Tag Archives: rape

Rape in Wartimes vs. Rape on Campus–Are They Comparable? 

It was once assumed that rape was committed as a result of sexual desire. Recent scholarship however shows that rape has a greater significance—it is used as a weapon of war. Though the international recognition of systematic sexualized violence against women during wartime as a crime against humanity has been a great advancement in the feminist movement, people should also focus on the rape during the peacetime, for example on campuses. What differences are there in the motives of rape in wartimes in comparison to rapes on everyday college campuses? It is important to highlight the functions of rape specifically in wartime before indulging its similarities with cases on college campuses.


Perpetrators in wartime use rape to humiliate the enemy. For example, during the Rwandan Genocide, the raping of Tutsi women served to symbolically devalue the Tutsi honor. In a country where the value of a woman was based on her virtue, virginity and cleanliness, a victim of rape was considered a disgrace to her family and hence the perpetrators used rape to destroy the Tutsi families and communities. Rape was also used as a method of ethnic cleansing—in the case of Rwanda, the cleansing of the entire Tutsi ethnicity. Hutu militiamen raped Tutsi women (and Hutu women married to a Tutsi man) to terminate an existing pregnancy of an enemy child, or to create a pregnancy with a Hutu child (More information on womenunderseigeproject.org).


In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there was a widespread belief that raping women would give militiamen more power and invincibility (Women Under Seige). Raping also served as a method of controlling natural resources. As explained in Merideth Turshen’s paper, “The Political Economy of Rape […],” the perpetrators would take their victims as their ‘wives’ and through what she termed “bogus weddings,” the perpetrators would receive self-granted access to their victims land and resources.


The preceding reasons for rape are specific to wartime. So once again, what are the similarities between rape on college campuses and rape during conflict? Though wartime and campus life are two completely different contexts, rape occurs surprisingly for similar reasons. One main similarity is that in most cases, rape has historically been used as a systematic tool for domination and power. This is seen in David Lisak’s study and interviews on rape incidents on college campuses and how undetected rapists (college students) strategically plan out how to make a girl vulnerable in order for them to make easier sexual advances on them. Lisak argues that men, both undetected and incarcerated, rape in order to reaffirm their position in society as superior to women. Similarly in wartimes, rape is used as a way for the enemies to manifest their superiority over women, especially women affiliated with their enemies. Another important similarity is that most rapists are repeat offenders. Lisak discovered in his research that 76% of the 120 undetected rapists on campus were repeat rapists, having raped an average of 6 women. Similarly in wartimes, most of the perpetrators are repeat rapists, some of which having raped up to 10 women as seen in the case of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rape on college campuses turns out to be similar to rape during wartime in the sense that the men involved commit these crimes to assert their superiority over women. Likewise in wartimes, most rapists on college campuses are repeat offenders, and some are even unaware of it. This shows that though women have succeeded in moving up the social ladder, many men have found it difficult to digest the idea of gendered equality. Therefore, the best way to change this perception of women deeply ingrained in both men and women’s minds is through education at an early age for a person educated on gendered equality will most likely grow up regarding both sexes with equal respect.

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“I Strangle Her”: Trauma and Memory in House of Cards

In a genuine portrayal of the long-term effects sexual assault can have on victims, Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in the popular television series House of Cards echoed the statements of many authors we have read in class. While many media portrayals of sexual assault go for shock value, showing the attack or the flashbacks the victim experiences immediately after the attack, few have provided such brave insight into the experience of victims many years after the attack. For many, the memory of their terrible experience remains present, something they have to “strangle” every day to keep it from terrorizing their consciousness; it is an irrevocable memory, persistent and intrusive. This trauma, it seems, can haunt survivors as long as they live.

In the episode, it is revealed that Claire, the strong-willed, “ice bitch” wife to Vice President and HOC protagonist Frank Underwood, was raped by her boyfriend in college when she meets him again at a pinning ceremony for his military service. For one of the first times, we see the resolute Claire struggle a bit, but she holds strong through the ceremony.  Later, in an unusual showing of vulnerability, she speaks about how she has worked to silence the memories she has.

“Every time I think of her pinned down like that, I strangle her, Francis. So she doesn’t strangle me. I have to. We have to. The alternative is – it’s unlivable.”

