Ok, let’s get right to it without shying away or filtering, RAPE IS AN EPIDEMIC WHICH HAS RAVAGED THROUGH COMMUNITIES, DESTROYING LIVES BUT HAS BEEN IGNORED NONETHELESS!! It is a topic that is rarely or never discussed in an African household. It is treated as something that never happens or a bad omen which brings 7 years of drought and plagues. Growing up African, when rape (chibharo in Shona) was mentioned, it was never discussed and was always an open and closed discussion which was always followed by an insensible and stupid statement which I will point out. Numerous issues need to be discussed within the African community or any community as to how rape is inhumane and traumatic to victims. I have heard and read stories of women and men (yes, men get raped too) who after decades are still suffering from the trauma of the event.
In Zimbabwe, over 75% of the population has experienced rape in their lifetime. Be it as a child or as a grown up, rape has even been categorised and redefined to make it less menacing by blaming the victim or “normalising” it so that it is not dealt with. For example, in the Shona culture there is ridiculous and cruel traditional practise called chiramu, where when a man marries a wife with younger unmarried sisters, he is allowed to “play” with them because they are technically his wives. Whilst this to an extent makes sense, there are many cases where the man ends up sexually assaulting (let’s call a spade, a spade) and even goes on to prey on young children (paedophilia) all in the name of tradition. Many people have not spoken up because they are told it is normal or out of fear. I will outline some of the statements used to justify rape and “protected” the perpetrator.
1.”Why was she/he wearing that?”
(Image from Pinterest)
If you find yourself justifying someone getting raped by this statement, please revise your moral ethics and thank me later. What people wear does not make them “eligible” for rape. I heard this statement so many times growing up, at one point I thought it true until I began to think for myself. Rape can never be justified and it should NEVER be given the time of day to be justified! Africans (most) have a tendency and culture (yes, culture because it is something that has been believed on a large scale) of blaming everyone and everything but not the perpetrator. Whether someone decides to wear lingerie in the streets or the shortest skirt, that should not justify rape. One might ask-Oh, why then are they walking around looking like that? Ask them or look the other way, your neck will support you. You will be surprised to know that the country with the highest percentage of rape in India- and do you know what they wear-long saris which cover from head to toe LITERALLY. Why not attack the perpetrator rather than attack the victim who will have to live with this blaming themselves and might never recover from the trauma?
I understand how it is easier to blame the victim than confront the perpetrator, in most cases, they are respectable members of the family, community or even church so we avoid a scandal, but what about the life of the victim? What of their mental well being, trust, damage and dignity? Simple clothes such as leggings or cami tops (spaghetti tops) have been categorised as clothes that attract men and many women have refrained from them out of fear or “respect” of the male sexual appetite. CRAP! Why are men not being taught to get a hold of there appetites and how to respect all human beings (men and women) regardless of how they dress or carry themselves?
2.”She/he was drunk, so they deserved it”.
This statement may and will make sense to the majority of people and will be justified by, what were are they doing there? I personally do not think there is a place you go and ask to be raped nor does being drunk imply you are inviting someone to rape you. YES, when people get drunk they tend to act out of character but in recent years, there have been cases of people having their drinks spiked. Rape drugs are being used to lace people’s drinks without them realising it.
Many women and men have been sexually assaulted after being drugged and some do not remember the accounts of what led to such a heinous event taking place. Some are taken advantage of whilst unconscious and even after screaming NO! and fighting- they are still told they deserved it. This has resulted in most people no reporting or telling anyone because they already “know” it is there fault.NO!It is never the victim’s fault it is ALWAYS the perpetrators and there are no two ways about it. Little children are being intoxicated and taken advantage of- DID THEY DESERVE IT? I personally do not drink nor do I condone it (my personal opinion, of course) but there is no way I would think or justify someone’s rape as there fault because of there state of mind. Shaming and blaming victims has created and bred more rapists and they keep getting away with it because it is always directed to the wrong person- the victim!
3.”What did you do?”
This statement has discouraged many victims not to come out and talk to someone. It implies that one has to do something to get raped. African culture is so quick to blame the victim it even ignores when the perpetrator went into the victim’s room and violated them in their own house or just smiling at someone, that will be “you doing something”. On Twitter a few months ago, #menarerapedtoo was trending and there was a gentleman who opened a fake account to share his story. It is sad he had to open a fake account and use an alias so he could feel comfortable and safe to tell his story. I understand his approach because there is a belief man CAN NOT be raped and they will be enjoying- because how else would it happen if they do not “participate”. This gentleman was sexually abused by his baby sitter (Sisi vebasa in Shona) and her friend. He recalled how they used to touch and play his private parts and say how he is going to be “gifted” when he grows up. I hate how I have to censor the gory details because it only makes the matter lighter. So for the sake of emphasis and justice, I will say it how he said it: READER’S DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
They used to touch my private parts and play with them saying I am going to have a big penis and make girls cry. He was only 9 years old. They would stick their fingers in my anus and I would around the house naked. They would take turns to touch and had me touch their private parts and have sex with me. I ended up thinking it normal and began to walk around the house naked when there were people around. My sexual appetite was triggered at a very young age, when there was no one around, I used a broomstick and would stick it in my anus. I began to think I was gay and became a sex addict. It has affected me so much that I only think of sex. I was and still, am afraid to talk to anyone about it because it will be praised that at a young age I was having sex with older women rather than see the wrong in it. I am now in my 20’s and still traumatised and addicted.
