Rape: Corporate Camouflage and Across the Gender Divide

By M.K. Styllinski

“When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town.  But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder.  You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you.”

– Deuteronomy 20:10-14


As the above Bible quotation illustrates, whether a psychopathic God, tribal leader or armchair geo-politician such as Henry Kissinger, rape and plunder can be used as powerful political tool.

To step down the implications of ponerology we can use the standard definition of rape where a male forces a female or another male to submit to sexual intercourse against his or her will. We can see that the act of rape is both a literal and metaphorical expression of the ponerisation of social systems. Definitions of rape, rates of reporting, collection of data, prosecution and conviction has led to rape being the most contested of all crime-related statistics. It is also considered the most under-reported crime due to socio-cultural stigmas; the individual’s distrust of the authorities (as well as their culture of denial) the prospect of facing the attacker in court and his or her own sense of shame.

According to a 2001-2002 United Nations report where government statistical data was compiled from over 65 countries 250,000 cases of male-female rape or attempted rape were recorded by police annually. [1]  The rate of rape may still be conservative when we consider that in cases where women whose husbands or boyfriends force them to have sex they are unlikely to say “yes” when asked whether or not rape has occurred. To make things worse, male-female rape is the only kind reported in some countries.

Award-winning journalist and human rights activist Jan Goodwin described the horrors in the Democratic Republic of Congo over ten years ago. Her article illustrates how so called “globalisation” is largely nothing more than an excuse to export more systems of neo-imperialistic exploitation. The myth of neo-liberal democracy continues to feed on the rest of the world, most notably in the war-weary continent of Africa where rape plays a strategic role in the fortunes of tribal warfare, governments and corporations.

Goodwin writes:

Last May, 6-year-old Shashir was playing outside her home near Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), when armed militia appeared. The terrified child was carried kicking and screaming into the bush. There, she was pinned down and gang-raped. Sexually savaged and bleeding from multiple wounds, she lay there after the attack, how long no one knows, but she was close to starving when finally found. Her attackers, who’d disappeared back into the bush, wiped out her village as effectively as a biblical plague of locusts.

‘This little girl couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk when she arrived here. Shashir had to be surgically repaired. I don’t know if she can be mentally repaired,’ says Faida Veronique, a 47-year-old cook at Doctors on Call for Service (DOCS), a tented hospital in the eastern city of Goma, who took in the brutalized child.

‘Why do they rape a child?’ asks Marie-Madeleine Kisoni, a Congolese counselor who works with raped women and children. “We don’t understand. There’s a spirit of bestiality here now. I’ve seen 2- and 3-year-olds raped. The rebels want to kill us, but it’s more painful to kill the spirit instead.’ [2]

And “killing the spirit” is the part of the armoury of corporate psychopathy, fostered and encouraged.

In the Eastern regions of the Congo gang rape still continues with the relatively new phenomena of “fistulas” caused by the introduction of objects such as sticks, pipes or gun barrels into the vagina, usually after repeated raping. These acts cause serious internal damage leading to the rupturing of the walls that separate the vagina and bladder or rectum. Instances of carefully shooting the victim in the vagina so that the woman or girl remains alive are increasing. Dr. Denis Mukwege, medical director of Panzi Hospital:  “The perpetrators are trying to make the damage as bad as they can, to use it as a kind of weapon of war, a kind of terrorism. Instead of just killing the woman, she goes back to her village permanently and obviously marked. ‘I think it’s a strategy put in place by these groups to disrupt society, to make husbands flee, to terrorize.” [3]

The age old, colonial formula came under some rare scrutiny by a UN Security Council panel which cited: “… eighty-five multinational corporations, including some of the largest US companies in their fields, for their involvement in the illegal exploitation of natural resources from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The commerce in these ‘blood’ minerals…drives the conflict. The brutality of the militias – the sexual slavery, transmission of HIV/AIDS through rape, cannibalism, slaughter and starvation, forced recruitment of child soldiers – has routinely been employed to secure access to mining sites or insure a supply of captive labor.” [4]

congovideowarchild.org

(click on the image above to watch the documentary)

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“A mother carries her children in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Forcibly displaced women face grave threats and abuse in the volatile region.” – ‘ Source: The Congolese rape victims a UNHCR officer will never forget’ By Francesca Fontanini in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo | Telling the Human Story, 3 September 2009.


UNICEF works with the same multinationals, which patronize and donate to many other leading NGOs and charities. Rape has always been a weapon of war, but now it has been recognised as an intentional tool rather than a by-product of conflict. As the author states, this is an international problem where the yolk of conscience that has long since seeped away.

As of 2013, this ponerological disease has begun to spread into the social infrastructure where reports of some teachers and senior officials raping school children in their care. According to a July 6th 2013 report by the Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ASADHO)  “Young girls are regularly raped in schools” in Kinshasa with local police providing statistics for the town of Matadi. As the report outlined, the abuse is met: “… with authorities and the justice system remaining silent.”

