The problem with rape and one of the main differences between it and other crimes, is the anonymity awarded to accused rapists. Often when we hear or read about rape cases, more particularly where the accused rapist is a high profile person, it is the identity of the survivor that is thrust into the public space for dissection, scrutiny and public shame.
One would almost even think that women are behind the crime of rape, with all the victim blaming perpetuated by rape culture under the guise that women should somehow be empowered to avoid rape. But that is a topic for the next column, on why we have found ourselves where we are with the problem of rape, so that we can then adequately discuss how to move forward.
The question here, is who is a rapist? The reason it is important for this question to be addressed, is that often when a rape survivor comes forward, despite the weight of the trauma, and pain they would have gone through, and the amount of resilience and strength it must take to actually speak out to even get to a point where they can express the violence they faced, society’s response is hardly ever remorse, or sympathy. We are quick to lay blame on the victim, and guilt them, because, well, “he doesn’t look like a rapist.” One would think rapists walk around with signage on their chest, with the inscription, “Stay Away Unless You Want Rape!” This is despite the number of rape instances we have heard reports of. So perhaps we need to know who the rapists are. The most recently published statistics on this are from 2015. We will all remember that in a report on rape and other sexual offences cases filed with police in 2018, for the year 2017, 2016 and 2015, it was said that in that year (2015), there were a total of 2,163 reported cases of such nature. In a Crime Statistics Report by Statistics Botswana for the year 2015, it was revealed that of the 587 sexual assault cases before Magistrate’s Courts in Botswana, 98% of the accused persons were men. So it is undoubtable that men are rapists. I will not be arguing about this here. The number of women and other persons who have committed sexual assault crimes is extremely negligible it cannot be argued “women are also rapists”.
Of the 557 cases before the Courts a large number of the accused persons were aged between 25 and 29years, followed closely by men aged 20-24years, and right after them, were men in their 30s.
Here’s where the shocker is though. Of all of these cases, before Court, 22% ended in acquittals, which means they were not found guilty of the crime for which
The last point on the statistics of actual convictions is the real problem, because when a person is accused of rape, it is not their character that comes under scrutiny. It is that of the complainant. And to this extent, one could actually conclude that rapists are men protected by the law, and enabled to perpetuate crimes such as rape and other sexual offences, in the ways they are not condemned to the extent that they should be.
We have created this fictional idea that rapists are strange dirty men, with bad breathe and weird eyes in dark alleys. And yes, sometimes they are. But far less frequently from the reality that rapists are many of the men we actually live with. They are often the fathers, or uncles or family friends, or community leaders or trusted taxi drivers. Rapists are often the boyfriends, husbands, drinking buddies and church leaders with whom we congregate. They are often the neighbours, the teachers, the cousins, the cab driver you have come to know so well, and even help. And this is the reason why there are such few convictions. Because rapists are the people who know us so well, they can recite our flaws in the ways that will unravel us as “human”. And that is sometimes all that is needed to show that a complainant is someone who cannot be trusted. The mere fact that they are human. Someone who occasionally shares a glass or bottle of wine with friends. Or a person who goes to church and sometimes spends time with their pastor, because they look up to him. A girl in a mini skirt just trying to get home from somewhere. Or at home watching TV or fast asleep. Someone looking for a good guy to pass time with. Imagining that being human is the only reason a person could be raped, is the real reason we are failing to call a spade a spade. But let’s be real here, a great majority of rapists are prancing the streets, and buying their way out of accountability. And the greatest enablers are those who advise women to avoid rape, instead of advising men to stop raping. Because that’s who the rapists are. It’s the men! Please let the children read this.
Lesego Nswahu Nchunga ©