I think one of the worst things rape culture has enabled is the shame that accompanies its victims and survivors; when the shame and violation shifts from the perpetrator to the victim. When I am unable to say that I have been raped because of the stigma that accompanies rape survivors, the indignity is imprinted in my being. And also sadly, the feeling of disconnect that arises because your ordeal does not fit the narrative of ‘rape’ ; when you are told you’re not warranted to be a victim of rape because your experience was outside the defined and accepted scope and dynamics of rape. What are the dynamics of rape? Should there really be dynamics of rape? Shouldn’t it be the most simplistic of concepts? Is it not really as basic as rape is just rape? That one did not consent to it? That one said no!
So why is it virtually impossible for the African woman to say that her husband raped her? Why is marital rape not addressed and provided for in any of our legislation in Kenya yet we say our legal systems are devoted to putting an end to sexual and gender based violence? When will we in our society be able to say that just because one has engaged in sexual intercourse with someone previously does not necessarily mean that consent is always given thereafter? Can we shift the focus from irresponsibility at being drunk at a party to the reality: that men are predators and take advantage of inebriated women?
I recently got involved in a certain campaign, #SheMatters by She Matters Tribe aimed at raising awareness against sexual violence. As we prepared for the photoshoot, we were having the conversation on consent and it was just so saddening to see women come into the realization that they in fact had been violated and raped. I have come to my own conclusion that every woman has once in their lifetime experienced sexual assault or violence of some sort. We need to have more conversations so that women are more aware and fearless in speaking up. We need to teach people that rape isn’t confined to brutal force, a bloody ordeal or gang rapes. We can be raped by those we love, those we know and welcome into our homes, those we’ve given ourselves to once before.
“How can I call it rape when it was my boyfriend; when I drove myself to his house? How can I call it rape? It doesn’t matter that I kept saying no, that I emphasized I wasn’t in the mood. It doesn’t matter that I tried to escape his embrace, that he physically lifted me and took me to his room, and pinned me down. This is my Africa, and this is not rape.”
I live in a society where the stigma follows the survivor and not the perpetrator. I live in a society where the society is keener on what the survivor did and did not do, than the criminal predatory tendencies of the attacker. I live in a society that praises and sings of the good work of Professor Lawrence Mukiibi and honours him for his contribution to society in regards to education despite the fact that his legacy involves being a serial pedophile. Our society chooses to focus on the ‘positive impact’ he had in society with his many schools and colleges and referring to him impregnating numerous of his students as mere shortcomings. Since when is being a rapist a shortcoming?
Just two nights ago, three students were raped at Moi Girls Secondary School, a boarding school where they were meant to be safe. As if the horrors of such a violation weren’t bad enough, they reported this to the administration upon which they were advised to wash off and stay silent with the promise of scholarships. Another student also admits that they were told to blame the ordeal on lesbianism. Whilst all this is still under investigation, it goes to show how enabling we are as a society of rape culture. We are more concerned with hushing down things and hiding this ‘shame’ instead of actually trying to pursue justice. It is no wonder that survivors are often driven to the point of suicide.
We must fight to change our society and lay blame and shame fully on these heinous perpetrators.