The Culture of Blaming the Victim: The Nirbhaya Gang Rape Case

Responding to Date Rape. Written by Apple Gamboa for SubSelfie.com

The BBC Four documentary India’s Daughter prompted outrage because of the statement of Mukesh Singh, one of the six perpetrators of the notorious December 2012 Delhi gang rape in India. He said the victim Jyoti Singh (Nirbhaya) was to blame for her sexual assault and murder. Jyoti was returning from an evening at the cinema with a male friend when the gang offered them a lift in a minibus. She was then raped and inhumanely beaten with iron bars. Showing no remorse, Mukesh had this to say about the victim:

“A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20 per cent of girls are good.”

It is a reality that some still blame female rape victims for provoking men. This is a twisted belief. Whatever the time of day they’re in or their choice of clothing, the victims are not at fault. It is a crime and its perpetrators need to answer for their violations.

Three years after the gang rape incident, there is now collective outrage in India because one of the rapists will be set free due to his status as a minor. During the trial, the juvenile offender was only 17 years old. According to the laws of India, the said perpetrator cannot be imprisoned for more than three years. There is a pending amendment to their Juvenile Justice Act but it may be a case of too little, too late.

The vacation bench of their Supreme Court will decide on the petition of the Delhi Commission against the release of the juvenile rapist. The parents of Nirbhaya took to the streets to protest this development in the case of their daughter. To add insult to injury and salt to the wound, it seems it is always the burden of the victims to prove that they deserve justice in its purest form.

Mukesh Singh. Property: BBC Four
Mukesh Singh. Property: BBC Four

Overpowering Silence

Rape can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or race. But the common denominator is the abuse of power. Let me share the story of my friend who encountered an incident that almost led to rape. She thought it was just another date, until the late movie ended and he whispered: Let’s have sex. She liked the guy when they were in college, and she thought maybe they could take their relationship to the next level. But she was a virgin and couldn’t go all the way. 

She promised the guy oral sex, but no more than that. He agreed and she held on to his words because they were friends. But in the heat of the moment and heightened emotions, he got carried away. He tried to talk her into it, telling her he brought a condom and it was safe to do it. She got scared and was quickly repulsed by his advances, but he forced her to open her legs and rubbed himself against her.

She fought back and shouted at him. He was so disappointed, gave up and got dressed. She did the same, and before they left the room, he said: “The room boy would laugh at me because the bed sheets aren’t messy.”

My friend Pauline (not her real name) acted weird for weeks. Whenever I would ask about him, she would suddenly stay silent. She would cringe and would want to go home every time she saw places and things that reminded her of him. It was difficult for her to recount the details to me. I told her she could report him to the authorities but she didn’t consider it. Even though he forced himself on her, she still knew him. She was frightened of being judged and blamed for what happened.

My friend almost experienced date rape. But she was afraid to do anything about it.

Three Young White Men and a Black Woman. Artwork by Christiaen van Couwenbergh
Three Young White Men and a Black Woman. Artwork by Christiaen van Couwenbergh

The Reality of Date Rape

There are news reports of rape that happen in dark places and isolated alleys with strangers as perpetrators. But the truth is, people you personally know may also commit it. When an acquaintance or a friend initiates a non-consensual sexual intercourse, it becomes date rape.

In 2012, the National Center for Victims of Crime cited that one in five girls can be a victim of date rape. According to research, women face increased risks of date rape with the usage of alcohol and drugs such as rohypnol, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid and ketamine. These drugs are usually mixed with drinks to render the victim unconscious so they can’t easily resist or remember what happened.

Date rape cases are rarely reported to the police because victims are afraid of the stigma. Some would also have insufficient evidence to prove their allegations. In August 2014, Mary Jan Mowat, a former judge in the United Kingdom, said that rape conviction statistics would not improve until women stop getting so drunk. People thought of her remark as harmful because this may discourage victims to go to the police, fearing their statements may just be ridiculed and thus ignored.

On the other hand, there are also instances when a supposed date rape victim would fake accusations. Such is the situation with the curious case of Rolling Stone magazine. They wrote a story about how fratmen from University of Virginia gang raped a woman. They had to retract the article because it turned out to be a lie, as uncovered by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (one of the deans is our very own Sheila Coronel). Read more of its details here.

There is a chilling effect to this story and Rolling Stone acknowledges this. In their own words, they said “it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward” and that it saddens them to think “that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings.” Rape victims need not keep all these to themselves. Healing can only begin with the right support. Professional help is one of the better options. Justice is the best of them all.

In the dark. Author: Gowri Sankar
In the dark. Author: Gowri Sankar

[Entry 77, The SubSelfie Blog]

About the Author:

Apple Gamboa.

Apple Gamboa was an interview and field producer for GMA News, particularly the newscasts Quick Response Team and News to Go. She is currently a producer for lifestyle TV shows and documentaries. Travelling and music are her passions and she takes risks as her personal reality medicine. Journalism 2010, UST. Read more of her articles here.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. crazyoctopus says:

    Sad that victim blaming still persists in this age. How do you expect to have effective anti-rape preventive measures when even gov’t officials subscribe to such backwards thinking? Hindi nga matalakay ang rape in public ng hindi sinisisi ang biktima eh. It has become so bad that even some victims start believing they are at fault too.

    Liked by 2 people

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