Part sixteen in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka
Rape culture is not happening only in America; it is happening around the globe—and has been since the beginning of humanity. Rape is a weapon that affects victims, their families, and their communities. Here are a few examples:
- Rape is common in patriarchal societies. Japan is a very male-dominated society, making it difficult for victims of rape to come forward. Because of this, research shows that fewer than 5 percent of women raped in Japan report it. Why not? Social pressures, cultural taboos, women not being believed, and rape not being talked about—all respects of rape culture. For more information on rape culture in Japan, watch the documentary, Japan’s Secret Shame, featuring one woman’s struggle against the hostile environment for women reporting assault in Japan.
- In India rape culture deeply affects girls and women, and it can even lead to death. An eight-year-old girl had been raped for days, strangled with her own scarf, and murdered. Such is common, and often police are involved in committing the crimes. In this case, one juvenile and seven men, including four police officers, were charged in the girl’s death. In small pockets of rural India, young girls are married off at twelve years old and forced to perform virginity tests to make sure they are pure. When the child and the man consummate their marriage, they lie on a white cloth, and to prove her virginity, the girl must stain the cloth with blood from her broken hymen. The next day, a council of elders publicly ask the man, “Were the goods pure?” In villages, it is even more difficult to report rape. A woman was raped at her job and went to the police, but they did not believe her. In fact they ended up turning the entire village against her. A reporter who went to India and interviewed people in this village said, “The stigma of sexual assault is so pervasive that the first response to a rape is often silence or victim shaming. Ancient caste and family alliances prevail, deals are struck, money changes hands.”
- In Indonesia, a judge said this in response to a question about whether the death penalty should be applied in rape cases: “Consideration needs to be taken thoroughly for the imposition of death penalty for a rapist, because in a rape case both the rapist and the victim enjoy it.”
- Rape is used in wars. Women in war-zones are easy targets for sexual violence. Sometimes rape is committed as a form of entertainment or as a way to control women. Sadly, in rural villages and patriarchal societies, the people consider the women “ruined” after they are violated. Some women are sent away from their homes, and others are killed to redeem the family name—known as honor killing.
- The book Half the Sky (Zondervan) by Carolyn Custis James provides countless examples of gender-based violence happening around the world. The author tells gruesome stories of girls experiencing gang rape, forced prostitution, and sex trafficking. Rape culture is happening around the world, and part of the reason for it is gender inequality. The only way to change rape culture is “turning women from beasts of burden and sexual playthings into full-fledged human beings.” The author states in an article, “The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls and women are now missing from the planet, precisely because they are female, than men were killed on the battlefield in all the wars of the 20th century. The number of victims of routine ‘gendercide‘ far exceeds the number of people who were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century.”
- Rape certainly happened in the ancient Near East. We read several stories in the Bible about it. Dinah was taken and raped (Gen. 34). Later, wicked men gang-raped a woman outside all night and left her dead on a doorstep (Judg. 19:22–26). King David sent men (note plural) for Bathsheba, wife of his mighty soldier, Uriah, and abused his power over her (2 Sam. 11). People often blame Bathsheba for bathing naked on her roof—saying she was asking for it. (The text merely says she was washing; but even if she was bathing. . . . ) Amnon, son of David, raped his half-sister Tamar: “But when she took [food] to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, ‘Come to bed with me, my sister.’ ‘No, my brother!’ she said to him. ‘Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.’ But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her,” (2 Sam. 13:12–14, NIV). Esther was taken from her home and was one of many virgins whom a lecherous king required to have sex with him before deciding which one to marry.
Yet, in all of this sadness, there is good news—there are advocates helping rape victims over the world. In 2018, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two activists: Denis Mukwege, a Christian doctor who focuses on healing rape victims, and Nadia Murad, an activist who survived rape and kidnapping by ISIS in Iraq. Both winners modeled efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.