Asking for it

By Namira Hossain

Mindspeak-rape

I remember learning of the word ‘rape’ when I was 10 years old. I was in Class 4 and my classmate, let’s call him ‘A’ made a lame joke and said that another classmate of ours ‘K’ raped a girl called ‘M’. I didn’t know what the word meant, so a bunch of us looked it up in the dictionary. And I nervously giggled, not really finding what I had read to be funny but pretending to find it so, to fit in – ever the pre-pubescent ‘cool’ girl, who rejects notions of womanhood. I remember ‘M’ crying in a corner in the classroom, but did not understand the depth of the words that were spoken or the unspoken classroom dynamics between the girls and the boys.

That was the same year that Deen, my cousin’s house-help groped me.I was barely 10, with the equivalent of mosquito bites on my chest when this boy, also a few years older than me waited for his chance to do it. I remember it perfectly – the sun was setting in the sky and my younger cousin had peed in the tiny garden behind my house. I told Deen to take some big leaves which had fallen on the ground from palm trees and to go clean up the mess.

He went out back, and I waited out front. I waited about 10 minutes and had called out to him but he did not respond. I went searching for him and as soon as I turned the narrow corner, he pounced upon me from the back. It was a calculated move but completely took me by surprise. He grabbed me by my newly budding ‘sports bra breasts’ and squeezed them. I can’t remember if I screamed or not, but I remember trying to fight out of his sinister ‘embrace’ and running home to my parents and telling them right away what had happened.

I remember feeling guilty, as though I had done something wrong and what really compounded that feeling was the fact that Deen continued to work at my cousin’s house despite my cousin also being a girl of a similar age. I understood that having trusted house-help was of utmost importance, but surely someone who had molested me did not fall under the category of ‘trusted’?

When I was 15, my O levels accounting teacher also groped me. He also waited for his chance to do it, like a sneaky old pervert. He’s probably still around, feeling young teenage girls up because nobody has called him out on it. I could go on and on about these instances, from ‘friends’ forcing themselves on me to boys calling me a ‘slut’ for choosing not to be with them. These stories of horror to a young woman, are a dime a dozen and seem to be increasing in frequency each year. According the the Ain O Salish Kendra report on rape there have been a total of 138 rapes just between January to April of 2017 alone. This also does not take into account how many instances go unreported. The story of the Raintree rape is one that is all too common, and has all the ingredients to make it into a media frenzy for a few days, only to be forgotten until the next sad incident occurs.

Why does rape even happen? It’s a matter of control, it’s the repressed sexuality that is present in every level of our social strata and it is encouraged by the attitudes towards rape. A woman who is raped is considered to bring dishonour upon her family. Women are held up to standards whereby their sexuality is completely ignored and it is the male’s that is considered to be animal instinct, which cannot be tamed or controlled upon seeing a short skirt or even a hijab apparently, like in the case of Tonu. She was totally asking for it in those clothes!

At least the Raintree rapists have been caught, because the girls went against all odds and reported the event. People have been sharing pictures of the victim and her assailant where she is kissing him on the cheek – as though that is proof that she was ‘asking for it’. Studies show that 80 to 90 per cent of women were acquainted with their rapists, so a kiss on the cheek does not mean anything other than the fact that they were acquainted. Neither is going to a party, nor being out late at night nor how you dress. These are all examples of victim blaming and rape culture – designed to make the female the guilty one for daring to be who she is. Rape culture is probably what kept my cousin’s mother from believing in what I had to say and firing her house-help.

The victims claimed that she was gang raped by Nayeem Ashraf and Shafaat Ahmed until she bled and that the whole ordeal was video taped by their driver. They were making statements like they are untouchable and the biggest gold smugglers in the country. They also claimed later on that they were too high on yaba and hence unable to control themselves. This so-called demise of our youth is not just something recent, this has been happening for years. The instances of rape on children, on the elderly and the disabled – it is not just something new that is happening. We are only learning of these stories more and more because they are reported in the news.

There had been much focus in the story about the hotel’s involvement. Whereas it would not make sense to point fingers at the establishment because a crime had taken place on it’s premises. One can say that their reactions to the whole scenario have been unwarranted and rightfully so, taken out of context. The owner’s wife was quoted on social media as calling the girls ‘whores’ talking about ‘alleged’ rape. People are also trying involve the ex wife, saying that she framed them.

All of this is to distract us from the truth – that our own nonchalant behaviours towards things we see or witness ourselves that make us rape apologists and give rapists the platform to be able to get away with their actions. It is time that we taught our boys to respect women for who they are – as humans, not just an extended version of themselves by being their mother, sister, wife or daughter. Only then, maybe there will finally come a day that I am not scared to open the newspaper and maybe classroom jokes will actually be innocent humour.