“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 2008, a South African football star and outspoken lesbian is gang raped on a public street, beaten, and stabbed 25 times in the face, chest, and legs. Her rape and murder is meant to cure her of her unnatural desires, and punish her for not behaving in a gender appropriate way. This practice, called “corrective rape,” has been formally recognized in South Africa, but it is by no means limited to that one small area of the world.
In 2012, a 23-year-old medical student is gang raped on a bus in India while traveling home with a male friend. She is injured so severely in the attack that she dies from her injuries two weeks later. The driver of the bus in which the student was raped and murdered tells the press that: “You can’t clap with one hand. It takes two hands to clap. A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.”
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. And, once again—her rape was her fault.
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.