Like most women and men who have experienced rape, we read Germain Greer’s call for punishment for rape to be reduced with anger and disbelief.
Sadly, this is not the first time reduced sentences in rape cases has been an issue, as every day within out court rooms, judges, juries and those that are either defending the accused or prosecuting them fail to understand the complexities of the damage that rape does to its victims.
What makes it even more upsetting is the fact that Germaine herself is a victim of rape which could lend weight to the argument that victims should just ‘get over it’ as though it is a common cold. As this is the type of thinking we are trying to change through education and understanding this crime, she is doing a great disservice to women throughout the world with these words.
Germaine adds insult to injury by saying that rape should be viewed as ‘non-consensual, lazy, careless and insensitive’. This is clearly a woman that has chosen to never explore her own rape and how it has influenced her thoughts and behaviours. Rather than deal with her own ‘stuff’, she is suggesting other rape victims move on and forget it ever happened, with no consideration to what the experience has done to them physically, psychologically and emotionally.
Greer goes on to say “You might want to believe that the penis is a lethal weapon and that all women live in fear of that lethal weapon, well that’s bullshit. It’s not true. We don’t live in terror of the penis … A man can’t kill you with his penis.”
I’m sorry to say that a penis is and has all through history been used against women as a very powerful weapon. We believe that what Greer is saying is very dangerous at a time when we are finally putting women’s issues at the top of the agenda.
We simply don’t understand how a woman who experienced a violent rape can speak about it in this way.
For victims, the effects of rape can be devastating. They feel substantial distress and display a wide range of psychological symptoms, both short- and long-term. They feel powerless, ashamed, and distrust others. The abuse, if it happens in childhood, disrupts their development and increases the likelihood that they will experience other sexual assaults in the future.
In the short term they can exhibit regressive behaviours such as, sleep disturbances, eating problems, behaviour and/or performance problems at school/work and unwillingness to participate in social activities.
Long term they can suffer with anxiety, self-destructive behaviours such as alcoholism or drug abuse, anxiety attacks, and insomnia.
Victims feel fear and anxiety in response to triggers which pop up without warning. These triggers can be simply things like smells, expressions that remind them of the rapist or something that is said innocently. They can experience difficulties in forming relationships and can either indulge in inappropriate sex or avoid sex altogether.
They can feel anger at the rapist and those around them who failed to protect them. But even worse still they can direct anger at themselves for not stopping the rape as it took place. They feel betrayed and powerless and often feel stigmatised by the shame, guilt and take on the responsibility for what happened to them.
They are now likely to have a higher rate of being revictimized as their self-worth is either low or non-existent. Due to the rape they feel worthless and abnormal and hold a distorted view of sex, and without intervention they can become suicidal.
We believe if this was known and understood by the masses we would have a better chance of making appropriate changes to how sexual abuse is viewed and dealt with.
Thank you, Germaine, for making the argument for the importance of dealing with your ‘STUFF’.
The Kavanagh Sisters -31st May 2018