In the country where I live, we have recently been shocked by the brutal rape and murder of a 17-year old young woman. What was so striking about this particular rape is the manner in which it was done. Newspapers reported that besides being gang raped, this woman had a broken bottle pushed into her vagina and left there, she was slit open with a knife from her throat all the way down to her vagina. Her internal organs were strewn around her outside her body in the sand. She had all her fingers broken and both her legs were broken. She was left to die where a security guard found her the next day. She was rushed to hospital (barely alive) transferred to two different hospitals in the process because those who turned her away just did not have the resources to deal with her kind of injuries. She finally died at the last hospital but not before she told her foster mother who violated her so brutally.
Some newspapers reported (maybe speculated?) that it was her boyfriend who she had just recently rejected. Was he a member of the gang or was he the leader of this particular group? Did he initiate and actually do her harm or did he instruct one of the other members of the gang to do it? We don’t know the full story at this stage because Police are still investigating.
In my conversation with myself I am asking the question: what could possibly have gone so wrong in the lives of these young men for them to inflict such gross brutality on a young woman – a woman they knew personally? Besides the one being her boyfriend (or ex boyfriend), the others were raised alongside her like brothers – she trusted each one of these men with her life. Why wouldn’t she? Her mother trusted them – why wouldn’t she?
Raping a woman is bad enough – if they really needed to kill her for fear of identification, why could they not just stab her or shoot her? Why disembowel her? Why push a broken bottle into her vagina, break all her fingers and both her legs?
They say a woman is like a teabag – you don’t know her strength until you put her in boiling water. I’ve broken more than one bone in my body (one at a time) and I know how painful it can be but I cannot even begin to imagine what this young girl must have endured for a whole night till the security guard found her and then while she was being transported from one hospital to another in search of some relief and assistance. According to news reports, this young lady endured all this pain and suffering until her mother found her at the hospital. After naming her rapists she told her mother she was tired and sore and she wants to sleep now. Her mother pulled the blanket over her body, she closed her eyes and died.
Would I have been able to last this long? I don’t know. I do have a high pain threshold, but high enough to endure this kind of violation? I don’t know – I really don’t know.
Coming back to my conversation with myself – I’m still asking the question, what could have gone wrong in the lives of these men to cause them to have to inflict such brutal harm to a woman? Where they abused, neglected or brutally assaulted (physically or emotionally) during their lifetimes? Was this a first offence for them or have they raped before? If they have raped before, was it as brutal? If not, why not? If yes, why? Why is it necessary to inflict this much pain and suffering on another human being? Did they leave the scene satisfied that their need was met? What was that need? How did they sleep that night? Was it a restful sleep? Did they have nightmares? Did they feel a sense of achievement?
This particular case has received a lot of media coverage – how do the perpetrators feel now that they are all over the news on TV and in the newspapers? Their names are known – it has been published. They are all in their early 20’s – I cannot believe that men so young can inflict so much harm.
The gang of 3 or 4 who raped and mutilated this woman (3 have been taken in for questioning so we don’t know if there are any still to be arrested at this stage) – are they part of a larger gang and this was part of their initiation? Was it a gang “dare”? Are they now seen as celebrities in gang-land? Are they heroes now?
The community is outraged – the whole of South Africa is outraged so the only people who would see them as heroes right now would be other gang members – though I still don’t see how that could be possible.
Was the brutality inflicted in an act of rage or severe jealousy? People with controlling behaviours/personalities would usually reason “if I can’t have you, nobody else will”. Was this the case here? Was he so deeply hurt by her rejection of him that he wanted to hurt her back because he could not MAKE her love him? Why did he find it so difficult to cope with rejection? What part did the other members of the gang play in all of this? Did they all take turns to rape her before she was so brutally disembowelled or did they just watch the boyfriend to all this to her?
The community wants to see the perpetrators punished. Everyone is calling for the death penalty to be reinstated. This will not happen. Others are calling for these men to be castrated but as we all know rape is about power and control and not about sex and castrating these men will not deal with their anger issues. It will, in fact, fuel the anger to be more brutal next time. Locking them up in a prison cell, in my mind, will not work either because, again, they will have the opportunity to only get more angry and frustrated and when they are finally released from prison, they will take that anger and frustration out on someone else – again more brutal and vicious than the last. So what is the solution? How do we stop this from happening again? How do we protect our women and children?
Mutilation is usually evidence of extreme anger, anger beyond control and gang rape is usually an expression of “punishment” – either the victim is being punished for something she did or did not do or the perpetrator is being “punished” by the gang leader for something he did or did not do.
Castration – the removal of the genitals – the penis is only one of many instruments used to perpetrate rape. If the man no longer has a penis, he will find another instrument to inflict pain, this could be a broken glass bottle, a broom stick, a tree branch etc. Removing the penis does not deal with the anger and frustration. In fact, it will only make the problem worse.
Public and politician’s outrage saying “enough is enough” will not make the problem magically disappear. Standing on a podium or marching in a group is not going to make the rapist stand back and say “ooohh, I’m sooo scared, I better not to that again”. It’s like saying to a naughty child, “if you don’t stop being naughty . . . ‘’ Unless the child faces the consequences for his/her actions, the child will continue with the deviant behaviour. So too with the rapist – until he faces the consequences for his actions, he is not going to stop and the consequences must be fitting and appropriate in proportion to the crime committed.
I really wish someone out there can enlighten me – tell me where I can look for the theory or theories that will explain and give me logical answers to my questions because right now, right this minute, I really don’t understand the reasoning behind this senseless act of pure cruelty. That one human being can be this cruel towards another – especially that the victim was a defenceless female.