To understand links between shame and rape, it is necessary to return to basics such as the original and eternal denial of dignity of women as human beings including two archetypes: on the one hand, women are generally perceived as a byproduct “The woman came out of the rib of the man, she was made for man, the woman is a gift to man, etc.” The woman has no independent existence. On the other hand, with the advent of era of consumption, woman became herself a consumer product.
When I think about why a new definition of rape is important, it is no doubt that rape is the symptom of a sick society.
Judges have a completely distorted view of reality of societal consequences of rape. This reality is organized around a scale of values: for example, in the Middle Ages, only rape — practiced in times of war and peace — of a woman from high society was put to death. Regarding the unfortunate who became pregnant after a rape, she was frowned upon and considered responsible.
In addition, judges judge according to a justice system that is a product of patriarchal society. As for the representation of rape in society, it is organized around a behavioral code: shame. A raped woman should be ashamed during her whole life and has no right to take revenge: deciding to be happy, for instance. In fact if we look closer, society removes, from raped women, the little that remains of their rights.
Making guilty the victim, social tolerance for the rapist
Ivan Levaï, former husband of Anne Sinclair and close to Dominique Strauss-Kahn stated on France Inter (a French national radio station) about the Sofitel affair, “I do not believe in rape. For rape, you need a knife, a gun.” Beyond the urgent need for a dictionary, let’s remind that in France, more than 198,000 women are victims of rape or attempted rape, 75,000 were raped, according to the campaign against rape, launched by Dare Feminism, Feminist Collective Against Rape, and Mix-Cité.
Furthermore, the Feminist Collective Against Rape, a platform that manages appeals from women victims of rape, estimated that less than 10% victims file a complaint. 96% of rapists are male, and 91% of victims are female (consistent statistics of the Ministry of Justice and the CFCV Feminist Collective Against Rape).
Even worse, less than 2% of rapists are convicted. Please note that the French law has recognized rape as a crime for only 30 years (law passed in 1980). Less than 10% of victims file complaints because of fear of peer pressure, etc… The truth of their accusations is often questioned, and many complaints result in dismissal, the penalties are rarely severe. (Source)
Now, as regards the role of media which reflect society, let’s compare France to the USA. I simplify, but I can’t help thinking that in the USA, a poor immigrant woman, alleged victim of rape, was allowed to wade in media. But, in France, the one who could wade in media, who was another alleged victim of attempted rape from the same alleged rapist, was a woman who was not poor and was not an immigrant, and who owns connections to authorities. This comparison shows that rape is not only a societal problem but also operates in a clan-like way. That is to say, like in the Middle Ages, women are not socially and culturally equal before rape and its legislation.
As long as the butcher is not recognized as butcher by society as a witness, a rape victim cannot be considered as a victim. The justice absolves rapists. The society stigmatizes victims.
The balance of Themis is a balance consisting of two plates suspended from a beam, constituting one of the attributes of Themis, such a symbol of justice and equity (which Themis is the goddess in Greek mythology). The judge must weigh his decision. Indeed, representing equality, the judge must be impartial and fair.
Given the parameters of balance has never been defined properly, individual responsibility is more than ever necessary.
For now, I just can remind all of you this: beyond the individual sensitivities, rape is the desecration of a body, rape is theft of a life, because there is a before and an after. Rape is a wound that never heals which on it is put successively different bandages. It is said that the body is the temple of the spirit. So, rape devastates a human being in its entirety. And no offenses to the authorities but their societies are full of survivors with heavy hearts.
So what should we do now? Do we wait for them to become ashamed or do we start to stop to be ashamed?
Here is a quote which could help, from Miguel de Cervantes, a Spanish novelist of early Modern period, “Better a shame on the face than a stain in the heart.”