Despite these horrors, there are dedicated people on the ground achieving minor and sometimes major successes. What acts as a constant brick-wall to progress is the governmental bureaucracy and corporate complicity which handicaps the long-term effectiveness of these breakthroughs. Successful prosecutions for these crimes are pitifully small and will remain so when human rights violations serve the corporate and banking interests. Ancient tribal divisions are purposely exacerbated and brought into sharp relief in order to monopolise the rich resources available in the African continent. This is now common knowledge and easily verified. Yet, at the time of the Rwanda genocide for instance, the media sought fit to paint such a human disaster as simple blood-lust fuelled by tribal racism that simply surfaced “out of the blue”. These deep insecurities and fears were brought to boiling point and unleashed on a nation precisely because vested interests knew where to apply the pressure so that corporate plunder could continue while Africa’s citizens were fully embroiled in killing each other. The divide and rule formula is nothing new, though the effects of lighting the tinder-box and the required atrocities can burn way out of control.

In 2012 the number of rapes rose dramatically due to various rebel militia groups upping the ante. The presence of Western corporations in DRC and their indirect funding of groups and militias to intentionally keep this resource-rich country destabilized is now a matter of record and has continued despite many commentators drawing our attention to the blatant hypocrisy on show. Unfortunately, until our socio-political system changes and changes radically, we can only expect the results of this neo-colonialism and its horrific effects to continue.

Across the Gender Divide

Though as much a reality as female rape, male rape is barely acknowledged as a problem, let alone an endemic one. In East Africa, where male rape is high, bringing the issue to light is hindered by the fact that homosexuality is still seen as a crime in 38 of the 53 African nations.

In a recent Observer article journalist Will Storr reported on male rape in Africa notably from victims in and around the Congo. Storr interviewed Eunice Owiny who is employed by Makerere University’s Refugee Law Project (RLP) in Kampala, Kenya “… to help displaced people from all over Africa work through their traumas.”  The situation, while horrific for women and children is all the more harrowing for men because no one wants to know. “They will probably be ostracised by friends, rejected by family and turned away by the UN and the myriad international NGOs that are equipped, trained and ready to help women. They are wounded, isolated and in danger. In the words of Owiny: ‘They are despised.’” [5]

Slowly victims are hearing of the services offered by RLP and attendance is rising rapidly. Storr met several young men out of more than 150 who had been raped and assaulted during conflict. He recounted the tale of one Jean-Paul, a student at university in Congo, who had been studying electronic engineering when his father – a wealthy businessman – was accused by the army of aiding the enemy and shot dead. Jean Paul fled in January 2009, only to be abducted by rebels. Along with six other men and six women he was marched to a forest in the Virunga National Park. Once captured Jean-Paul was taken deep into the jungle with the other women. While they were told to make coffee and fetch water, the rebels set up camp and then turned their attention to their new captives:

 ‘You are all spies,’ the commander said. ‘I will show you how we punish spies.’ He pointed to Jean Paul. “Remove your clothes and take a position like a Muslim man.”

Jean Paul thought he was joking. He shook his head and said: ‘I cannot do these things.’

The commander called a rebel over. Jean Paul could see that he was only about nine years old. He was told, “Beat this man and remove this clothes.’ The boy attacked him with his gun butt. Eventually, Jean Paul begged: ‘Okay, okay. I will take off my clothes.’ Once naked, two rebels held him in a kneeling position with his head pushed towards the earth.

At this point, Jean Paul breaks off. The shaking in his lip more pronounced than ever, he lowers his head a little further and says: “I am sorry for the things I am going to say now.” The commander put his left hand on the back of his skull and used his right to beat him on the backside “like a horse”. Singing a witch doctor song, and with everybody watching, the commander then began. The moment he started, Jean Paul vomited.

Eleven rebels waited in a queue and raped Jean Paul in turn. When he was too exhausted to hold himself up, the next attacker would wrap his arm under Jean Paul’s hips and lift him by the stomach. He bled freely: ‘Many, many, many bleeding,” he says, ‘I could feel it like water.’ Each of the male prisoners was raped 11 times that night and every night that followed. […]

It is for this reason that both perpetrator and victim enter a conspiracy of silence and why male survivors often find, once their story is discovered, that they lose the support and comfort of those around them. In the patriarchal societies found in many developing countries, gender roles are strictly defined. [6]

The most shocking aspect was revealed to Storr when he discovered that not only is “male sexual violence a component of wars all over the world” but that international aid organisations are failing victims. He quotes Lara Stemple’s study from the University of California which cites a review of 4,076 NGOs that have addressed wartime sexual violence. “Only 3 percent of them mentioned the experience of men in their literature. “Typically … ‘as a passing reference.’” [7]