Claire, it appears, rebuilt her sense of self following her attack by hardening herself off to the trauma, refusing to let the memory invade her present consciousness. In such a way, her anger has fueled her; she found strength in her silence, building a life of power and influence (however ruthless that influence may be), unwilling to let her attacker keep her from realizing her goals. Her actions reflect much of the complexity of trauma described by Judith Herman in Trauma and Recovery.  As irrevocable memory, Claire’s attack will forever be present in her consciousness, and to deal with the trauma, she appears locked in constriction, a state of altered, numbed consciousness in which a survivor experiences a sense of detached calm. This is evident in her behavior and the way she refers to herself experiencing trauma in the third person, stating “…I strangle her, Francis. So she doesn’t strangle me,” as though she is observing the trauma she experienced during the attack and every subsequent time it comes up again in memory from outside her body, feeling that “the event is not happening to her”. Perhaps this is the root of her “ice bitch” mentality; to protect herself from painful intrusion, she remains continually in such a state of detached constriction.  However, luckily for her, it seems, she has been able to utilize this detached nature to exert power within the political sphere, and in this way she has achieved much success.

But what is justice for Claire? It’s clear that no legal justice occurred in this situation, nor does it appear that Claire has spoken with anyone about it other than those very close to her. Whether she refrained from speaking out about her attack because of her own desires or because she knew it would likely be unsuccessful to come forward is unknown. Yet it seems her trauma drives her; after experiencing something so awful, she learned to block the memory out, putting her head down and working hard and strong until she became the influential political figure she is at present. She is together, controlled, powerful – that is, until she meets her attacker again at the ceremony and later when, in a media interview, she is drawn into revealing her attack – but at what cost? As the news of her attack begins to circulate, she finds herself at the other end of a personal “devil’s choice,” and it is unclear as to whether the decision to achieve traditional justice by coming forward is worth the risk to her career and emotional well-being after years of pushing the memory away. Sharing a traumatic story is extremely hard for anyone, especially a prominent public figure like Claire who will surely have to contend with many media attacks. Is gaining a more traditional sense of justice by telling her story really worth it? While she was hardened by “strangling” the memory of her attack, she did come out a stronger woman, and viewers may wonder whether through her success she achieved her own form of justice, unconventional but just as salient for her.  At the end of the day, isn’t that salience, regardless of whether or not we can classify it as “justice,” what really matters?

Regardless, I am pleased with what House of Cards’s writers have presented in this storyline and the tough questions they are motivating viewers like me to think through. True justice isn’t “one size fits all,” and we must push ourselves to ask these questions in the aftermath of traumatic situations like Claire’s to determine what is right and what is just for the victim.


Bevernage, Berber. “Introduction.” History, Memory, and State-sponsored Violence: Time and Justice. New York: Routledge, 2012. 1-19. Print.

Herman, Judith Lewis. “Trauma.” Trauma and Recovery: From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. London: Pandora, 1992.  Print.

Willimon, Beau. “Chapter 15.” House of Cards. Netflix. 14 Feb. 2014. Television.


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Peacekeeping? The United Nations Member States Should Put Their Money and Troops Where Their Mission Is.

By: Laurabeth Goldsmith

The Rwandan genocide is a horrific atrocity and blemish on the human rights record of the United Nations and the international community. The United Nations was created in 1945 in the wake of World War II’s total devastation.  World War II was the deadliest war in human history with an estimated sixty to eighty-five million deaths from battlefield fatalities, indiscriminate bombings, war related diseases, and genocide. The UN was created to maintain international peace and security and to prevent future atrocities. Specifically, the United Nations charter includes in the preamble: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…” The United Nations undoubtedly failed to act with appropriate speed and force to prevent and end the genocide in Rwanda. This failure of action was a failure to achieve the fundamental purpose of the United Nations.

In October 1993, the Security Council adopted Resolution 872, which established the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR).UNAMIR was established, to help implement the Arusha Accords, monitor its implementation and support a transitional Government. UNAMIR was doomed from the start, as the mission was not given adequate troops, an adequate mandate, or adequate resources.  Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the head of UNAMIR sent a cable on Jan. 11, 1994 to Kofi Anan warning of the risk of genocide in Rwanda. Kofi Anan and the United Nations reasserted that the mission should not use force. On April 6 1994, when President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down the political and ethnic killings began. UNAMIR attempted to arrange a ceasefire, but they were unsuccessful and repeatedly were attacked. On April 21, 1994, The Security Council passed Resolution 912, which further crippled UNAMIR and reduced UNAMIR’s total numbers from 2,548 to 270.The Security Council eventually adopted Resolution 918 on May 17, 1994 that created an arms embargo against Rwanda and increased UNAMIR’s strength to 5,500 troops. On June 22, 1994 The UN Security Council granted a chapter VII mandate to a multi-national humanitarian operation led by French forces.This action came way too late as 800,000 Rwandan citizens died during the genocide while the United Nations largely failed to act, despite their knowledge of the genocide. This lack of meaningful intervention was largely due to a lack of political will, low interest in Rwanda, and in part a lack of resources from the international community.

