A rape in progress, Part II

Expanding on the discussion from here ...

In the paper Anthropology's "Fierce" Yanomami: Narratives of Sexual Politics in the Amazon, Sharon Tiffany and Kathleen Adams provide the following opening passage:

Imagine a society in which one woman in every three is raped, usually by a man she knows, consider the consequences of living in a society where one third of all women are beaten during pregnancy and 35 percent of women using emergency medical facilities are battered . Since wee are anthropologists, readers may mistakenly think that these appalling data were collected in an exotic society, an distant world where it is presumed that unpredictable and threatening behavior is commonplaces. Indeed, our friends and colleagues inevitably ask if it is safe for us to travel alone to remote and problematic places which presumably do not enjoy the law and order of civilization.

ResearchBlogging.orgThe statistics above come, of course, from American medical data.

The reason I bring this up at all, and leave you somewhat hanging (you should read the entire article) is because I am concerned that the reaction to the present discussion on rape, which focuses on Africa at the moment, will be to sit from a position of cultural and economic privilege and fail to see that this is a human problem, not a third world "Bungabungaland" problem. My comments about Vietnam, which come from Brownmiller's Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape raised hackles, and I even got a bit of hate mail. But it is simply true ... men of all cultures and ethnicities, even the men you know well and like and are good buddies with, even your father, brothers, and sons, when in a state of war will do all sorts of things that one just does not do otherwise, including killing, including pillaging, including rape. The quirky thing is that we Westerners live in a culture in which we believe that this is not true. But it is true, despite our beliefs. It is true enough at home (judging by the above passage) that we cannot expect much different in the battlefields, the occupied villages, and the lonely wilderness of Hobbesian warre.

War is a different place, a different landscape in every sense of the word.

I quickly note that this need not be the case. One can kill and pillage and not rape, as has been documented for certain armies in the past. I would not assume that the pattern seen in the jungles of Vietnam, the trenches of France in WW I, at Anzio or in Iraq are at all the same, and there is probably as much variation among western armies and occupation forces as there is among African, Asian or any other region, and there is certainly a great deal of variation across historical time as well.

We could train our armies to rape less. Or, we could seek non military solutions to our problems and avoid the whole problem to begin with. But we (Westerners) can't do that alone. We need to change the way most of the world words economically, socially, and politically.

So get working on that, won't you?

Tiffany, Sharon W., & Adams, Kathleen J. (1994). Anthropology's 'Fierce' Yanomami: Narratives of Sexual Politics in the Amazon NWSA Journal, 6 (2)


More like this

there are different levels of rape.
A lot of American rape is "date rape". And the perpetrator of a violent rape faces punishment.

In Africa, it has more to do with the low status of women than with war per se. Tribal women are protected by husbands/fathers or brothers...without these men, they are vulnerable, and are trained to obey those in authority.

As for armies, the US soldier knows he would face trial.

In contrast, "punishment rape" is alas too common...whether it be the Red Army in Berlin, the French occupying army let lose to punish a city for an attack on them, or the mass rapes in Bengladesh after they declared independence. Many African war rapes are this type of punishment, often against a different tribe (e.g. mass rapes of Tusti women in Ruanda)

American soldiers are not always so well behaved as you suggest.

If you wanted to promote an atmosphere in the military where rape was abhorrent, you'd have to mention the word. You'd have to mention sex, by extension. Just imagine what all those evangelical chaplains would say.

Most cultures are backwards on sex. And attitudes towards rape a big part of that. The US is no exception.

By Nils Ross (not verified) on 01 Jun 2009 #permalink

Those are some scary statistics Greg. To Nancy Reyes: Different levels of rape? That's right up there with being a little pregnant, or only mostly dead. I don't believe for one second that you could look in the eyes of an American little girl raped by her father and tell her that her terror is nothing compared to a Tutsi woman raped in Rowanda. Rape is rape. There aren't different levels, just different circumstances.

No, Li, they most certainly are NOT. We just prosecuted a soldier for the rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the execution of her family, didn't we?

I agree with Greg that the mass rapes being perpetrated in various war zones, especially in Africa, should not be viewed with such detachment as we might be tempted to consider the problem. In his words, it shouldn't be thought of as just a world away in "Bungabungaland".

On the other hand, he also suggests that just about any man, if only he found himself under "bungabunga" conditions, would behave just as wickedly---which in that sense does seem to me to make it a uniquely "Bungabungaland" problem.

