Rape Is Not Just a Women’s Issue

Acknowledging the overlooked imperative voices of rape victims

A few years ago, a friend of mine got raped in Kuala Lumpur. What was she wearing? A hijab and jubah. The most heartbreaking part? That wasn’t the first time someone had raped her. She concluded that perhaps this was her destiny.

How a jubah typically looks like. My friend was dressed similar to this. Photo from Bello Scarves

When the rape happened, I tweeted about it in hopes that people could help show her the next legal step to take. Some people were helpful. Others, not so. The responses that I got appalled me though it didn’t surprise me.

People were saying that her rape was a result of her perpetrator getting aroused by women who wore revealing clothes, so he decided to channel his desires to a modest, covered woman. Arousal from scantily-clad women and curiosity towards my friend’s covered body apparently led to the rape.

The mental gymnastics people perform to victim-blame will never fail to amaze me.

Women are victims — but we aren’t the only ones.

In a Muslim-majority country like Malaysia, it is very convenient to use religion to justify rape. Women have to take care of where we are, what we wear, and who we are with. We have to take all sorts of precautions.

A lot of people still hold the naive view that modest dressing will reduce rape, as shown in the tweet below:

“Dressing modestly is one way to build a society that respects women and does not view them as sexual objects. If you think that modest dressing doesn’t do anything to reduce rape, then you need a reality check.”

We get compared to unlocked houses, food, and candy. We get blamed for “tempting” men to rape us, even if it was incest rape. Some of the more neutral arguments would say that both genders have a role to play. As women, we have to cover ourselves while the men have to lower their gaze, as religion has instructed.

Most of the burden of rape is placed on us, the woman. If a woman gets raped, there must have been something we did wrong. Women’s rights activists continue to speak very staunchly against rape culture amidst the victim-blaming. Due to this, a lot of people mistake rape as a women’s issue. It is a battle that we were left to fight by ourselves.

Photo by Michelle Ding on Unsplash

The problem with labelling rape as only a women’s issue is that it excludes men and children victims.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), one in nine girls and one in fifty-three boys under eighteen experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.

Male rape survivors are less likely to talk about their assaults for fear of being deemed as weak and incompetent. In ‘Effects of Rape on Men: A Descriptive Analysis’, the authors found that 90% of male rape victims lose respect for themselves after their assault.

Rape is also a problem that plagues the LGBTQ community, at similar or higher rates than heterosexuals. In a 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, it is found that 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.

Rape is not about lust and sex.

Rape is sexual violence and assertion of power through sex. There is no denying that when rapists commit the offence, they aim for sexual gratification, but this is not their only priority. What they want is to fulfill their desire for control.

Rapists can be divided into three categories:

  1. Anger rapist: These people perform rape to humiliate and hurt his/her victim. They commit the act in conscious rage and think that rape is the ultimate offence against those who have angered them.
  2. Power rapist: This is the most common type of rapist. They rape due to feelings of inadequacy, thus trying to prove his/her power, strength, and authority over another person through sexual assault. Threats, violence, and intimidation usually accompany the rape. Most power rapists have rape fantasies, where they think that their victims who initially resist them will end up enjoying the rape. They will more commonly become serial rapists.
  3. Sadistic rapist: These rapists keep their victims as a prisoner and assert physical abuse on their captives. They are aggressive and inflict pain on their victims. They usually use some instrument or object to assault their victims sexually. For some offenders, the ultimate satisfaction comes from the death of their victims. One of the most well-known sadistic rape cases was that of Junko Furuta, who was kept captive by her rapists for 40 days, and was tortured, raped and eventually, murdered.

There are many different kinds of rape: Male rape, bestiality, child rape, prison rape, marital rape, correctional rape, payback rape, war rape, incest rape, and gang rape, to name a few.

Rape is also commonly used as a weapon of war.

While many victims are women and children, men are not exempt from wartime sexual violence. This further proves that rape is about power and control, and not sexual gratification solely. So stop saying that rape happens because women are ‘sexy’ or ‘careless’. That theory is not only old and boring; it is also wrong.

Society’s understanding of rape is myopic. Because of the endless policing of women’s clothing, rape culture is still thriving as people continue to blame and shame victims.

Instead of questioning the perpetrators, society drills the victims first.

It takes an awfully long time for someone to get over the trauma of getting raped. Victims are also more likely to contemplate or commit suicide. It does not help when people place on them the added burden of making them feel like it was their fault. No matter the circumstance, no one ever asks for rape.

We can hope for a rape-free world in Utopia, but in reality, there is no foolproof way to prevent rape. That does not mean education and awareness should stop. What we should stop is making the prevention of rape the woman’s job.


This article was originally published on Fearless She Wrote.