RLP director Chris Dolan was not surprised: “The organisations working on sexual and gender-based violence don’t talk about it,” he says. “It’s systematically silenced. If you’re very, very lucky they’ll give it a tangential mention at the end of a report. You might get five seconds of: ‘Oh and men can also be the victims of sexual violence.’ But there’s no data, no discussion.” [8]

The reason that there is no discussion supports the data in this blog/book that there is gender bias that is now equal if not greater towards men than women in a variety of social and cultural domains, especially within charity and non-governmental organisations or as Dolan wryly points out: “There’s a fear among them that this is a zero-sum game; that there’s a pre-defined cake and if you start talking about men, you’re going to somehow eat a chunk of this cake that’s taken them a long time to bake.”

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“There are no detailed statistics, but sexual violence against men and boys is increasingly being recognized as a protection concern in conflict and forced displacement situations.”

UNHCR issues guidelines on protection of male rape victims


Dolan also mentions a November 2006 UN report that followed an international conference on sexual violence in this area of East Africa where the authors insisted that the definition of rape was restricted to women, where even:  “… one of the RLP’s donors, Dutch Oxfam, refused to provide any more funding unless he’d promise that 70 percent of his client base was female. Another serious case of male rape was referred to the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR who told him: “We have a programme for vulnerable women, but not men.” (Happily, things are slowly beginning to improve.  For the first time, guidelines for UNHCR staff and other aid workers were issued in 2012 on: “… how to identify and support male victims of rape and other sexual violence in conflict and displacement situations.”)

Storr is reminded of a scene described by Eunice Owiny: “‘There is a married couple,’ she said. “The man has been raped, the woman has been raped. Disclosure is easy for the woman. She gets the medical treatment, she gets the attention, she’s supported by so many organisations. But the man is inside, dying.” Dolan agrees: “Part of the activism around women’s rights is: ‘Let’s prove that women are as good as men.’ But the other side is you should look at the fact that men can be weak and vulnerable.’ ” [9]

This gender bias and overt discrimination against men is a concurrent theme and represents a serious problem in organisations tasked to help all those suffering from human rights abuses.  It will need not just a radical change in the law to change such aberrations, but equally dramatic change in the very notion of economics and the unfettered powers of international banking. This is the form of globalisation which underpins almost all of our social ills and the eventual atrocities which inevitably occur. Unless the core issues are addressed humanitarian professionals who struggle daily to cope with these iniquities will be forever submerged in the tide of trans-national profits divorced from values and any accountability for their crimes.

It would also be a mistake to see the exploitation of ancient tribal feuds as an exclusively African problem. The same atrocities were witnessed in the former Yugoslavia where the primary drive for was the control of oil, weapons sales and the creation of a geo-strategic arena called Kosovo. This was also under the guise of an humanitarian effort.

Among countries which report these statistics, the United States has the highest rape rate, 4 times higher than that of Germany, and 20 times higher than that of Japan and 13 times higher than that of England, though the latter country’s rates are increasing with 5,000 children under sixteen raped every year. [10]  In 1991 alone there were estimated to be 700,000 rapes of adult women,[11] while 1 in 3 sexual assault victims are under the age of 12. [12] The figure for reported child rapes for the same year is 1.4 million. The first comprehensive report on the financial cost of rape has the highest annual victim costs at $127 billion per year with child abuse at $56 billion. [13] Unsurprisingly perhaps: “compared to their non-crime victim counterparts, three times more likely to develop major depression; 4.1 times more likely to have seriously contemplated suicide and 13 times more likely to have actually made a suicide attempt.” [14]

By 2008, the statistical counts and rates * of rape in each country has continued to rise with the US, taking the lead, followed by United Kingdom, France, Korea, Germany, the Russian Federation and Sweden representing some of the highest counts of rape. While Belgium, New Zealand, United States, Lesotho, Trinidad and Tobago and Sweden are reaching the highest rates of rape per year. However, even the United Nations report is far from definitive when we realise that there are differences between recording and reporting as well as difficulties in bringing to trial or being convicted as well. We must also include the disparity of definitions for rape around the world and the significant amounts of data still missing. Finally, even when reports of cases making it to court can be counted, less than half of those arrested for rape are convicted.[15]

High profile cases of false rape accusations by women and the oft quoted spectre of “date rape” in Western Europe have tarnished and distorted the acute problem of rape in society fuelling the idea that all rape is merely in the imagination of the female concerned. Such fraudulent claims only do harm to objective investigation to sexual assault overall and most certainly to those accused, often ruining lives in the process. Even if those accused are subsequently cleared, the damage is done, leading to stigmatization from colleagues and friends and in some cases resulting in suicide. According to UK Home Office research, between “…3 percent and 9 percent of all reports of rape are found to be false … with 16 and 25 making up both the largest group of victims and the accused.” [16]

