IN a recent court case, a man accused of rape was discharged because the prosecution had failed to prove a prima facie case against him.
While we cannot dispute the wisdom of the judge in terms of the entirety of the case, there was one aspect which was sad to note — that the judge had dismissed the power of fear in the matter.
There are a number of myths which surround rape, and fear is just one such myth. Rape myths are prejudicial, false and often stereotyped beliefs about sexual assaults and the people involved, whether victim or perpetrator.
In the case in question, the judge had questioned whether rape had occurred because the victim, who was said to be a fit person, could have easily fought back. As mentioned, this is only one aspect of the case which the judge questioned, so the wisdom of the judge and her judgment is not what is being questioned.
But fear and the lack of physical evidence of an attack are part of the list of known rape myths, that a lack of physical evidence means that no rape occurred. In actual fact, rape is sex without consent. This is an important point.
There are a number of factors here, fear being one of them. And, fear can be experienced for a variety of reasons. The fear of physical injury is one reason, whether or not the victim is fit and/or strong, or whether or not the perpetrator is fitter or stronger.
Fear is a powerful emotion and can serve to incapacitate a person. Take, for instance, a soldier. Soldiers are trained for months, even years, for war. Special forces train even harder to face battle. Overcoming fear is one aspect of military training. Yet, even the most well-trained soldier or special forces operator can freeze when bullets start flying.
Other instances where consent could not have been given would be if the victim was incapacitated in some way, either via alcohol or drugs, or if the victim is too young to know as to what he or she is consent to.
This is just one of the rape myths which are often mentioned, and at times used as a defence. One other myth which seems to be popular here and in many countries, especially conservative ones, is what the victim was wearing at the time.
Let’s get it straight: no matter what a woman is wearing, or not wearing for that matter, she is not asking to be raped, nor does she deserve to be raped. Low-cut blouse? Long slit? See-through? So what? It’s her right. It’s not an invitation.
And to dispel that myth, many rape cases involve victims who are conservatively dressed and act according to acceptable social norms. Yet, they still end up being victims.
Some other myths include:
WOMEN are most likely to be raped after dark by a stranger, so women shouldn’t go out alone at night. First of all, the vast majority of rapes are committed by people known to the victim. Secondly, rape can occur anywhere — at home, workplace, just anywhere.
PEOPLE often lie about being raped because they regret having sex with someone or out of spite or for attention. How this is a popular myth is beyond understanding. Why would anyone claim rape for attention? This myth perpetuates the perception that lying about rape is common, when quite the opposite is true. Most victims do not report rapes.
ONLY young and attractive women are raped. You can be of any age and still be raped. Even octogenarians have fallen victim. Rape, after all, is about power, violence and control, not sex. It doesn’t matter what age, appearance or ethnicity the victim happened to be.
WOMEN like playing hard to get... sometimes “no” means “yes”. This one is simple. “No” means “no”, even if you think she means “yes”. Oh, and even if she says “yes”, she can change it to a “no” at any time she wants.
Due to these myths and others like them, many a sexual offender has gotten away with his or her crime (yes, men can be raped too, and women can rape other women). Being raped is, of course, a traumatic experience. Having to deal with the trauma is bad enough, but when one has to live with the unnecessary and unfair stigma attached to being a victim, it is unbearable, to say the least.
Because of this, many victims prefer to keep things quiet, letting the perpetrator get away with the crime. But this is not the only way myths allow offenders to get away. These are often used as defence arguments, putting the blame squarely on the victim.
Here in Malaysia, as in many parts of the world, there are many who help propagate such myths. Sadly, many don’t even know that they are doing so. What is needed is for everyone to realise and remember that rape, or any crime for that matter, is the fault of the perpetrator, not the victim.
It’s all about choices. We know the difference between right and wrong. If we choose to do wrong, then we are the ones at fault.
The writer has more than two decades of experience, much of which has been spent writing about crime and the military. A die-hard Red Devil, he can usually be found wearing a Manchester United jersey when outside of work