“When a woman is subjected to violence for transgressing social norms…the violence is not only individual but, through its punitive and controlling functions, also reinforces prevailing gender norms.”
Report of the United Nations Secretary General 2006
In South Africa, football star Eudy Simelane is gang raped on a public street, beaten, and stabbed 25 times in the face, chest, and legs. Her rape and murder, along with an estimated 500 assaults per year, is meant to cure lesbians of their unnatural desires, and punish women who do not behave in a gender appropriate way.
In India, a 23-year-old medical student is gang raped on a bus while traveling home with a male friend. She is injured so severely in the attack that she dies from her injuries two weeks later. An attorney for one of the defendants argues that the rape was the woman’s fault because the victims should not have been using public transportation and, as an unmarried couple, they should not have been on the streets at night.
And, in Cleveland, Texas, over the course of several months in 2010, an 11-year old girl is repeatedly gang-raped by a total of 20 men and boys ranging in age from middle-school to 27 years old. The rapes are discovered when a classmate of the victim reported a video that was made of the attacks to a teacher. When people in the community are interviewed about the attacks, they report that the girl “dressed old for her age” and should have known better than to hang out with the older boys.
What all of these stories, and many others, have in common, is the idea that, on some level, rape is an acceptable method of correction to be used on women and girls. Whether a woman is corrected for being a lesbian, a “slut,” or simply for not behaving in the gender appropriate way expected by her society, the result is the same: The belief that a woman is to blame for her assault is internalized as rape myths and reinforced by the culture.
This must end now.