Wednesday May 30, 2012
Rape – an ugly four-letter word
By LISA GOH
A 15-year-old schoolgirl who was walking along a main road was grabbed, pulled into a van and raped in May last year. The perpetrator was a sales assistant who raped the girl in his mother’s van.
Last February, a 13-year-old schoolgirl was raped at the home of a former imam, who was supposed to help her with religious studies and heal her from her bouts of hysteria.
He had told the girl that the act was part of the treatment to remove spirits that were causing her hysteria.
In another case, an 11-year-old girl was raped last June by her 45-year-old neighbour, who already has four wives, and has fathered 15 children.
He had picked her up from school, but instead of taking her home, he took her to some bushes and raped her.
Earlier this year, a 26-year-old painter was found guilty of some 11 sexual-related charges, including raping a 23-year-old kindergarten teacher, and outraging the modesty of a 13-year-old student and forcing her to perform oral sex on him.
Rape can happen anytime, anywhere and can happen to anyone, said Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist Dr P. Sundramoorthy.
Based on his experience in studying criminology, Dr Sundramoorthy says that most perpetrators do it for instant sexual gratification.
“Many classic Western studies have different classifications on why people rape – the power, anger or authority categories. But in Malaysia, sexual gratification is definitely a major contributing factor,” he says.
He adds that in a majority of rape cases, the perpetrator is usually an acquaintance.
“It doesn’t mean that the person has to be a close buddy, but it could be someone who works in the same building, goes to the same college, or someone who lives in the same neighbourhood.
“Cases in which the rapist is a complete stranger is actually not the norm though it happens from time to time,” he explains.
In many rape cases, Dr Sundramoorthy says it’s about opportunity, as opposed to the crime being premeditated.
Often, it’s only a serial-rapist who plans and premeditates his moves on his next victim.
“In most cases, it’s really your Mr-Nice-and-Ordinary guy. Almost any guy can be a potential perpetrator. When you talk about rape, a lot of women imagine a violent and abusive scenario.
“That is the case in some situations, but rape can happen even if no one is physically harming you.
“If a man uses emotional or psychological pressure on the victim, and continues his sexual advances to get what he wants, it’s still rape.
“The bottomline is, if a woman says ‘no’, it’s a ‘no’. This is what many men fail to understand,” he elaborates.
According to Bukit Aman, there were 3,382 rape cases reported in 2010 nationwide, and 3,026 rape cases reported last year.
However, Dr Sundramoorthy says these figures may not be an accurate representation of all the cases that have happened in the country.
He estimates that for every reported case, there are easily five to 10 unreported cases, and he urges rape victims to file their police reports.
“If you don’t, chances are, the perpetrator will just move on to their next victim. I’m sure you would not want someone else to go through what you’ve gone through.”
Contrary to popular belief, he says that most rape cases do not happen in “dark alleys or old warehouses” – it happens in homes.
Why is that so?
“It’s about being vulnerable at any point in time. Most people will only let their guard down in places where they feel most secure. Women should never let their guard down until an appropriate relationship has been established that is based sufficiently on trust. They should always be aware of the company they’re with.
“Applying common sense plays a significant role when judging one’s personality,” he says.
Vulnerability, he adds, increases when mood-modifying substances – such as drugs or alcohol – is involved.
When these substances are involved, he says, inhibitions are removed.
For men, it could mean doing things that they would normally never dream of doing, while for women, it’s increasing one’s vulnerability.
“Please don’t get me wrong. That’s not to say that women who drink are asking for it. That is definitely not what I mean,” he says.
Then, on to the age-old question - does a woman’s attire matter when it comes to rape?
“Utter rubbish! Look at the statistics – victims come in all shapes, sizes, age, creed and ethnicity. From babies, who are just a few months old, to women who are in their 80s, and disabled people, there are rape victims from all these groups.
“To say that a woman’s attire is what causes her to be raped is absolutely a misconception and a myth! For me, it’s especially sad when professionals and policy makers, who are supposed to be intelligent, hold on to this misconception.”
What needs to be done, he says, is for people to be educated.
Perhaps, even courses on human behaviour, and what constitutes criminal conduct, should be introduced in schools.
“In cases of statutory rape, for instance, it’s not always an older man taking advantage of a young, minor girl. Very often, the boy and the girl are of the same age group. When an 18-year-old boy has sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend, do you think he’s aware that he’s committing statutory rape? Most of the time, they don’t know,” he says.
As for young children, it’s the parents’ responsibility to take all precautionary measures when deciding who to leave their child with.
“Parents have the right to demand to know who the workers or staff at a nursery or day care centre are. You should demand to find out.
“Also, don’t simply leave your child with a neighbour because, sometimes, you really don’t know who these people are. Sometimes, even in a family scenario, there are cases of incest.
“It’s sad, but that’s how society has come to be,” says Dr Sundramoorthy.
Family support vital for rape survivors