On Oct. 11, 2011, a teenage girl was walking back to her dorm at around 2:00 a.m. She was coming home from working on a school project when two men abducted her, stole her stuff, raped her, and killed her.
She was Given Grace Cebanico. She was pretty, smart, friendly, funny, sweet, loving, giving and happy. She was only 19.
Rape is, first and foremost, about power. A normal human being doesn’t get off on having sex with someone desperately struggling to get away. Both partners usually have to be willing to put in the work to make the encounter satisfying. But the depraved mind lusts for the struggle and orgasms over the ultimate helplessness of the victim. The need for sexual satiation is a far second to the thirst for total control.
Sometimes, lust doesn’t even play a role in rape at all. Sometimes, it’s just about power. This happens more often than we know of. Although women are the usual victims, men get raped, too, especially in times of war. There is no worse weapon than rape to emasculate a man who takes pride in his masculinity, so it isn’t surprising that it is a weapon widely, albeit secretly, used.
Yet, many people still think that lust is the primary or sole driving force of rape. Thus, they feel the need to blame the victim (usually a woman) and her perceived sexuality. In various forums and blogs strewn across the Internet, I’ve read more than enough criticism on what Given Grace was wearing, when she was getting back, and where she was walking. Was it the pair of shorts that lured the rapists? Or was it her conspicuously pink shirt? Or was she just too cute for her own good? Did she really come from doing a project, or was she out to meet someone in a secret rendezvous? And why in the world was she outside on the road at 2:00 a.m.? Didn’t she know any better? It doesn’t stop there: One commenter even had the gall to say that the criminals should have gone after someone much prettier — as if the whole fucking thing was a beauty pageant.
I have nothing against being careful and doing the things we think are necessary to secure our personal safety. For example, I don’t wear short skirts whenever I’m taking the bus. Yes, I rage inside at the unfairness of it all, but I do what I do to avoid being harassed. However, I believe that once the deed is done, there’s really no point in blaming the victim especially when the said victim wasn’t just raped, but also killed. When tragedies happen, let’s keep the focus on who’s really to blame.
Besides, the last time I checked, walking home at 2:00 a.m., wearing shorts and a pink T-shirt, and looking pretty aren’t illegal acts of crime — stealing, raping, and killing are. Even if a woman was walking down the street at 3:00 a.m. in a diamond-studded bikini on her way to meet a blind date, that doesn’t give would-be robbers, rapists, and murderers any right to prey on her. Of course, they of the depraved mind would rationalize it that way, but society as a whole shouldn’t.
Considering how dark the world is, we say we can never be too careful … or can we? Sometimes, I think we’ve been too careful that the only stance we’ve taken is defensive, and not offensive. We took the bad as the default, and then, we built our rules around it — don’t wear a dress, don’t walk alone, don’t drink, etc. Someone who breaks these rules and gets harassed after must be asking for it! It’s the victim’s fault! She should know what was going to happen! She must have known what was coming, etc., etc. I read somewhere online that society teaches us not to get raped, instead of teaching us not to rape, and I’m inclined to agree.
I don’t live my life wearing rose-colored glasses. I’m not naive enough to think that we can completely remove evil from the world — in an ideal world, probably, but not in this one. And yes, I do take necessary safety precautions in my everyday routine because life is unfair and I’m dealing with it the best way I can. However, I don’t see the point of putting even a bit of the blame on a victim. I also make lapses in judgment every now and then, and so does everyone else. This doesn’t mean anyone deserves to be violated, let alone asks for it. In the end, the only one to blame is the criminal. In a world where things can get complicated, here’s a simple truth we must never forget: Criminals made the choice to commit the crime. Victims didn’t.
Rest in peace, Given Grace Cebanico.
Photo by Arwen Abendstern