Given the rise in narcissism within our societies – and women in particular – this may be, in some way connected. The law is also very different in the United Kingdom and the United States. In one case the British Court of Appeal dismissed a claim by a former nurse who was jailed for two years after falsely accusing a man she had met online. The presiding judge said that false allegations damage conviction rates of genuine rapes and are “terrifying” for innocent victims where: “False complaints of rape necessarily impact upon the minds of jurors trying rape cases.” [17]

In the US no appeals can take place because no such law exists for false rape claims. Of the 90,427 forcible rapes reported in 2007, 40 percent were cleared by arrest or “exceptional means.”  This translates as those suspects whom have died before an arrest can be made (not very common) the accusation of rape has been retracted (common) the suspect is held in another state with jurisdiction and extradition has been denied or evidence for a rape is non-existent. A percentage of rape complaints have been classified as “unfounded” by the police for decades and excluded from the FBI’s statistics. [18] Not exactly a scientific way of producing definitive data on such an important issue.

An article by Bruce Gross in the Forensic examiner described this anomaly in the following terms: “…there are no formal negative consequences for the person who files a false report of rape. Not only did the false allegation serve a purpose for the accusers, they actually never have to fully admit to themselves, their family, or their friends that the report was a lie. Although there are grounds for bringing legal action against the accuser, it is virtually never done. Even should a charge be filed, in most jurisdictions filing a false report is only a misdemeanor.” [19]

Present day figures on rape have increased. According to the UK Government’s Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Girls, 80,000 women are raped a year, and 400,000 women are sexually assaulted in the UK alone. [20] In 2012, thousands of women in India took to the streets to protest “endemic and unchecked violence against women” sparked by the death of a woman named Damini who had been gang-raped, dying of her injuries a few weeks later. An article in the UK Independent highlighted the fact that it is comforting to think that this is a strictly Indian or African problem when in fact, it is a convenient myth designed to brush what is a global problem, under the cultural carpet. One example from the developed nations of Europe came from France in 1999, where: “… two then-teenagers – named only as Nina and Stephanie – were raped almost every day for six months. Young men would queue up to rape them, patiently waiting for their friends to finish in secluded basements. After a three-week trial this year, 10 of the 14 accused left the courtroom as free men; the other four were granted lenient sentences of one year at most.” [21]

As we can see, the fluctuations of gender bias manifests in many different ways.

 


* “Counts” are raw numbers; the “rate” is the statistical average from that data.


Notes
[1] ‘The Eighth United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and the Operations of Criminal Justice Systems’ (2001–2002) – Table 02.08 Total recorded rapes.
[2] ‘Silence = Rape’ By Jan Goodwin, The Nation, 2004.
[3] “More Vicious Than Rape” by Rod Nordland, Newsweek, November 13 2006.
[4] Ibid.
[5] ‘The rape of men ’By Will Storr, The Observer, July 2011.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] ‘Revealed: the horror of the 5,000 children under 16 raped every year’ by Denis Campbell, The Observer, May 14, 2006.
[11] ‘Minnesota Sex Offense Screening Tool – Revised’ by D. Epperson (2000) presented at Sinclair Seminars Sex Offenders Re-Offense Risk Prediction, Madison Sq. Wisconsin.
[12] The impact of violence on children. The Future of Children: 33-49.Snyder, H., Sickmund, M. Juvenile offenders and victims: 1999 national report. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
[13] In February 1996, the National Institute of Justice released the first comprehensive report on the cost of victimization. Data was gathered from criminal justice agencies, medical professionals, hospitals, insurance companies, mental health professionals, crime victim compensation programs, and crime victims, significant information is available about the immediate, short-term and long-term financial impact of victimization.
[14] US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Victims Assistance Academy 1996. Chapter 1. The Scope of Violent Crime and Victimization, Statistical overview.
[15] The Response to Rape : detours on the road to equal justice : by United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. Congressional Sales Office, 1993. ISBN: 0160417872.
[16] ‘Forever Accused’ BBC News, February 12, 2008.
[17] ‘Prison ‘inevitable’ for false rape claims’ by Tom Whitehead, The Telegraph, October 30, 2009.
[18] Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). (2008d). Percent of crimes cleared by arrest or exceptional means, 2007. (Clearance Figure). Uniform Crime Report: Crime in the United States, 2007. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2007/offense/ clearances/index.html#figure.
[19] ‘False Rape Allegations: An Assault on Justice’ By Bruce Gross, PhD, JD, MBA, The Forensic Examiner, September 15, 2009.
[20] ‘Sexual violence is not a cultural phenomenon in India – it is endemic everywhere’ The Independent December 30, 2012. |/www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/sexual-violence-is-not-a-cultural-phenomenon-in-india.
[21] Ibid.
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