Kill The Rapist?

I have been struggling to find time to write about this adequately. Since the time may never present itself… I will write about it INadequately, if I must.

As a victim, it’s really easy for me to imagine all rapists dead. Quite frankly, the world would be a better place. A part of me even believes that death may be too good for them. This thought, however, is borne of emotion–often, but not always irrational. When the activist and academic in me stops to consider the implications of “kill the rapist”, she is left partially paralysed. I mean, if we can’t wield pitchforks and scream; chant; call for their deaths then, really, what do we have? And the truthful answer is: nothing. Yet. We have nothing. Just plenty to build. Anyway I digress.

The unfortunate truth about rape is that it is notoriously difficult to prove. A death penalty will not be an adequate deterrent if the conviction rates remain low. Men will simply continue to be “nice men” deemed too up-standing to ever rape and escape “punishment” that way. As they do now.

If it hasn’t become clear yet: I’m not one for punitive solutions. I want to build a society in which rape doesn’t occur rather than one in which rapists are punished severely. I’m not sure to what degree a rape victim finds more peace when the person that has raped her is punished. I imagine it isn’t much to speak of. That woman has still been raped. And I would rather that didn’t happen to anyone at all.

I think, while the phrase “kill the rapist” brings comfort and sympathy to victims and provides some mental reprieve from that feeling of alone-ness–in actuality–it achieves nothing apart from rage followed by non-action. To me, that is the worst form of sympathy. Sympathy by words alone. Not comforting at all, actually.

As I’ve also said before–punishing men for raping will not ensure that women are no longer violated, it’ll just mean the violation is translated to another form. Punishment changes nothing. In a world where jails are a dime a dozen and rehabilitation is zero to none, we really can’t afford to cling to punishment as a means to unravel social ills. We have to be able to do better. Think better. Know better. Be better.

(This is not coming forth as eloquently as I would like but… such as life. You understand. If not… ask me questions. ♥).

Basically: don’t kill the rapist. Find out why he rapes and address THAT.


Rape Axe

A few times this week I’ve come across the “rape axe”. It is described as a condom-like apparatus that has “claws” that prevent a rapist from being able to pull out without being mutilated by said claws. Its aim, therefore, is that should a man rape, he should find this surprise waiting for him… And then he would have to go to the hospital to get these claws remove–basically, turning himself in.

While the idea of mutilating anyone who would do this heinous thing appeals to my angry, broken side, I can’t help but employ some rationality here. What exactly does the Rape Axe actually achieve?

We’ve been singing this song for decades-that rape is about violence and power. Lately, we’ve also started to explore violence as an important sub-culture in RSA. This sub-culture allows all forms of violence against men, women and children to become normal, even acceptable. These are the things we want to address.

In RSA we’ve become so comfortable with fear that we struggle to perceive change (or existence) coming from any place else. Sometimes it feels like we’re jailbirds–scared to death of the outside world, so we would rather get comfortable being afraid. Fear changes nothing for the better. Fear is, typically, what is misunderstood as hate.

The Rape Axe, for me, fails those two important preventative strategies. Firstly, it’s punitive. It doesn’t seek to create behaviour. It doesn’t address the root of the problem, just the symptoms. I keep saying to people that rape comes from the desire for power and from violence. It has very little to do with sex or arousal. That means more rapes with objects will occur (contrary to what you may think, that’s, really, not any better); and anal rape. There will, likely, be many other ways to overpower women without men having to put their penis(es) at risk.

So, it fails to thwart violence, except through fear–which leads to my second point. I don’t want men to stop raping simply because they are scared to be mutilated and caught. (I suspect that this may lead them towards preferentially raping children, whom they KNOW probably won’t have the rape axe–and, additionally, rural women will not be protected from spousal rape in this way. They will not have access to it, and if they do, they will not want to mutilate their husbands). I’m tired of fear being the safest place we have to hide. Fear doesn’t breed love… Or solutions. It breeds unjustified anger and victim blaming. As long as we use fear to thwart violence we aren’t diminishing the problem-merely shifting it elsewhere. We become satisfied that we think it’s gone just because we, now, can’t see it. And while we sleep, it carries on killing us.

