A young medical student, future doctor who would have saved lives, was vandalized like a bombed church to the point where it’s questionable whether her survival would have been a mercy.
I understand the rage and deep despair of women in India. They have been living under a terrorist threat all their lives, and it does not come from without, but within. They walk the gauntlet every day, facing random crime and threat while those who should protect the public indulge in denial and victim blaming. Women are expendable. The mistake of the six men who thought they could get away with murder was in not choosing their victim more wisely. They never expected that schoolgirls would be holding signs calling for their public hanging.
Every society has crime. What has women and men demonstrating in the streets of India is the intolerable injustice. For too long, oppression of women on the margins has been ignored. Now the depth of the suffering of women is the shame of all, and the people are calling for justice. That justice will not be satisfied by a show trial, but by real change. That justice will not be satisfied until a woman can believe that she is equal under the protection of the law.
It was about 30 years ago the first Take Back the Night march was organized in Providence, Rhode Island. It was not a triumphal march. It’s no fun to have to walk the streets of your own city, chanting ‘No More Rape’. The rule of law should be responsible for public safety. But rule of law was applied selectively and atrocious crimes were being committed without consequences.
I think that thirty years on, we are less complacent, but an individual has a better chance of justice, whether she or he is of high status or low.
A friend of mine, in our women’s spirituality group– okay, it was a coven– told me a story.
She had been active with a Zen Buddhist center, and was going through a rough time emotionally. She asked one of the monks for spiritual advice.
When they were alone together, and she was in a vulnerable state, he steered the counseling session into a sexual encounter.
She left confused, but soon recognized that this man had betrayed her trust and taken advantage. It took her about a year to get up the courage to do something about it.
She said she prayed to the Goddess Kali to keep her anger alive. To keep her from falling into niceness and premature forgiveness. To give her the angry courage to tell this man frankly how much he had harmed her.
She said that when she had finished telling him how his actions had affected her, he thanked her. She said he kept saying, “thank you.” all the time she was telling him the truth. Maybe she really did get through to him.
A beautiful and useful concept that was developed in South Africa is ‘Truth and Reconciliation’. Before reconciliation there must be truth. And that truth must be taken seriously by those in power to construct and enforce the law. We are in a new millennium, and we cannot afford to lose the best contributions of half the human race in order to appease ancient prejudice. That challenge goes out to all the world, to the daily life and struggle of every woman no matter where she lives. Like the Unitarians say–the worth and dignity of every human being.
Thanks to Summer Anne Burton for her photos of Indians demanding justice.
(Creds to this site, 10 Most Powerful Hindu Goddesses for the fierce aspect of Kali.)
Congressional candidate Rep. Todd Akin has put a religious spin on his pseudo-science about women having some biological powers that protect them from getting pregnant if they are victims of ‘legitimate rape’. In an appeal to Christians who value forgiveness, he tries to distract from the plain meaning of his words, backed up by his actions in Congress. He has made a campaign commercial for the base…
“Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them,” Akin says. “The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims.”
Akin continues: “The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”
I would ask Christians to consider that forgiveness doesn’t require voting this man back into Congress. I would ask them to consider that denying a woman emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy after rape is respecting her life. Giving her compassion and praying for her is not enough.
Talking tough is not enough. We have a long history of justice denied for victims despite harsh laws. We have a long history of harsh laws being used to imprison innocent men. Rape has many victims, yes, and one casualty is our peace of mind. If the only answer is death to the rapist then society will refuse to prosecute the husband, the brother, the son. Rapists are not usually so outwardly criminal that they don’t have a circle of people who see them as ‘a nice guy’.
It’s an evil act, yes, and an ugly truth. As long as we cling to a past that separates the virtuous women from the impure, the ones whose humanity is lesser because they deserve it, we will give cover to crimes. Predators in society, like predators in the wild, choose the unprotected. It’s necessary to face facts we would rather bury, and defend the rights of people who make choices we would not make. It’s necessary because we are fighting a crime and putting a few individuals in prison is not the whole answer.
Promoting respect for women, because we are equal human beings, is the answer.
I wondered last night if I was making assumptions about Rep. Akin’s religious pandering. Today shows that he’s out there claiming the blessing of forgiveness to hang on to religious voters.
There’s a segment of the religious Right that dwells on forgiveness, but overlooks repentance. It’s like the Ted Haggards who get caught in immorality but think they can reclaim their pulpit and collection plate after a few expressions of remorse. It’s like the many religious groups who found it expedient to cover up sexual crimes in their own community while exhorting victims to ‘forgive’. Anything can be used as spin in politics.
Todd Akin does not intend to change his actions or votes against a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, or even to prevent conception after rape. But he has compassion and will pray for those people. He feels real sorry for them.
No woman wants to think that they will ever be in a situation where this will be personal. But if we let law for women be made by men who don’t know and don’t care about reality, and who confuse condescension and pity with respect, we will abandon the women who need real help and the standard of medical care.
