“Rape is the only crime in which the victim is doubly violated, first by the attacker, and then by society. It is the only crime in which social, religious, and cultural core attitudes of society turn upon the victim. In rape society tends to blame or accuse the women.” – Rape: The First Sourcebook for Women

Any woman who goes through the experience of being raped has to face the harsh reality that not only has she been violated in the most inhumane way – but she will now have to face an unforgiving society and prove that indeed she was raped.

Whether here in Jamaica or other parts of the world, it’s a fact that society can be very unkind to rape victims. Therefore it is not surprising that many rape victims do not bother to report this heinous crime and if they do, have been made to feel so dirty and worthless that they rarely follow through. One rape victim commented, “a woman must be bruised, bloody and damned near dead in order for the activity to be considered not consensual.” Others just don’t bother to report it as one victim claims, “I do not wish to encounter additional stress and abuse.” In her case, she felt the process through which she must go in order to even attempt to obtain a conviction may be worse than the crime.

Just when did this start, no one knows but unfortunately society seems to be much kinder to the violators of this disgusting crime than the victims themselves. According to Rape: The First Source Book for Women, “The most curious thing about rape is the amount of sympathy which is afforded the offender, and the callousness, or even hostility in some cases, which is felt for the victim. Many are still obsessed by the fear that women fabricate these stories of rape to trap men or they are just being vindictive. It is more likely that guilty assailants escape due to the reluctance of victims to report the crime or follow through on it. Due to the traumatic experience which a victim must go through in order to secure the attacker’s successful prosecution, it is amazing that any rape cases ever come to trial.”

In writing this article I have spoken to a rape victim and it brought home the truth that a woman who takes a case like this to court ends up being raped not once, but again and again.

A woman who has been raped has to deal with feelings of guilt, helplessness, and anguish. She somehow feels dirty as if she could never be cleansed again. Then there comes anger at the circumstances that would allow such things to happen. And of course there comes the many questions, “Could I have done something to prevent it? Did I instigate this somehow? Did I really deserve it? Was I asking for it? And you know what? There is no one to give you the answers to these self-inflicting questions.

But there will always be willing malicious tongues that will volunteer their opinions. “Dressed like that, what did she expect?” “She should have known better than to go to his house!” “If you didn’t want it, why would you date the person…” and the comments go on and on. No one seems to even give a thought to what the victim is going through, or perhaps they have forgotten that there is still a victim in the whole scenario.

The most surprising truth is that some rape victims’ harshest criticizers come from women. Is it that to face the truth would make us somehow feel more vulnerable? Whatever the case, rape victims have been made to feel like sluts. Lawyers will even research every man that victim has ever slept with, to point out her loose lifestyle forgetting that at the end of the day it is still her choice who she wants to give her body to. The truth is that the perpetrators are somehow never placed under the kind of microscope that women have to endure. According to our source book, “The issues are complex and many-sided, but the simple fact remains that in every courtroom in this nation, the rape victim and not the rapist, is put on trial, judged and found guilty or innocent. She is subjected to stringent requirements of evidence and her general conduct is subjected to close examination without regard to her right to privacy.”

While rapists come away smelling like roses the victims must bare their souls to judges and jury that are too willing to condemn. In the words of the victim, “I did not go forward. I was afraid that people would be speculating on whether it was rape or not. But that only made me feel worse knowing that I was allowing a monster like that to continue roaming the streets where he could do that to another woman. But the alternative seemed worse. I don’t think I could have borne it if it he was found innocent–the kind of gossip-I wasn’t strong enough, but I should have been,” she said with regret in her voice.

In spite of what anyone else thinks, rape is still a crime. It is time that we stop punishing the victims and instead give them the emotional support they so badly need.

The only way we can end this gross miscarriage of justice where rape victims are concerned is by having more women speak out against this act. We have to form a support unit instead of tearing the poor victims to pieces.

If you or someone you love has been raped, abused or assaulted, please visit http://www.rainn.org/ (in the U.S.) or call the WOMAN INC crisis hotline (in Jamaica) at 876-929-9038.