gang rape

RIP Rehtaeh Parsons: Victim of Victim-Blaming

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

by Jarrah Hodge

Trigger Warning for rape, cyberbullying, suicide.

On Sunday Rehtaeh Parsons’ parents made the decision to take their daughter off life support. Three days earlier, the 17-year-old had tried to hang herself in the bathroom after being raped and then relentlessly cyberbullied.

According to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald:

Rehtaeh Parsons had a goofy sense of humour and loved playing with her little sisters. She wore glasses, had long, dark hair and was a straight-A student whose favourite subject was science.

But that didn’t seem to matter to the four boys who her mother, Leah Parsons, says raped Rehtaeh at a party when she was drunk to the point of being clearly unable to consent. According to the Facebook page Leah Parsons has set up in Rehtaeh’s memory:

The Person Rehtaeh once was all changed one dreaded night in November 2011. She went with a friend to another’s home. In that home she was raped by four young boys…one of those boys took a photo of her being raped and decided it would be fun to distribute the photo to everyone in Rehtaeh’s school and community where it quickly went viral. Because the boys already had a “slut” story, the victim of the rape Rehtaeh was considered a SLUT. This day changed the lives of our family forever. I stopped working that very day and we have all been on this journey of emotional turmoil ever since.

Police told the CBC they investigated the assault but didn’t have enough investigation to lay charges, but Leah Parsons says the police waited too long to interview the boys and refused to act on the distributed pictures because they “couldn’t prove who had pressed the photo button on the phone”.

Reading this story I was simultaneously heartbroken and overcome with rage. It makes me so sad that we have yet another case of misogynist cyberbullying that has led to yet another senseless, tragic death, another family in mourning. Another young woman, a complex human being who had so much to offer the world, is gone because of the rape culture we live in and the cyberbullying that perpetuates it faster and more furiously than ever.

Toula Foscolos writes in the Huffington Post: “We, as a society, recoil in horror at such tragedies, but fail to see the triggers that normalize violence against women. We shrug them off as unrelated. But they’re not.” Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 3 Comments

Steubenville: Not a Bug in the System

by Josey Ross

For a lot of people, the Steubenville rape case appears to be the first time they’ve really thought about rape, rapists, and rape survivors. This is challenging a lot of people’s Law and Order: SVU view of a rapist as an evil stranger in the park, someone we can point to as a bad guy, someone we can confidently assert we don’t know, and we wouldn’t know. Oh, my boyfriend/brother/teacher/friend would never do that. He’s a good guy.

These two young men’s friends are still saying that, still coming up with excuses. They are threatening the victim with death. They are crying over the halted futures of these bright stars.

Nobody in the mainstream media seems to be crying for this brave 16-year-old girl who has just had her life destroyed. That is what rape does; it destroys lives. It breaks people. It shatters your ability to trust others and, more tragically, to trust yourself. It forever strips that piece of you that naively believes in the concept of “safety”.

None of this is coincidence. The wretched events of Steubenville are not an aberration. They are not a culmination of things gone wrong. They are a system working as it should.

This system teaches young men that women are theirs for the taking, that women incapable of consent are not only ripe for violation but have brought it upon themselves. It teaches that rape doesn’t even require concealment, but that you can celebrate and joke about it across social media platforms.

And this system teaches young women to hew to a system of male dominance. If going to a party with your friends is excuse enough for rape and mass humiliation, what the hell happens to those who stand up to the patriarchal system? What happens to those who say: “I deserve to walk without looking over my shoulder” or “I deserve to take up space”?

We’re in the 21st century and we are still teaching young men that women are less than human. We’re in the 21st century and we are still ensuring that women who forget that, who dare to think they deserve safety and opportunity, are put in their place, whether subtly or violently.

The events of Steubenville are not a bug in the system, they are a feature of it.

Posted on by Josey Ross in Feminism 1 Comment

CTV News Channel Interview on Steubenville and Rape Culture

cap1by Jarrah Hodge

Earlier today I joined Slate writer Amanda Marcotte live on CTV News Channel to talk about the developing story around the gang-rape in Steubenville, Ohio, the protests after another gang-rape in India, and larger issues around rape culture. The video isn’t available for embedding but if you want to watch the whole clip, you can see it here.

I appreciated that the hosts avoided treating the rapes like isolated incidents (they also drew attention to the case in Pitt Meadows in 2010, which had many similarities to Steubenville in terms of the use of technology to humiliate the victim as well as the seeming community code of silence after the fact). They also didn’t fall into the trap of being holier-than-thou when looking at the situation in India, as some other articles have done by blaming the incident on India’s culture while implying no similar issues exist here (read Emer O’Toole in the Guardian on why this view doesn’t hold water).

I’m not going to go in-depth into the issues at play but I’d encourage you to watch the CTV clip and also to check out some of the following articles, which have done a great job explaining the complex issues in Steubenville in particular, as well as the way this incident is part of systemic rape culture.


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 1 Comment

Is the World Starting to Care About Rape?

Protest in Bangalore after the December gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student

Protest in Bangalore after the December gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student

by Matilda Branson

As I shudder a little on a foolish sojourn to the bathroom scales, shudder at the excesses of Christmas and New Year festivities, then sit down to read the morning paper, I see the recent gang-rape of a 23-year-old medical student in India continues to be splattered across the pages of the world media. The woman died of her severe injuries two days later and five men are facing rape and murder charges, with a sixth facing charges in juvenile court.

This case has caused a wave of public protests across India, calling for an end to sexual harassment, assault and other forms of violence against women and the lack of accountability or enforcement of laws by authorities, endemic within patriarchal societies like India. This outcry has spread to neighboring countries like Nepal, where women’s rights groups and activists have submitted a petition to Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and are staging rallies and protests outside his residence in Baluwatar, Kathmandu, dubbed the #OccupyBaluwatar on Twitter.

These protests, following the outcry of the Delhi gang-rape, centre on the rape case of Sita Rai, a Nepali teenager who last month was robbed of all her savings and raped by security personnel at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, upon returning from working in Saudi Arabia. Rights groups are demanding justice beyond mere compensation from Nepal’s Prime Minister and the government.

As we see protests sweeping across India, Nepal and neighboring countries, I wonder, is this the tide turning against a persisting global complacency on gender-based violence? With the world media for once receptive to reporting on violence against women and on a rape case far from home, with others like Nepal up in arms over similar rape cases, this might be the opportunity to get people to listen, and to take real action on stopping violence against women.

(photo by Jim Ankan Deka via Wikimedia Commons)

Posted on by Matilda Branson in Feminism 5 Comments