We live in a society where the burden of responsibility is placed on one side, that of the victim, more than that of the aggressor when a sexual assault happens. We know how the mere mention of rape raises issues of dress sense, self-defense, areas one finds one’s self in and the company one chooses to keep; rarely do we find the conversation leaning towards the rapists’ accountability.
Who is to blame?
Armour’s story especially caught my interest because it was peculiar. Perhaps she is a free-spirited liberal, comfortable in her skin and therefore sees nothing wrong with nudity, be it in private or among people. That attitude was perhaps why she naively got into the shower with her aggressor. Would I be so carefree? Absolutely not! But the backlash she received from women (surprisingly enough) and men alike was nothing short of harsh.
A Facebook friend of mine from Uganda went as far as writing a post that read: “For someone who spends her days telling women who have been raped to speak up so that others can take note and survive similar ordeals, my hope is that she can add the message of caution and watching one’s own back to avoid getting in situations where rape can occur. Trust is fast becoming a luxury in this world. Or maybe it has always been. The argument of consent is very valid and important, but even before you get to that conversation; self-preservation needs to constantly take top priority. All the time! This incident, I believe, could have been avoided. Feel free to put on how you want and act however you want, but keep in mind that bad things happen to both people that don’t deserve them and those that have it coming for them, and even to those that take precautions. But better safe than sorry, no? As a few friends of mine like to say, this world is not your friend.”
We are all entitled to our opinions and we are not obliged to always agree, however rape is too sensitive an issue to allow such passive-aggressive declarations to pass without censure. Such a post falls short of giving the rapist a pat on the shoulder, followed by the words, ‘you sure taught that silly woman an important lesson’. As Armour herself so eloquently put it: “No matter what a person does, it is not an invitation for rape.” She argued in a photo caption on Instagram: “It doesn’t matter if I kissed him. It doesn’t matter if he was drunk. It doesn’t matter if I said yes to a shower”.
No need to apologise
The only thing worse than voices that place the blame on rape victims is voices that attempt to reason that victims invite attacks. When I read that Grace Mugabe said, “If you walk around wearing miniskirts displaying your thighs and inviting men to drool over you, then you want to complain when you have been raped? It’s unfortunate because it will be your fault” I laughed, not because it was funny but because I was in disbelief. Why it is that before European fashion and ideas of morality were adopted by Africans, and when Africans went about with less clothing than now, rape was virtually unheard of within our societies (with exceptions including wars and invasions)? Why should victims coddle people who cannot contain their carnal desires? To turn Mugabe’s logic on its head, let me ask this: what about women who are raped in spite of being modestly dressed in long dresses and sleeved shirts? What about women who are raped by their husbands and boyfriends (or girlfriends)? Or old ladies or babies whose personal spaces are invaded by people who have absolutely no consciences?
There are women who cry wolf about rape; such people deserve a week or two in solitary confinement to think about their actions. They are the reason why people who are brave enough to report real incidents are ridiculed and abused further by law enforcement authorities, instead of getting the help they need. At this late stage, we are well past the point of attributing inappropriate conduct to intoxication. News recently broke that rap sensation Okmalumkoolkat sexually assaulted a fellow artist in Tasmania and his loyal supporters maintain their loyalty despite the fact. We all make mistakes, but ‘I was drunk’ has never been and never will be justifiable cause for violating someone.
The point of contention here is that lines are too often allowed to blur in favour of aggressors while victims are often not given a break. We all agree that rape is an evil and cruel act, however, addressing its nuances and complex scenarios becomes a battle between conservative views and the difference between right and wrong. The whole thing about entering a lion’s den and expecting not to get bitten is both unrealistic and arrogant. Human beings are supposedly the most intelligent species on this planet and that alone nullifies that analogy. Rape is bad. Period!