I am one of those people who thinks that civilization has made progress. Cultural relativism will do us no good here.

Of course, this is just the opinion of a privileged, white male. It's probably smart to defer to Greg's first-hand and extensive academic experience here.

"... most of the world words economically ..."

Did you mean "works"?

By MadScientist (not verified) on 01 Jun 2009 #permalink

Rape is raped. Men has put emotionally scars to women. We have to practice human rights for children and women. Soldiers must be the first one to do so as they are protectors of the society.

William: I has always been true that the number of men in the military prosecuted for rape is a fraction of the cases. That man must have raped the "wrong" woman, is all.

mysie, "To Nancy Reyes: Different levels of rape? That's right up there with being a little pregnant, or only mostly dead. " not to disagree, but it is correct that there are different levels. If one is to make a statement like "half of the soldiers in Viet Nam have raped" then it is reasonable to ask the question: "Does that count enslaved prostitution" or is it only forced violent rape. Surely it is all bad but there are different ways to count.

Some guy on Gruen Transfer made mention of an awareness campaign done in the US focusing on the 1 in 3 women will be raped statistics.

It said:
Your Mother.
Your Sister.
Your Daughter.
1 in 3 women will be raped. Which will you let it be?

People get upset and/or laugh when certain codes of football here in Australia enacted "training" for players on how to appropriately deal with females (eg. "No means No", "If your best friend's girlfriend is drunk and hits on you, you don't have to sleep with her") - but the truth is such education can be useful, and is probably necessary in more wider circles then just our male atheletes.

I did not mean to imply that it is only American soldiers who are poorly behaved. It is potentially all soldiers from any country.

Athletes are a huge problem, however. Most crimes of this sort committed by younger men are committed by athletes.

They have the switch, it would seem.

By Elizabeth (not verified) on 01 Jun 2009 #permalink

I was wondering when someone would post on American stats. I wanted to on ...Aetiology?? (sp) earlier, but I didn't have time to collect stat sources and I can't stand the thought of posting on scienceblogs without some sort of citation. That said...

Nancy Reyes: This is anecdotal, but what the hey...
My friend was raped a month ago, by a man she had a restraining order against. She had been in a short relationship with him until he beat the shit out of her. She left him and took out the restraining order.
She ran into him one night, while she had been drinking, and he beat and raped her. She had to have four stitches in her vagina and she was covered in bruises. She immediately called the cops and completed the rape kit, including over 30 pictures of bruises.

The DA has refused to press charges because she had been drinking and had previously been in a relationship with him. Despite the help of an advocate from the sexual response crisis unit in town, she cannot get charges pressed against him.

Two months ago a young friend of mine from my hometown had an ex partner attempt to rape her. She fended him off, though he hit her and choked her. She won't go to the police because she thinks that nothing will happen and it will just piss him off.

This is reflective of the 'low status' of women in this country. These women are financially poor, and do not have the financial or social status that commands the police to 'do something'.

It is not a given that violent rape is prosecuted. And 'date rape' is just rape, and is inherently violent.

By heather sf (not verified) on 01 Jun 2009 #permalink

When no-one stands up to immorality and injustice it becomes endemic in a society. They all inwardly know it's wrong but they tolerate it and would probably even fight to maintain it. The world is a scary place not because of the bad things people do but because of all the people who stand there, watching and doing nothing about it. Should "savages" be erradicated? I say things can be changed when the hubs of injustice are destroyed or stopped and then the rest of the sheep will learn but really they will sit there watching as their whole society changes in front of their eyes. Sometimes the only right thing to do is to replace a culture wether the anthropologists like it or not. Like I said before on the first post, there is universal morality and those who do not fit the general mould are obviously wrong and should be re-shaped. It's only logical; even though it may appear ruthless it is better for all in the long run.

By Shadow Caster (not verified) on 01 Jun 2009 #permalink

Shadow Caster, your indignation is impressive, but which hubs are you looking to destroy? Did you read this post? This isn't a problem that happens "over there." It happens everywhere.

If my post had immediately followed Li's, it might have been more obvious that I was agreeing U.S. soldiers are "not always so well behaved", as in the latest anecdotal case I brought up. Sad to say, loads more bullshit probably flies under the radar.

