Oh, we Americans were so smug.
Remember the reaction in December 2012 when a physiotherapy intern, 23, was beaten and gang raped on a bus in South Delhi? She was traveling with a male friend, and there were six others in the bus, including the driver, all of whom raped the woman and beat her friend. She died 13 days later.
The incident caused outrage worldwide and prompted a string of reports in the media that tried to explain what made this possible … in India.
“Gang rapes have become common in India, a country that some surveys suggest has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world,” the New York Times reported on Jan. 3, 2013.
And the Associated Press reported on Dec. 20, 2012: “Analysts say crimes against women are on the rise as more young women leave their homes to join the work force in India’s booming economy, even as deep-rooted social attitudes that women are inferior remain unchanged. Many families look down on women, viewing the girl child as a burden that forces them to pay a huge dowry to marry her off.”
Sandhya Jadon, 26, a lawyer, described being groped on a public minibus.
“It was broad daylight. I was heading to court, and this man kept trying to touch my thigh. I shouted at him and he had the gall to ask me, ‘So, what can you do to stop me?’” she said.
She made the driver stop and got off. But the man continued grinning. None of the 10 other passengers helped. Most looked away, she said.
“All day that day I was disturbed. I was shaking inside but also angry. Why do we women have to suffer this?” she asked. “The fear – that something bad will happen if you are not careful – is always with you. It hangs over your work; it hangs over everything you do: what you wear, or don’t wear; how you talk, or how you walk. It is like this big suffocating cloud hanging over you every single day of your life.”
Unsaid was that it was India, after all. It’s different in the United States.
— A Montana judge sentenced a teacher who raped a 14-year-old to 30 days in jail. He thought the girl “seemed older than her chronological age” and was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist. The victim later committed suicide. The judge has been censured.
— George Will recently wrote a column for The Washington Post that women lie about being victims of sexual violence because “victimhood” –surviving a sexual assault – is a “coveted status that confers privileges.”
— At Swarthmore College, Hope Brinn reported sexual harassment. An administrator repeatedly asked her what she could have done to provoke the behavior. Brinn said the official told her that the male student’s admission that he had harassed her “was punishment enough.” The college is under federal investigation.
— Yale University found six students guilty of “nonconsensual sex” in early 2013. One was suspended for two semesters and placed on probation; four were given written reprimands, with one required to attend gender sensitivity training; one received probation.
— Trolls filed hundreds of false reports using an Occidental College online form after a “men’s rights” post blamed “feminists” at Occidental for creating the form. It was created after Occidental admitted it underreported sexual assaults.
— Students and alumni from James Madison University want the school to change its policies after three men were punished with “expulsion after graduation” for sexual assault and harassment. The men filmed an assault on a female student and distributed the video around campus.
— Stanford University found a male student responsible for sexual misconduct and sexual assault using force. He was punished with a five-quarter suspension, community service and a requirement to take a class about sexual assault. The suspension was to begin after commencement, when the accused student would receive his diploma.
This litany of actions that have the effect of trivializing sexual assault on women and devaluing them barely scratches the surface. And this in only in the past few months. In the United States.
Rape and sexual assault is not a fair price for women to pay for what they wear, or how much they drink, or who they spend time with. And the implication that men can’t control themselves when they find themselves with a woman who is saying “no,” but not unambiguously enough, is as insulting to men as it is demeaning to women.
One thing about the coverage of the Indian gang rape is correct: It’s about the culture, and how women are valued in it. It’s time to treat assaults on women as important. It’s time for America to punish sexual predators, not coddle them.