Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sexual Assault in Africa

I stumbled across this article from Fox News on Google Reader today. It is disturbing -- four boys between the ages of 9 and 14 are accused of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl. All of the children are Liberian refugees living in Arizona.

There are so many aspects of this that are distressing that it is hard to know even where to begin. One thing that particularly struck me, though, is a paragraph near the end of the article:
"In some parts of Africa, women often are blamed for being raped for enticing men or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Girls who are raped often are shunned by their families."
This was an issue that was particularly apparent in Kenya as well. While victim-blaming is of course a problem in sexual assault cases in the US, it is far more pronounced in Kenya. To a certain extent, I think that there is a misguided attempt at control at its base. Women are told not to dress provocatively because that is one of the few ways in which they believe they can actively prevent sexual assault. However, the downside of this is that other aspects of sexual assault are never discussed, and this fosters a victim-blaming mentality. If the only thing you know about rape is that you must dress conservatively to prevent it, then when it happens -- no matter what the reason -- the logical reaction is to assign blame to the victim for not taking the necessary precautions.

In general, with regards to something as terrifying as sexual assault, people want to believe that there is a reason that it occurs, and thus something they can do to prevent it happening to them, but this type of thinking can easily backfire. This article makes me think that the same kind of misdirected thinking may be prevalent in Liberia as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment