This morning I woke before everyone else as usual and I began to read the international news. I was rather surprised to find that the news of the India’s rape victim had fallen from the headlines and barely ranked higher than the announcement of Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy with Kanye West’s baby. Somewhere far below I found an article about another victim of gang rape in India who committed suicide after she was raped. The police formally responded to her case 14 days after it was reported. The police arrested the suspects she’d named only after her death.
In addition to many sweet messages of support from women, after my last entry I received many messages from women who confessed that they too had been victims of sexual assault. Some of the messages detailed years of repeated instances by one perpetrator or various assaults by various perpetrators. One woman said she thought for the longest time that it was just normal. Several told me that their molesters or rapists were immediate family members. Some told me that women that they trusted participated or looked the other way.
Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments was that so few men responded. I don’t know if it was because the issue makes them feel ashamed or if they feel that it is not their cause. (Men are rape victims too) I asked my husband to read my entry and later found him with his hands in his face sitting over my computer, devastated. My oldest brother with whom I had shared my story several years ago responded with sadness and an indication that this is a subject for which he is already broadening his horizons by reading and learning. Only one of my male Twitter followers responded after I challenged men to comment. His comments were heartfelt and concerned for society. Perhaps the most touching was a young man in Tibet who has a strong social awareness for human rights issues and gave his support by re-posting my blog. We need men to be involved in this issue. We need men who are brave and willing to add a strong voice but most importantly we all need to recognize that we have the power to lessen the incidence of sexual abuse not only in countries like India but in our own.
I did have the good fortune to speak to a Bangladeshi comedian known as Solaiman Shukhon (https://www.facebook.com/Shukhonz) who has done a fabulous job of using social networking such as Facebook and Twitter to send a strong message about human rights and sexual abuse. When I asked Solaiman where the change needs to start he replied simply, “We need to educate men first”. When I asked him if change could occur quickly he replied that sadly it would take generations. Shukhon also discussed the responsibility we have to our daughters to lead them to a status of equality. He said that it was his love for his daughter that helped him understand this responsibility. We need more men like Solaiman in this world.
Today in the US we are teetering on the edge of what we have come to know as the “fiscal cliff”. Our nation is still finding its footing after the tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook. We are slowly recovering from a devastating financial crisis that was felt globally. We however simply cannot use these issues as an excuse to put sexual abuse on the back burner. The gang rape that took the life of the 23 year old woman in India is not an isolated case and this sort of violence does not occur only in countries far from us on the other side of the world. They happen in our country, our cities and our homes. When a teenage girl takes her own life in India due to the shame of rape, it really is not just a nameless, faceless girl, its one step closer to being your daughter, your sister, your niece. Don’t delude yourself with denial.
I have come to think of misfortune in spiritual terms. Misfortune can be a tremendous gift. It comes to us as an opportunity to grow, to become empathetic and it comes with a responsibility. Experiencing misfortune presents us with the occupation of becoming a guardian to those who come after us. We can use the experience of being brought to our knees by grief to see others more completely and to guide them to safety. If we don’t acknowledge misfortune and utilize it in this way it is nothing more than tragedy. Fear and helplessness empowers our attackers, action emasculates.
At the end of our conversation this morning Solaiman Shukhon imparted a few more words of wisdom. He said, “These little things, these conversations, these tweets, these blog entries, they help. If one person reads them it makes a difference. A conversation in Missouri can be felt on my side of the world.” I agree with Solaiman. If you find yourself tempted to discuss Kanye West’s “baby mama”, Kim Kardashian, stop yourself and lend a moment of your time to something worthy like the tragic death of a 23 year old girl in India.
If you would like to discuss human rights issues or the empowerment of women in your country, I will happily exchange email or call you at your convenience. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always if you are a victim of sexual abuse and need help or would like to learn more about preventing sexual abuse please visit http://www.rainn.org/get-help/sexual-assault-and-rape-international-resources.