I remember watching Casualties of War before I had even got my short and curlies. Here I was thinking I'd be seeing Marty McFly with an M-16. But no, it's about the psychology of war rape, and I was left thinking it's the most horrible thing that could ever happen.

And I didn't even know it was commonplace.

One thing about the "1 in 3 women," There can be a few perpetrators and many victims. If the majority of rapes are date rape for instance, it seems plausible that only a few men are perpetrators with many victims. I have no idea if date rape is more common than, say incest type rape or violent stranger. As has been mentioned some are not prosecuted. If he isn't prosecuted and incarcerated, he can just move on to the next victim.

I guess what I am thinking is like in the case of a burglar. How many burglars only rob one apartment? If someone is disposed to rape, he may continue until incarcerated. It makes me wonder if this is just basic law enforcement. Unlike a burglar, who if he got a better job, might quit, a rapist may not quit if he has a wife or girlfriend. The abuse could just change shape.

I have no idea if date rape is more common than, say incest type rape or violent strange

Enormously so.

If the majority of rapes are date rape for instance, it seems plausible that only a few men are perpetrators with many victims.

My impression is that this is actually truer of violent-stranger-type rape than date rape, but I don't have statistics on it.

so i had something bad happen to me. he's dead now. and i feel better. no, two wrongs don't make a right, but fuck him. i don't know what happened to him, and i don't care. there's no blood on my hands.

maybe there is a 'kill' switch that gets triggered? i am a bit jaded to see how donated money is dispersed.

Greg said:

"One can kill and pillage and not rape, as has been documented for certain armies in the past. I would not assume that the pattern seen in the jungles of Vietnam, the trenches of France in WW I, at Anzio or in Iraq are at all the same, and there is probably as much variation among western armies and occupation forces as there is among African, Asian or any other region, and there is certainly a great deal of variation across historical time as well."

Thank you for these two very important points. Armies need not rape, even in an occupied country, and it's something seen in the West as well as elsewhere.

One can even find during the same conflict, in the same army, both kinds of behavior. Take the case of the French colonial (mostly North African) troops in WWII, which took an important part in the liberation of Europe but didn't get recognition until very late. In 1943, these troops first were sent to Italy and, outside combat, engaged in rape, loot and brutality toward civilians. But next year, when it was necessary to send them to France, these same troops were a model of good behavior! There were probably more French women raped by American G.I.'s, in 1944-45, than by these African soldiers. (And yes, some G.I.s in Normandy raped. There are well documented cases.)

The reason for the difference is obvious... In Italy, the officers, apparently, let the troops know that they didn't care, they washed their hands in advance about possible abuse, and abuse happened. Not something the Allies brag about, of course. Italy was enemy territory, Mussolini's troops had taken part in the occupation of France in 1940-42 and the French (even in high command) felt that Italians didn't deserve favors.

But in next year's campaign in France, the same officers and high command made it plainly known that the troops would be on a tight leash and that French women would have to be considered as sacrosanct...

I have heard one story of an organized rape in Italy by someone who was in the company where it happened but foundit disgusting and did not participate. That was with a US unit.

#4, I think there can be different levels of rape, in the same way there are different degrees of crime and criminality. A pickpocket is not on the same level as a bankrobber, and a one-time shoplifter is not on the same level as a habitual one. While there is a clear delineation between "theft" and "not theft," there's a whole gradient once you get beyond that binary distinction.

Maybe a more appropriate comparison would be assault. If you punch someone in the arm, it can be construed as assault. It's also assault if you beat them nearly to death with a sledgehammer.

Date rape or acquaintance rape is much, much more common than stranger rape or kidnapping-type rape in our country. It's practically an epidemic and part of the problem is that so many people don't take it seriously. It's not any less than traumatic than stranger rape, and it can be even worse if the victim trusted the rapist before it happened. There are many ways in which date rape is harder on the victim because it's much harder to successfully prosecute the rapist (if the judicial system even bothers to try), and the victim might have to face her attacker on a regular basis, if they go to the same school or work together or just live in the same small town. Victims of date rape are also more likely to be the subject of victim-blaming. It's a mistake to think that date rape isn't as serious as stranger rape.

I don't believe those statistics about rape in the US. Where did you get them? From a reputable journal or some lefty blog? I would like to read the paper these stats came from to evaluate their methods and criteria.

By Novathecat (not verified) on 02 Jun 2009 #permalink