I’m a little shaken that it has come to this. We need a medical report to prove that a rape victim experiences “tonic immobility” during the attack, rendering her unable to resist. We’re asking for evidence that victims are indeed traumatized during and after such a vile act, rather than looking as to why people commit such crimes. But if we need more hard evidence to forward something as basic as giving people the primary agency over their bodies, then so be it.
The study was published in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, a Swedish journal, and it outlines how “many victims of sexual assault experience a temporary paralysis” during the attack. This renders them helpless and defeats that archaic defense that “If indeed she was raped, why didn’t she resist?”
I wonder when will we get to a point that we ask instead, “If indeed it was rape, why didn’t the perpetrator stop himself knowing the grave consequences of his actions?”
The study further outlined how victims who experience tonic immobility are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Hence, increasing how victims have a tendency to shy away from seeking justice in court. The fear isn’t just because of the stigma, but also the internal struggle within the person.
But we shouldn’t be surprised by this.
When someone goes into your house and steals material possessions, you don’t blame it on the homeowner not having an impenetrable wall. When someone is murdered, you don’t blame the victim for being alive in the first place.
When it comes to rape though, wherein what is lost is far beyond objects, why do we immediately lay the blame on the victim?
I’m sure you’ve heard it all before: from a woman’s clothing being a signal for her asking for it (Since when did clothes communicate messages?) to it being downscaled as a few minutes of transgression, as if it was a mistake that can be undone like flipping a switch, rape is somehow treated like it’s so easy to do and to move on from.
I’ve read over The Anti-Rape Act of 1997 here in the Philippines. It’s harsh. If found guilty, the rapist will be subject to reclusion perpetua. However, as the Philippine Commission on Women states, many rape victims find it hard to achieve justice because “of the evidentiary rules concerning the crime, or many cases of rape are being dismissed in courts because victims have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was no consent.” The PCW then continues that “Consent must not only revolve around the woman’s express refusal to engage in a sexual activity nor should it be presumed in the absence of overt physical effort to resist the act of rape.”
But what has happened so far is that we see how we place the burden of resisting and expressing non-consent on the victim even more. It’s victim-blaming to the extreme. It’s how last May, a man was acquitted of rape because the Supreme Court “found that there was no force used to get sex, and the woman not speaking up during the incident didn’t amount to enough resistance to call it rape.”
I don’t know how we came to the conclusion that it’s only a crime if the person shows aggressive resistance. It’s like telling the person sleeping at night while his stuff was being pilfered through by the burglar. “You were sleeping, you didn’t shout out for him not to take you stuff, so we see no reason to call this a robbery.”
But let me not make the mistake of comparing how violating a human being is just like stealing. How much more do we need to emphasize that people shouldn’t be objectified? Why do we let rape culture take over our basic implementation of human rights?
How many more medical reports upon reports before we completely reverse rape culture? In court, the suspect afforded to be “innocent until proven guilty.” But with rape, it seems like we always want evidence towards the victim’s innocence instead.
Photo courtesy of Broadly
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