This past year has been absolutely chock full of cringe-worthy soundbites and disheartening stories about rape around the world. From the ubiquitous mishandling (and biological misunderstanding) of the subject by politicians in the 2012 election, to recent horrific events in the US and abroad, it seems that we can’t escape from the heart-breaking regularity of sexual assault around the world.
Of late, two high-profile news stories involving rape have been vying for space among the headlines. In India, the gruesome gang rape that claimed the life of a 23-year-old woman will come to trial today. Meanwhile, in Steubenville, Ohio, protests and dissent continue to arise around the mishandling of a sexual assault trial that indicted two of the small town’s star high school football players.
Despite having occurred on opposite sides of the world, the aforementioned cases bear some striking similarities. Both are characterized by lackluster and negligent responses from the authorities, as well as vicious attempts to shame the women involved, blaming them for their own abuse.
But there is one shared aspect of these two stories that we can take hope from. In both cases, the call has been raised for women to respond by sharing their own stories of rape and abuse. The father of the New Delhi gang-rape victim has made her name public, saying that "revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter."
In Steubenville, hackers and “occupiers” in Guy Fawkes masks have descended upon the town, using social media to disseminate information about the boys responsible for the August assault. The inadequate and misguided treatment of the case has been aired for the world to see, and people around the world are responding by sharing their own stories of being shamed and ignored after experiencing and trying to cope with sexual assault. The Daily Beast recently featured a compilation of readers' tales, and other sites are sure to follow suit.
Though the global fight for gender equality and women’s rights is far from over, this newly emphasized response to sexual assault is a bold step in the right direction for victims and advocates alike. Speaking out about our own experiences with rape and sexual assault forces the issue out of the shadows and into the public awareness, where it cannot be ignored. It’s easy to feel helpless, watching these horrible cases unfold from afar, but even those of us removed from these crimes by states, countries, and continents can contribute to the fight simply by sharing our stories.
No, global rape culture will not be drowned out by one voice in the blogosphere. But if enough voices speak up, a meaningful discussion about justice for victims of sexual assault will soon become inevitable.
Photos via Daniel Berehulak, CNN, Thomas Ondrey