those allegations of clergymen abusing children (which is, naturally, rape) is also because their faith isn’t strong enough? I only just saw that you did mention it in the post, but eh, one more reminder won’t hurt. Men rape women. They do it because they want to. They’re not forced to by women’s clothing or actions, and it is their responsibility alone to avoid carrying out this hideous behaviour.

rose_hasty // Posted 25 July 2008 at 11:13 pm

Thought this might be a good moment to share with you one of the most ridiculous excuses I heard made for the man who raped me.

The excuse was given to my mother to be passed on to me and was made by the mother of the household in which I was raped about 12 hours after the attack:

“I was at a bar with him before he came to the party [where he raped your daughter]. All the girls in the bar were wearing really short skirts and had their chests on show. I know your daughter isn’t like that but I think that got him worked up”.

I don’t think I need to explain why this qualifies as one of the most ridiculous excuses for male sexual violence ever made!

douglas Locke // Posted 25 July 2008 at 11:52 pm

I am a man who has been raped since the age of 4. I don’t know if people make a distinction between sexual abuse, and rape, but as someone who has experienced it, they are one and the same. My case was extreme but certainly not unique, and I am sorry to say that it was not just men who committed these crimes. Rape is not a sexual act, it is an act of violence, and it is committed by men and women, albeit, far more often by men. Sadly many do get away with it, primarily because we as a society find it too difficult to discuss. In my case, I suppressed the memory of what happened to me, and when it came back, no one wanted to hear it. It was too dark, too distressing, and I was expected to keep it to myself, much as I was expected to do as a child when it was happening. “If you tell anyone I will kill you”, is a common threat used by rapists, and it is effective, especially when you are a child. I hold the rapists personally responsible, but the justice system, and society as a whole do also have a share in the guilt. Names withheld to protect the innocent, do nothing more than perpetuate the secrecy that allows rape to continue. Our world seems to have forgotten about personal responsibility, defense lawyers, by definition must find a way to get their clients off the hook. Until we as a society stand up and say enough is enough, you commit this crime, you will pay for it, then rape will continue to happen. We need severe penalties for anyone who commits any violent crime, and we need to support, nurture, and heal the victims of these crimes, and the first step is by listening to them, not by telling them to keep quiet. I don’t care who you are, if you take sex from someone you are committing a violent act that will affect them through their whole life.

Deborah McAlister // Posted 26 July 2008 at 3:02 pm

I’d really like to know if the people who make these ignorant statements really believe tham or are aware that they’re adding to all the other rape myths out there to further their own agenda.

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