Excuses for rape
A woman was allegedly raped by several men at a rum-fueled birthday bash last week. In the wake of the incident, the police spokesperson was quoted as saying, “We believe it happened due to the effects of the alcoholic drink that they consumed.” Online comments echoed this, blaming the victim for drinking with persons she considered her friends. And one of the suspects, who was purportedly taking a video of the assault, excused himself by saying he was just requested to take the footage.
It’s appalling that many Filipinos—including law enforcers—still maintain these excuses for rape and sexual assault. Blame alcohol, blame the victim, claim passivity. This mentality diminishes the culpability of sexual predators; it makes them less answerable for the crime they should be fully responsible for.
Rape is solely the fault of the rapist. Rape is sexual intercourse without the other party’s valid consent. This is clear as day, yet many seem to think that the lines are blurred and bendable.
Is it rape if the victim was drunk and could not have properly expressed their consent? Yes, and that is not an excuse. Is it rape if the victim happily joined a group of people in a drinking spree (though did not consent to intercourse)? Yes, and that is not an excuse. Is it rape if your friends say it’s okay (though the victim has not consented)? Yes, and that is not an excuse.
Rape is not an “expected” result of drinking sessions or hanging out with the opposite gender—at least not among sane, civilized humans. It is far from normal. Yes, people have hormones and primal instincts and triggers, but fully evolved humans also have the mental and moral faculties to overcome these when needed. We are evolved enough to have cultivated the concepts of respect, restraint and the rights of others. And we are highly capable of observing these.
More misconceptions, archaic reasoning and ignorance abound about rape and consent. Consider, for instance, rape that occurs among married couples. In 2014, the Supreme Court tackled a marital rape case for the first time. It ruled that marriage “should not be viewed as a license for a husband to forcibly rape his wife with impunity. A married woman has the same right to control her own body as does an unmarried woman.” This was a laudable decision (though it must also apply if genders were reversed).
But, however well-founded the ruling was, it was met with repulsive responses from newsreaders. “There is no such thing as marital rape,” goes one online comment. “Sex is implied in marriage. A woman submits herself to the wishes of her husband.”
It’s a mindset so incredibly unjust and antiquated, it makes your head spin. It considers one party to be lower than the other, taking away their control over their own body. As if that person is a slave. Or a lifeless object. A marriage license does not legitimize this kind of subjugation.
Meanwhile, outside the context of marriage, there are people who are also victimized by someone they trusted. Is nonconsensual sex considered rape if it was forced by a sweetheart? Yes, it is. If it was pressed by an authority figure? Yes, it is. If it was imposed during a date or a fling? Yes, it is.
The worst part of these violations is when the victims themselves cannot even make sense of what had been done to them. Their prior familiarity with their rapists makes them second-guess their own participation. Did I let it happen? Was it okay because I liked him?
In response to these doubts, it must be made clear: Rape is rape, even when it is committed by a lover, a spouse or a trusted person. It is not always sudden violence from a stranger in a dark alley. Many times, it is systematic, gradual, maneuvered; many times, it is pushing the limits of a victim’s trust so subtly they don’t grasp it.
There is one solid line when it comes to rape: the lack of valid consent. This is universal, even if, regrettably, our current anti-rape law does not put much emphasis on consent as a key element. (The law also sets the age of consent at 12 years old—an extremely low bar that needs to be raised.)
But it shouldn’t take a law to tell a human being that consent is absolutely fundamental. The lack of it constitutes rape. There are no excuses.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.