Rape is Rape is Rape

Why are we not more angry at the recent rape allegations?

Niki Cheong
Jul 11, 2013 · 5 min read

It has been a few days since Malaysians were shocked by the allegation that a chaperon at the recently completed SUKMA Games was gang raped by athletes in the Games village.

I use the word “shocked” loosely because it really feels like there is not enough outrage at what happened last Sunday. Granted, Minister of Youth and Sports Khairy Jamaluddin noted that he was “saddened” by the incident and many social media users have also expressed their dismay. Women’s Aid Organisation on Thursday ran a Twitter campaign, getting people to use the hashtag #NoExcuseFor Rape.

That said, it has only been four days since the incident but it seems like there have been more discourse about other matters related to the incident — among them are how alcohol had been smuggled into the Games village, how the allegations have marred the history of the Games, how women should not party alone with drunken men or dress in a particular way, how men find their way into a women’s dorm, should we continue sending women to these Games, among others — than what I feel should be the main focus:

Why do some people think it is okay to rape?

Granted, all of these are just allegations at the moment, but the muted outcry is extremely deafening. The media (Disclaimer: I only accessed the English media) themselves have been rather muted, aside from the regular news reports (although, to their credit, The Star and The Sun ran it on the front page of their respective Monday editions). Online media platforms such as Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insider only provided news reports and no commentary or editorials (based on a keyword search of the sites).

The only editorials I encountered, from The Star and New Straits Times (NST), were disappointing. The headlines say it all:

A glaring disregard for sporting spirit (The Star)

Right to be safe (NST)

Sporting spirit? Safety? For real?! Someone is crying gang rape and all we are concerned about is “sporting spirit” and “safety”? To add salt to the wound, the NST story even discussed two sporting safety issues: aside from the SUKMA incident, they also talked about three women who was a victim of hit-and-run at a running event on Sunday. Except that they chose to bury the rape incident at the bottom of the story in barely a couple of paragraphs.

Why is no one shouting, “Rape must not be tolerated and that there is no excuse for the act?” Why are other politicians so silent on the matter? Why is there no uproar from the Women’s Minister?

Whose side are you on?

The Women’s Minister’s silence, in my opinion, is one of the biggest issues in this whole incident — can we blame others for being quiet on the issue when there is no leadership? Whether or not the alleged perpetrators are guilty is a separate issue, and one that is being dealt with in court currently. The fact is the time and time again, rape issues have been swept under the carpet. This, I feel, perpetuates the culture.

What really surprises me about this is how some women are not even remotely angered, and in some cases, appear to be defending the act. Betrayal aside, this behaviour is almost unfathomable. In fact, I was inspired to write this article after I read this post from the Astro Awani website curating reactions on Twitter with regards to the incident.

That women themselves were critical of the alleged victim shocked me. One said:

Obviuosly you can’t give consent when drunk? Nak claim been raped? (Translation: Want to claim to have been raped?) But during sukma,and you’re an athlete and the violators are your mate. (sic)

And another wrote:

Budak SUKMA kne rogol sbb mabuk,nk salahkan siapa nie sbnrnye?? Haaaa (Translation: “SUKMA kid raped due to alcohol consumption; who is really to blame?”)

And then the women’s wing chief from the conservative party PAS Siti Zailah was reported to have said, in a statement I assume was related to the incident, that formulating a women’s dress code to stop indecent dressing could be a way to prevent sexual harassment and lower sex crimes.

Just when are we going to stop blaming victims of rape?

Perpetuating the culture

This blame-game from the women I quoted, and the focus on other factors mentioned earlier in this article, distracts from what should be the core issue — when do we start blaming the perpetrators?

The problem is, Malaysia is not alone in with regards to such a culture. This piece in The Guardian is a more comprehensive commentary of the situation in the United States, following a high profile rape case in the US last year. But this article is about a Malaysian incident and so I shall focus solely on this country.

The fact is our society has failed our women (and any other victims of rape, no matter the gender) time and time again because of our general attitude towards rape.

I went to watch a play the other day that was very entertaining, but it was truly unfortunate because while I enjoyed a lot of the performances, one particular sketch made fun of rape. Two actors were on stage and the guy attempting to rape the girl kept being interrupted by the voices of their fellow actors backstage whose microphones were intentionally switched on (as part of the show), and letting the cat out of the bag. I feel that such things normalises rape culture, and worse, makes it something to laugh about.

Then, with this SUKMA incident in particular, our Inspector General of Police — the one person citizens should trust on the most to protect them — has decided that it is a serious matter because it “involved the country’s sports image and crime among athletes”, if this Bernama report is anything to go by. Is he implying that it’s not serious if the country’s image wasn’t an issue?

Maybe it isn’t. After all, our country’s history is rife with situations where some rapist get away with their acts (or belief that they have done nothing wrong). In Malaysia, marriage with someone underage has been used as a defence against statutory rape. Then, just last year, a bowler’s “bright future” was used as an excuse to overturn a rape conviction by the Courts of Appeal.

No reason to be surprised

The things I have mentioned in this article are just a few examples of the what people have said, used as an excuse, kept silent or gotten away with their behaviour.

In that sense, considering this history, I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised at the reaction to last weekend’s events (or the lack of it).

The problem then is, when are we as citizens going to be safe from each other? It is clear that the system has failed society. How much longer are we as members of society going to fail ourselves?

    Niki Cheong

    Written by

    Research student at University of Nottingham. Media, Power, Politics. Connect: www.tinyletter.com/nikicheong | web: www.nikicheong.com