As stated earlier, this feature will detail the results of the survey, analyze those results, and seek to begin a discussion on some of the answers we received. Why did respondents give the answers they gave? How valid are their responses? What factors played into their opinions?
According to the survey responses received, 100% of readers defined rape as “forced sexual contact with a person without their consent,” yet not everyone believed that this was a crime with consequences that fell solely on the shoulders of the perpetrator. Some believed rape was justified under certain circumstances. The survey asked basic questions such as “do you believe all rape is a crime?” “Are there exceptions to what you’d consider rape?” “Have you ever blamed a woman for being raped?” and “Have you ever believed a man was justified in raping a woman?”
Not surprisingly, the majority of the survey respondents were women. Surprisingly, a few of them believed there were instances where a woman could be blamed for being raped. I suspected I might get a few of these, but I didn’t expect that many – from women. Male respondents on the other hand believed there was never a reason to rape a woman, but they only made up 25% of respondents.
A vast majority of respondents said they originated from Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya. A handful originated from the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada. Responses came in from residents of the United States, UK, Canada, France, North Cyprus, Australia, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Kenya, South Africa, Togo, and Belgium.
100 percent of the respondents listed their religious affiliation as being of the Christian faith.
While several respondents simply answered the questions by checking the boxes, several others went further by adding their voices to the survey. They did this by filling in their opinions under Question 16 (Do you think this survey asked all the important questions about rape or did it miss something? If so, what did it miss and how would you answer that question?)
One female respondent said she believed the survey missed a lot because “issues of rape cannot be described in black and white.” She went on to state that rape “goes beyond dealing with law enforcement and the actual act of rape. It involves guilt, self-esteem, self-worth and a whole slew of psychological issues.” And that’s true. These issues will be dealt with in the third feature which will talk about the effects of rape on the psych of women.
Another female respondent wondered aloud what the best punishment for rape should be. Her answer? Castration. She argues that because prisons are already over-crowded and tax-payers don’t need the extra burden of housing these societal misfits.
And while most respondents believed that “all” rape is a crime regardless of the circumstances under which it occurred, not all seemed to agree.
One female respondent said there are exceptions to what she would consider rape: and that is under the statute of statutory rape “where the sex is consensual but the girl is regarded as being underage.” The same respondent went on to say she found it hard to believe that a woman could rape a man.
Another female respondent justified rape in an instance “where the woman was acting seductively in the presence of her rapist,” or where “the woman was drunk when she invited the man up to her apartment and into her bed. And even though she kept saying no, she never gathered enough strength to push him off or to let him know she seriously meant no,” or, “the woman invited the rapist into her home voluntarily with the intent of sleeping with him before she changed her mind and said no” only this time, she was sober. This respondent, however, believed that “if a man dropped something in a woman’s drink without her knowledge that made the woman sleep with him” – that is rape.
One other female respondent justified rape in the case where a woman chose to “expose herself in the name of fashion.”
One male respondent described a situation where a woman was “enticed to have sex either through drugs, pornography, or other sexually stimulating means, and ended up having sex even though she was not forced to do so against her will.” Quite frankly, I did not get the point because this is what mutual sex is about – sexual stimulation! And unless the female involved is a child/underage, I would not describe such an act as rape. Expressing feelings of remorse after being a willing participant to the act does not qualify as rape. The dominant word in rape is “force,” many times accompanied by violence.
One answer that really got my attention was by a female respondent who said “in a situation where a woman agrees to have sex with a man, and at the peak of penetration she says no,” blame cannot totally be apportioned to the man due to a lack of self control. She goes on to say that “only an exceptionally strong man can stop himself when he is in the throes of pleasure.” She wouldn’t blame the man in this case because “the woman pushed the man beyond the limit of self-control.” I got a kick out of this answer because it is easily the most common excuse men use to rape women – lack of self-control.
This answer by another female respondent also caught my attention. She excused rape in the case where “the woman was forced to have sex with her husband or someone she was romantically involved with,” and in a situation where “both individuals were already in the act of foreplay when the woman changed her mind and said “no”.
I won’t go into all the responses here (others will be listed in the other upcoming parts to this feature), but all in all, the responses gave insight into the way we think of rape as Africans/blacks, and especially as women. I suspected at the beginning of this survey that I was going to see some interesting (and maybe even disappointing) points of view by women respondents. I was unsure of what to expect from the men. But, I must admit I was quite taken aback by the responses that came from women.
The fact that most of the people who believed there were exceptions to what we would term rape, and who thought men were sometimes justified in their actions, turned out to be women goes to show that the problem doesn’t only stem from the actual act, but also our responses to the act of rape and why it is so often treated as an insignificant evil. While some responses made my insides churn with unease, others gave vindication to my sense of moral judgment and gave me hope.
It is true that rape is not so clear-cut sometimes, as one female respondent pointed out. Sometimes there is doubt concerning the circumstances leading up to the act. Did she struggle or say ‘no’? Did she assertively state her displeasure or was she smiling and inviting when she said ‘no’? In such instances, even where a woman may have said ‘no’ and some force may have been used, a case can hardly be made for rape. At the end of the day, a woman pleading for her dignity, with tears running down her face as a man penetrates her, then moves to his own single rhythm while she is lost in a sea of nauseous feelings, coupled with feelings of degradation, ugliness, and an insatiable feeling of hate, repulsion and rage cannot possibly be described as a willing participant to the act.
In the next feature, I will look at the issue of rape within the context of culture and religion. How do our ideas about women, men and sexuality play a role in what we judge to be rape? (contribute your opinions and ideas by email to firstname.lastname@example.org)