Rei at Daily Kos says something that really needs to be said– A person can do lots of good things and still do something horrible. Julian Assange has won the admiration of many on the left for taking a stand against government secrecy with Wikileaks. At the same time, he is evading charges of rape.
It’s painful and disillusioning when someone we admire has another side. Or when someone who helped us wrongs someone else.
But not recognizing this aspect of human nature– the capability of doing both good and evil, allows the Jerry Sandusky’s to go undetected, and the Roman Polanskis to claim they are victims of conniving children.
A long article last year in the New York Times paints Assange as a complicated man with mixed motives. That article also links to other sources. How accurate the NYT is in the portrayal is under debate.
This is not to declare Assange innocent or guilty. He is doing his best to evade his day in court– which is where these charges belong. It’s not to weight whether his evasion is justified, given the political stakes.
It’s just a few words in support of Rei’s brave post, and in support of all those who are not believed because the perpetrator was above suspicion.
Today the Providence Journal reports a horrific home invasion and rape of a pregnant woman in Central Falls. The victim’s nine year old son witnessed the crime. He is a victim too. Following long-standing editorial policy, the Journal did not disclose the name of the victim. Instead they published her address, along with a helpful link to Google Maps. The attackers are still at large.
Reading between the lines, drugs may have been involved. I don’t care. It sounds like the victim is cooperating and the police have some leads.
Every so often, someone questions the Journal policy of publishing the names and addresses of people who report crimes. I remember when a Journal employee out jogging in Pawtuxet was punched out by some guys he didn’t know. The Journal printed his name, address and place of work.
The Journal defended their policy, saying that naming names deters false reports. For sure, and deters true ones too. A reporter said to me, ‘some of these old ladies leave their windows open.’ Well, the Journal will teach them a lesson, I guess.
Here is another story from today. I’ve blocked out identifiers…
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — A Pawtucket man was shot in the foot late Monday night, said Major Arthur Martins of the Pawtucket Police Department.
At midnight, the police received a call from Miriam Hospital reporting a man had been admitted with a gun-shot wound to his foot, Martins said.
The man, [name, age, address], said he was shot around 11:30 p.m. in front of a closed convenience store at ——-, Martins said.
“We went to the area he said this occurred and did not find any shell casings or any people who reported hearing shots fired,” Martins said. “We are not saying it didn’t happen there; we just don’t have definitive proof.”
——-told officers he was walking down West Avenue, saw a car drive past him, turn around and approach him, Martins said. —— said he saw the car’s window go down and then heard four shots fired, Martins said.
——— walked to the home of a friend, who drove him to the hospital, Martins said.
“He said he has no enemies and no idea who would shoot him.
If this was a case of mistaken identity, or random malice, the victim is at a disadvantage. He has no idea who shot him, but the shooter can find out where the victim lives, and also that he reported to the police.
A newspaper is not a conduit, like a storm sewer, where news flows to the lowest level. There’s editors and reporters and journalistic standards and discretion what they report and why. Our one major state newspaper stubbornly defends publishing information that could add to the stigma, and danger, suffered by crime victims. A nine year old boy has been outed for witnessing a crime against his mother. What public benefit is there to publishing his address? Is this universal newspaper practice?
We just got home from Louisville, Kentucky. Their major newspaper has a website that
lists every police report for every neighborhood. It’s a great tool for citizens who want to be aware of what’s happening and which kinds of crimes are occurring where. But they don’t list names or addresses. The Louisville Courier-Journal crime reports look like this…
Details about case 80-11-049478
ASSAULT – 4TH DEGREE (MINOR INJURY)
8500 BLOCK OF KIMBERLY WAY
DATE: JUNE 26, 2011
TIME: 4:12 AM
This isn’t complicated. We have a right and a need to know what is happening where. In the case of a major crime like this awful home invasion I want to know which part of Central Falls. But I think of that woman and her little boy and wonder if they have a safe place to live. I think about neighbors and classmates and lost privacy. I think about cars cruising by in the night, about people who get off on crime and people who might want to scare away witnesses. And I wonder why the Journal stubbornly refuses to consider the safety and dignity of crime victims when they make their policies.
UPDATE: I asked in the comments to the story in ProJo online why they printed the address and got a quick response saying it has been removed. Thank you, ProJo.
SUSPECT IN CUSTODY: They have a suspect, the above link has details.
Laura Flanders of Common Dreams has some suggestions for Interpol, since they have time to scoop Julian Assange for allegations of sexual assault.
They can call up the UN Human Rights Commission and maybe get some addresses in Congo and Chechnya and Iraq of generals and warlords they might want to talk to.
I’m not making any judgement on charges that should be sorted out in court, but it would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Violence against women is not an emergency, until it suits a political agenda.