I was livid and saddened by his story, I thought of all the times people have said men can never be raped and how many young men had their sexual appetites triggered at a young age or at any age in this way! If you find yourself justifying this by saying or thinking- “Boys will be boys”. Please feel free to take several seats and keep quiet! Do you see how he was damaged and is still traumatised, he might never have a stable life and his sex life has been affected because he is now an addict. He thought it normal and I am pretty sure he was amongst those boys who were only known for wanting sex growing up. Anyone can see how damaged he is and how he might never recover because he can not talk to anyone about it because of fear and to an extent his gender will have him praised for sleeping with older women at a young age. He was a tween when he was introduced to sex, in consensual-but, of course, he must have done something, RIGHT?
4.”You will ruin (their) lives by this nonsense” / “How many times did it happen?”.
I do not know if the number of times something happens justifies the intensity and impact of something. Sexual assault or abuse cannot be justified because it happened once or only one part of the body was groped! The trauma for the victim is something that can not be measured. We can not say a person who was raped once is better than a person who was raped 5 times- TRAUMA IS TRAUMA! This is how rapist gets away with such horrendous acts. Victims when they finally get the chance to speak up, they are silenced again because they are made to choose the perpetrators “dignity” and stature over their own mental well being and justice. Victims are discouraged to speak up because they will end up ruining lives- What if the perpetrator has a family? Did the perpetrator not think of their family when they were abusing the victim? Why are you lying, do should never lie on grown-ups! What makes you think the victim is lying, should you not be relieved they thought of you as a safe person to confide in? What will people say? How is that the victim’s concern? How many times did it happen? If it only happened once it is nothing to worry about but tell me when it happens again then we will do something about. AND STAY AWAY FROM HIM/HER! When they come, go to another room and make sure you wear something that covers up everything. We do not want it happening again. *SIGHS*.
The culture of protecting the perpetrator must be stopped! Most of these perpetrators are the pastor, rich uncles, housegirl/boys, nice neighbours, brother or sister in Christ. We shy away from exposing them because we do not want to shame the family name or have people look at the perpetrators differently. Young children have been turned away so many times because they lie too much. Ma’am, Sir do not be quick to assume a child is lying just because “children lie”. I bet the person who came with that statement is a paedophile at best. Having people think children lie to get attention. NO! It is a cry for help. Pay attention to your children/nieces/siblings- not financially but emotionally, physically and spiritually. Be present in your children’s lives, be their confidant and friend (I did not say best friend, I know how African parents are allergic to being best friends with their children). Do not protect the perpetrator and ruin more lives by silencing the victim.
5.”But they are your husband/ boyfriend/ father/ mother/ friend, how can they rape you?/ “What did you expect?”.
Yes, your boyfriend/ partner or husband can rape you. It might not make sense because you love them, you live with them or you have had sex with them before. If the person says no either with their words (shouting, politely declining, screaming or saying no once) or with their body (pushing your hand away, hiding, covering themselves, sitting away from you or protecting their private parts with their hands etc) and you go on to have sex with them anyway- THAT IS RAPE! There is a misconception that you can only be raped by people you do not know- a husband/ wife can rape their spouse. I know one might refer me to study 1 Corinthians 7 v 4 and have me revise what I have stated. Yes, a wife does not have authority over her body nor does a husband have authority over his-meaning they both do not belong to each self but to each other. And Ephesians 5 v 31 goes on to say they are ONE-meaning one mind, one soul and consult each other before coming to a decisions-CONSENSUAL. Both have to agree and if one says no, though the one saying no does not belong to oneself- the one with the authority over that body must be in agreement so that the ONE is not divided. It takes time to understand but what I am getting at is if it is not consensual it is wrong.
In the Zimbabwean community many young women and men have been forced or “persuaded” into sex by being told they knew they wanted it, they were just playing hard to get or they wanted it but were shy to ask for it. For example, a guy will keep persisting to have sex with his girlfriend to show that she loves him or because he knows how “women act shy” when sex is mentioned even when they want it. The girlfriend might have told him no repeatedly but no, she is probably saying that because she is shy and does not want to seem like she likes sex too much. Sir, if you love your girlfriend can you not wait? Love is patient, gentle and understanding after all. She might sleep with you out of fear of losing you (we need to talk about self-love and self-care) or pure fear. Another example, a girl might throw herself at a guy even after he has said NO! repeatedly, then the girl goes on to cry and blackmail the guy by telling him he doesn’t love her or she is not attractive enough for him anymore. And because it has been stigmatised that male attention/ love equates to sex, the guy ends up giving in against his will. Ma’am, will let this man love you correctly? He probably wants to make you a wife first then do all you want in love and respect.
Some people are raped by their own parent, yes as terrifying and unnatural as it sounds and seems, it is happening. Who do you tell when the person who is supposed to protect you is the one violating you? There are many stories of people who have thought it normal to sleep with relatives because they grew up in it and no one was to tell them it is wrong- incest. It is a scary world we live in and these traumas have ruined lives-people have committed suicide, many are church hurt, self-hate, trauma, mental breakdown and addicts. We are quick to blame demons in the victims before we sit down and talk to them without judgement or seclude them from our social gatherings. Victims are the ones who suffer and it just does not go away- people in their 70’s are still afraid to come out because perpetrators know how to cover their tracks. They threaten the victims family or they even go to the extent of creating ridiculous stories of how they will kill themselves if the victims say anything. Some will even blame the victim of being too good looking they could not resist.
Young men and women should be taught about self-love and self-care at a young age. They should know they can speak for themselves and be taught that their voice matters and as parents/ guardians, we should be welcoming and talk to them. It is not a white thing to be present and involved in your child’s life it is a human thing and logical to do. If you are an adult, have a group or a person to confide in and talk to, I know in this age and time of “cutting people off”, it is tempting to be your own person- which is good but for your life’s sake- have someone to talk to and trust. And also be that person someone trusts and confides in. Someone needs your help!
THE VICTIM IS NEVER TO BLAME!