Not to be Raped or Not to Rape?

Once again, the news on a brutal rape case in Tasikmalaya, West Java has been shaking the nation. An eight-year-old girl was sexually abused by her boy friend and experienced serious injury on her reproductive organ. The news also reported that the Manonjaya resident found her around rail way track in a very critical condition in which her entire body was covered by blood. Luckily, she was rescued and taken to local hospital for a medical intervention (detiknews 21/5/2013).
Whenever rape case happens, the immediate question coming across our mind is why does it happen? Is it merely about inability of perpetrators, who are mostly men, to control their sexual desire? Or are there any other factors on which the criminal act is based? It also naturally begs a question: why is the sexual violence so prevalent in Indonesia, which is considered as a religious nation, and more likely to become everlasting tragedy for girls and women in the country? We also start questioning our legal system, does it effectively protect the rights of women as a human being? More importantly, do we belong to the nation where people perceive rape as normal?
The aforementioned questions need answers for us to find a way to solve the rape problem. Sadly, instead of analyzing the problem and condemning the perpetrators, some are too busy investigating how the victims dress up. Some others concern more about time, whether the rape takes place at night or during the day.  Even worse, some people are curious whether it is a true rape or the victim only pretends to be raped. As a consequence of these attitudes, more often than not survivors of sexual abuse in Indonesia find themselves in a very difficult situation for the society does not seem to be in their side. It becomes worse particularly when they try to disclose their case since the society tends to judge them instead of showing empathy, let alone providing help. These are the reasons, among other things, why most of the victims remain silent.
Formal institutions such as police and court are trapped into merely procedures and technicalities and they fail to focus on more substantial issues such as human rights violation within rape cases or the issue of justice. Relying only on legal process to address the issue often makes things worse. It is time-consuming and costly which is not affordable for victims who are mostly poor.
The above complexities may prevent victim from accessing justice and claiming their rights. They may also allow perpetrators to avoid legal punishment by doing the four following actions. Firstly, they can cover up their acts by hiding behind the tendency of society that stigmatizes the victim of sexual abuse. Secondly, by devaluating the victim by labeling them as a “slut” or argue that the victims invited them to have sexual intercourse. Thirdly, by re-interpreting sexual violence as an understandable action or they claim that when the victims say “no”, it in fact means “yes”. Fourthly, by intimidating or trying to bribe the victims in order to keep silent and do not reveal the case.
When there are many factors involved in perpetuating sexual violence in Indonesia, it is obvious that the violence is not merely interpersonal problem but structural as well. Rape is not because women wear mini skirt but it is about imbalanced power relation between the abusers and the targets. As Liam Skinner (2012) once put that it involves rape culture where societies tend to normalize sexual violence, have misogyny attitudes and objectify women’s bodies.  It also involves gender bias policies which fail to recognize the full dignity of women and tend to serve the gender order regime which prioritize the interest of men as a dominant group. Accordingly, eliminating the problems needs personal and structural transformation simultaneously, otherwise the sexual violence will continue to occur in Indonesia.
With regard to personal and structural transformation, extraordinary actions have to be taken nationwide. First, rape needs to be exposed as a form of injustice action and violation against humanity. There is no consensual rape which means abusers cannot assume about consent, “no” means “no”, “yes” means “yes” and there is not “no” means “yes”.  Rape also creates endless suffering for the victim, physically and emotionally. In addition, data shows that 13 % to 33% of rape victims are prone to suicide (
Second, in order to stop abusers from performing their action, it is important to support survivors to speak up by establishing support group and providing victim-friendly services, namely shelter, psychological and medical intervention. It is also necessary to establish safe and comfortable legal process by providing well trained police officers and prosecutors to avoid re-victimization during the legal process. Other important things are fair legal process and accountable trial which include fair punishment for the abusers and appropriate compensation for the victims.
Third, it is critical to raise awareness in communities about respect to women’s dignity by inviting them, regardless their gender (men or women), to participate in an anti-sexual violence movement. Rape is not only women’s problem but men’s as well therefore eliminating the problems is the interest of both men and women. Preparing women not to be raped is important but teaching men not to rape is even more important. Rape threatens the safety of our daughters, sisters, partners, mothers and even our grandmothers, so let us take stand and engage.

About Nur Hasyim

peminat kajian maskulinitas, trainer dan fasilitator tentang gender, maskulinitas dan kekerasan serta ayah dari dua anak perempuan. Saat ini menjadi pengajar di Universitas Islam Negeri Walisongo, Semarang

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