While I applaud the intentions of the Rape Axe (and, honestly, in my weakness and anger, would probably buy one) I’m just thinking that as a public interest tool, in a country where rape is a popular, normal subculture (not a country where rape is mostly perpetrated by psychopaths), it becomes dangerous to seek mutilation is the best solution. We need to change the culture! I don’t want to accept that our situation has become so dire that we’ve exhausted all other avenues for solutions. We simply haven’t tried. Let’s start at the beginning.

“Real men” DO rape

There’s a dangerous equivocation and rhetoric that has existed when it comes to discussing rape–the dismissal and absolution of men who rape as being monsters.

While we would all like to believe that rape is always a crime of evil and malice–sometimes it is a crime of ignorance and insouciance. To call a rapist an animal or a monster is to absolve him of his responsibility not to rape. Animals and monsters can’t help who they are. We can’t be upset at a dog that licks our face against our will. It’s an animal. It has a sub-human understanding of self-restraint. It sets a dangerous cultural status quo if we call rapists animals.

In addition–it allows us to choose to dismiss and mistreat women who speak about having been raped by the men we know and love. If only animals rape then no-one we know personally could ever rape because we only associate with decent men. All of us. Yet, a small study conducted by the Medical Reaserch Council found that 37,4% of men in Gauteng admitted to having raped. 28% in the Eastern Cape. That means the chances are very high that each of us know at least one man who has raped before. And we are violently defending men who have raped simply because they LOOK/SEEM decent. And rapists can only ever be monsters?! Right.

Well the reality is that 75% of all sexual violence happens in the presence of (or is perpetrated by) someone known to the victim–possibly someone we, onlookers, could defend with our lives. It’s our brothers and fathers that rape. If rapists were so “other” about the way they carry themselves, we would have, long ago, unleashed a mob (of) justice on them. They would have been quickly eradicated from existence. At the very least, they would be shunned. No-one would fall in love with or marry them. Rape would be fairly uncommon. Alas, this is not the case. They fit right in. They are charming; awkward; slender; fat; confident. They drive BMWs; hatchbacks; station wagons. They are normal. That’s why we fall in love with them. That’s why they are guests at our dinner parties. That’s why we spend alone time with them. They aren’t scary at all. Until they are.

Besides that, what’s a real man? What disqualifies a grown up male from being a man? What are the societal rules or laws? How does excluding rapists from the group of real men, placing them in the subset of just “men” help? Or is it “fake men”? (fake is the antonym of real, right?). So men can rape. That’s allowed. But real men, no?

This rhetoric is harming the cause. It’s allowing us to wallow in our shit and happily chill, calling it something other than what it is. Real men DO rape. Wrap your mind around it. Only THEN can we start to find solutions–once we know the basics. Arm yourself. Knowledge is armour. (sometimes).

I repeat: Real men DO rape. (or, maybe just, men).


Today I broke down. All the stored energy from holding the pain in, from smiling and being a lady and from pretending it doesn’t still hurt that he raped me turned to tears. I wept for all the crazy jilted falsely-accusing lovers out there being told by the people that claim to care about them that they aren’t worthy to be held. I bawled for all the wonderful little girls who would never have their innocence heard because of the men who stole them–stole their very selves. My entire body heaved while tears ran down my cheeks because I remembered what I had learned in those moments–thandokuhle, no-one is in your corner. No-one knows or cares to know. So even when someone REALLY wants to love, I can’t see it. It’s safer to assume myself to be wrong.

I’m tired. Being kind is too much work. Being decent has no rewards. My smiles hurt. It should be easier when you accept your plight but it’s not. And I can’t. This can’t be happening to everyone I know.

Today I broke down because I’m simply too tired. I’ve been clawing for life for too long. And it hasn’t come. And I’m 5 minutes to giving up.

But how can I? Every moment that I use in keeping quiet, another girl is violated. Every time I take a break, many women/girls are raped. How does that not weigh on my conscience? How do I not have blood on my hands when I knew it would happen (as it does) and I kept silent–and then it happened? I may have the luxury of taking a break but that woman who has just been raped doesn’t. She will always have-just-been-raped. She can’t be un-raped for a few moments in her life a day. She doesn’t get breaks from the torment. I don’t know why, then, I deserve one as an activist.