Is there not within each mortal mind a violent craving, that when opportunity presents itself takes complete advantage. One of the most terrible crimes repeatedly committed through antiquity is the aggressive sexual violation of women, known as rape. Today one is familiar with the legal categories of rape – date rape, marital rape, statutory rape and gang rape etc.
Even in Greek mythology we see men taking advantage of women, where the supreme deity Zeus rapes two women, Europa and Ganymede. By propagating these myths the Greeks clearly endorsed the sexual violation of women. The myth of Medusa is another example where men are not held accountable. Medusa was a fair maiden with long locks of hair. She is raped by Poseidon, the sea god. Subsequently Athena decides to punish Medusa for allowing herself to be violated. The long hair of Medusa is turned into hideous snakes. Again the Greeks shift the blame to the female victim, whilst the male predator goes free.
Once the Romans realized the need for law and order and they classified rape as a crime. The word derives from the Greek raptus – abduction of a woman with the intent of sexual violation. They then brought in another legal term stuprum, which for the first time defined illicit sexual intercourse. As the Roman Catholic Church extended its authority the Canon Law also made provision to prosecute rape as a crime, with the introduction of Decretum Gratiani (Codex of Gratian) in the 12th Century. However, during these harsh times in history prostitutes were not able to press charges of rape, as they had willingly given their bodies for public pleasure, and hence could be raped frequently. It is strange to note that in 15th Century England the law only defined rape as theft of a woman’s virtue, not paying much attention to the emotional and psychological trauma of the victim.
During the early 1800s in America the black slave women endured much. They could not press charges for rape by their vicious white masters. Only white women were privileged to prosecute a man for rape. During this time there was a legal trend to hastily prosecute a black suspect for the rape of a white woman as brilliantly portrayed in the book to Kill a Mocking Bird.
As wars were fought in many nations throughout history the invading armies had a habit of mass raping women and teenage girls. This was an incentive of their conquest. It was done by the Romans, the Vikings and by American soldiers in Vietnam. During the early 1970s rape began to be considered as a trend and some women even boasted about being raped by a group of men.
This prompted activists to launch a movie titled Rape Culture in 1975 which shockingly revealed societies tolerance and acceptance of rape as part of that present culture. During this era America witnessed the rise of sadistic rapist and serial killers like Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez and Gary Ridgeway. In many western nations it is considered cool to be sexually violated to gain acceptance by peers, and is a form of being initiated into a campus fraternity.
Some girls have begun to use Face book as a channel to meet their sexually desired partners only to get raped on the first actual meeting. It gets worse when the incident is recorded and used as blackmail, making the girl a consenting and obedient ‘bed buddy’.
In Asian culture a raped woman has to endure social stigma. In a society that is permeated with self righteousness and outward purity such a woman has no chance of getting married. She is subject to a life of shame and condemnation. The legal systems delay in making timely trials. They are subject to embarrassing clinical examinations and are often molested by the doctors. Justice delayed is justice denied. These women mostly in rural villages are forced to go into prostitution or work an underpaid job. They encounter violent nightmares. They receive little support in terms of counselling. Using their status and influence the male culprit receives little or no punishment. Hundreds of women continue to be ravished with criminal delight.