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Stop the violence: Date rape

Posted on 11 March 2013
 

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Stop The Violence

 

By SHARMILA NAIR
alltherage@thestar.com.my

LINDA* remembered feeling like the happiest girl on earth as she was getting ready for her first date with the guy she had a crush on.

“I was 22 then. I dressed to the nines and wanted to impress him. Dinner was perfect and he seemed like an absolute gentleman,” said Linda, 29.

Ruben* suggested that they skipped the movie although they had reserved tickets. Linda didn’t think too much of it as she too wanted to spend some time with him in private.

“We went back to his place, which he shared with other college boys. His house mates weren’t around, so it was just the two of us,” she recalled.
What started with a little kissing and fondling soon turned heavier as Ruben started to undress Linda.

“He was starting to get rough and demanded that did what I was told. He even pinned me to the floor. I felt very scared and knew that I had to get there or else I would be forced to have sex with him.”

Linda is lucky as she managed to wrestle her way out and took a taxi home unharmed.

For some women and girls, there was no escaping a date gone horribly wrong.

Of the 3,932 rape cases reported last year, 1,650 victims were raped by acquaintances and new friend found, while 1,187 were raped by their boyfriends. Some of these victims were girls below 16, which makes their case statuotary rapes.Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for

Women (Arrow) executive director Sivananthi Thanenthiran explained that two patterns usually emerge in date rape cases.

“One, the young woman went out for a social event where she was drugged, and then she was raped either by one person or a few people. Two, the young woman went out with someone whom she intended to date and that person forced her to have sex. Both are traumatic events for the victim-survivor,” she said.

According to Sivananthi, there are three key elements to classify a sexual act as rape – force, sexual penetration and lack of consent.

However, she also pointed out that these elements do not present clear cut establishment of a rape case.

“Firstly, sexual penetration is most often defined as penile penetration of the vagina, and this often, does not include forced oral sex or the insertion of other objects into the vagina. Force and lack of consent are also difficult to establish,” she said.

It also doesn’t help that some young women still do not realise when their right to decline sex is violated.

Sheila* was 18 when her boyfriend of one year demanded for sex even when she didn’t want to.

“He would guilt me into having sex. We didn’t see each other often and he used that as an excuse to have sex with me,” said Sheila, 26, who had then been going out and sleeping with her boyfriend for a year.

When guilt-tripping didn’t work, her boyfriend used force. “Sometimes he would just pin me down and force himself on me.” This unhealthy relationship went on for another year, during which Sheila fell into depression and even contemplated suicide. She didn’t share her predicament with anyone. “It was only two years after I left my boyfriend that I understood I was a rape victim. I truly didn’t see it then,” she said.

According to Sivananthi, any act of forced sexual intercourse should be considered as an act of violation regardless of the perpetrator and victim-survivor.

“Some countries still do not recognise the concept of ‘marital rape’ because as far as they are concerned it is not possible for husbands to ‘rape’ their wives. The same logic is then applied to other long-term relationships – if you are already in a relationship, and have had consensual sex, then of course, all sex is consensual sex within the relationship.”

In Irma’s* case, her consent to have sex with her boyfriend was exploited. She was 20 when her boyfriend suggested that she have sex with two of his friends.

“He asked me if I was willing to sleep with his friends and said I would do it if I really loved him. I was so in love with my boyfriend and I eventually agreed to have sex with his friends on two separate occasions,” recalled Irma, 24.

What the accounts executive failed to realise was that she had been subjected to a form of rape.“My ex-boyfriend told everyone what I did and my last year in college was humiliating. He even said that I couldn’t lodge a police report because it was consensual,” she said.

Sivananthi stressed that personal bodily integrity and autonomy need to be protected at all times.

“Very often the concept of rape has been connected with the concepts of purity of women and a defilement of that purity. However, it is essential to shift away from that concept. Transgender people can be raped. Sex workers can be raped. Women who have had many sexual partners can be raped.”

Even when women and girls realised they have been raped, they are reluctant to make police reports. Rape is one of the most under-reported of crimes for many reasons.

“Firstly, one has to lodge a police report and one has to be prepared to undertake a legal recourse. These are not very easy steps to take for women, let alone young women. Secondly, in order to establish the elements of ‘force’ and ‘lack of consent’ the victim-survivors are very often subject to intense questioning, often insensitive, by the police.

“Thirdly, the process demands of the victim-survivor to publicise what is a very personal trauma at a time that the victim-survivor is probably looking for counselling and help.

Fourthly, the prevalence of the notion that ‘the woman asks for it,’ does not allow society to fully empathise with the victim-survivor. So it is not surprising that women, especially young women, shy away from reporting date rape,” said Sivananthi.

*Names have been changed.

 

 



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