I am horrified by the recent events in Guinea. I also find the world’s response insufficient and disturbing. The media seems to be differentiating this type of ‘gang rape’ and ‘rape in broad daylight’ from other ( less unacceptable?) forms of sexual abuse and assault. Not only are these rapes being characterized as worse than ordinary rape, but in addition the world response has been, to say the least, underwhelming. This is sending a message that even the ‘worst’ type of rape will not spark true outrage, discussion, education, and worldwide advocacy for victims- so why should survivors of “run-of-the-mill” rape even bother coming forward?
As a rape crisis counselor, I have spent countless hours in emergency rooms listening to women (and men…don’t forget teenage girls and boys) speak dismissively about being raped. Many blame themselves, minimize the seriousness of such an assault, are ashamed as though they were the criminals, and don’t believe anyone will care. Sometimes hospital staff and law enforcement treat them like blameworthy criminals. More often, they are treated with indifference peppered with intolerance…which I have sadly come to expect.
I don’t condone separating sexual assault into degrees of unacceptability but that’s the way it is done right now. Working within this paradigm- I am horrified that this ‘worst’ kind of rape has faded from the headlines. This could be an opportunity to raise awareness and mobilize people. This could be an opportunity for the world to demonstrate that rape will not be tolerated. Then maybe the next time I’m sitting in the emergency room, just maybe I can refute the claim of the terrorized woman crying on the exam table when she says that no one cares about her sexual assault.
[Kate Blacker is an LL.M.candidate at Pace University School of Law]