There have been similar stories before, but the one that came from India in December 2012 of a 23-year-old medical student who, after getting on a bus with her male friend, was attacked, raped and tortured by a gang of men, garnered worldwide attention. Despite the obvious evil nature of this kind of conduct, it appears to have had little impact in reducing the numbers or nature of attacks against women and girls in India and around the world.
While the attack outraged millions, less than a month ago, another took place with equally despicable, if not worse, characteristics. On Dec. 31, 2013, a 16-year-old girl was gang raped twice and then set on fire. This happened in Calcutta. Asia News reports that this, sadly, had not been her first victimization.
Another story, this one from the Hindustan Times, reports on an eight-year-old girl being raped and killed in Greater Noida, India. And, as if competing for most despicable case out of India, The New York Times reported last year of a four-year-old who had been lured by an adult male who offered to buy her a banana, he kidnapped and raped her. Her doctor reported, “She suffered severe brain injury and severe injury to her vagina – her heart and lungs stopped functioning” and added, “It is very inhuman that such a young girl was subjected to sexual abuse.”
In the United States misogyny – or the hatred of women – is also alive and well. In a nationally-known case from Steubenville, Ohio, a 16-year-old girl was raped by two boys from the high school football team. The girl’s family tried to report the rape but the police did nothing. They – and the whole town – sided with their “star” players, in an unfortunate exemplar of how skewed some Americans’ priorities and values are. A very similar case occurred in Missouri. Daisy Coleman, who was a cheerleader at Maryville High School, was raped, after which she endured bullying and was run out of town. Her rapist, Mathew Barnett, received a four-year suspended sentence and two years probation.
Perhaps the saddest of examples of what misogyny does in America, is that of Saratoga High School student Audrie Pott. Three football players, from the California school, had raped Pott, who was only 15 when she died. They had encouraged her to drink alcohol and after she passed out they raped her and videotaped her being assaulted, which they posted on the Internet. Pott committed suicide eight days later. Her attackers received light sentences: 30 days to be served in juvenile hall on weekends for two, 45 days for the third attacker.
My concern for these issues began at an early age. When I was six my father died leaving my mother with four kids to take care of, of which I was the youngest. Shortly after my dad had passed away, I had a brain tumor and surgery to have it removed, and at the time, very emotionally dependent on my mother. My mom needed emotional support from her family, which she did not get. Instead, another thing began to occur. A close male relative would do something unforgivable – at least to me. He would beat up my mother. He was bigger and she was still heartbroken over the death of my dad. When this happened I was confused and scared, too, but I would go between them and miraculously this would usually make him stop. I was always relieved that it made him stop and kind of shocked too. I must have looked quite silly with my baldhead and everything.
My mom, I remember vividly, would knock on these relatives’ doors, wanting to talk, wanting some emotional support and I would see them peeking from behind the drapes. She would come back to the car crying.
But, it all came to an end one day. My mother shot herself. I was seven and completely heartbroken. I cried myself to sleep for six months.
My mom’s emotional turmoil and her abandonment by her family when she needed them most, and her eventual suicide, is, at least in part, why I have always empathized and sympathized with women and girls. I could not save my mom, but I do feel that all the women and girls of the world are part of my family too. I strongly encourage you all to reach out and help all our mothers, sisters and daughters to make sure they are all safe and free.
Photo: From a 2012 march against rape culture and gender inequality (Chase Carter/CC/Flickr)