The genocide had enormous consequences for Rwandan society as a whole and women were subjected to undue propaganda, hatred, rape, mutilation, and disease including the spread of HIV. In addition to humiliation and disease, these mass rapes also resulted in sterilization of abused women. The effects of the genocide in Rwanda are still prevalent in Rwandan society today, as there are many children born from the genocide and the society is still attempting to heel from the brutal ethnic cleansing and genocide.

In order to prevent the international community from standing idly by, the Security Council should always push for humanitarian and military intervention to prevent massive deaths regardless of individual state interests. Unfortunately, P-5 veto powers and a lack of political will, still prevent necessary intervention today.

The international community said “never again” after the Holocaust and after the Rwandan Genocide, yet massive killings continue around the world today, especially in civil war ridden Syria.  The current death toll in Syria is estimated at over 140,000. Today The United Nations still faces the same criticism that it is not putting its member states money and troops where the UN Mission encourages them to be sent in order to maintain international peace and security.


By The Numbers: World-wide Deaths.” The National WWII Museum.

“Charter, United Nations, Preamble.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/preamble.shtml&gt;.

“UNAMIR.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 1Mar.. 2014.


“UNAMIR.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. <http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/past/unamirS.htm&gt;.

“UN Chief Cites Syria at Rwanda Genocide Commemoration.” Capital News. N.p., 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2014/02/un-chief-cites-syria-at-rwanda-genocide-commemoration/&gt;.

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Fighting Rape on College Campuses

            Swarthmore College, a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, has recently come under fire by its students regarding its “underreporting [of] sexual violence on campus” and its discouragement of victims from reporting their assaults. These disgruntled students not only brought up the issue with the leading bodies of the school, but also publicized it through a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, claiming the school violated the Clery Act and that it attempted to intimidate the students attempting to bring light to this issue.

One of the leaders of this student group, Mia Ferguson, is an old friend of mine from middle school; I heard of her personal experience and her fight with Swarthmore through Facebook. At first, it shocked me that someone I knew was not only a rape-survivor, but was brave enough to confront the issue publicly. While she is not the only person I know who has suffered from sexual assault, she is the first person I know that has taken action against her perpetrator.

Through this course, I have learned more about the atrocities of rape and its overwhelming prevalence in society than I had formerly realized. According to Winerip’s article ‘Stepping Up to Stop Sexual Assault,’ one out of every five women in college has been the victim of sexual assault. Currently, I can think of four friends who have opened up to me about experiencing this form of violence either in college or in high school – while this already seems to be far too many, the implications of such statistics mean far more people I know have been impacted but have kept quiet. For example, my sorority has about 150 members. If this statistic is true, that means that 30 of my sisters have been or will be victims of sexual assault before they graduate. In terms of Emory, we have roughly 5,000 undergraduates, almost 60% of which is female. Of the female population of roughly 3,000, according to these statistics, about 600 will be victims of sexual assault. Considering that, according to Winerip, 3% percent of college men constitute 90-95% of assaults, how many of these girls will have been victimized by the same men?

While many victims of assault remain silent due to shame or fear of social stigma, many of those who do still do not have access to the healthcare and justice outlets they need to support a prosecution against their attackers. If just one of these girls was successful in seeking justice against her perpetrator, odds are she would have removed one of the men accounting for the small percentage of serial rapists that account for the overwhelming majority of campus rapes. The rate of success in persecuting these rapists on college campuses, though, is overwhelming low. Schools do not want to sully their name or be publicized as harboring rapists, and so they tend to try and deal with these issues through student conduct boards, which keeps the issue internal, rather than drawing in the police and other formal justice systems. Unfortunately, many of these student conduct boards are not equipped to deal with these issues, and the situation boils down to a “he said-she said” where there is no way to know enough to punish someone.

Even if, somehow, a victim had the evidence to persecute her rapist, there are many other forms of mistreatment she may go through in a college setting to amplify the damage her rape has caused. Mia Ferguson, the Swarthmore student fighting against her school’s unjust treatment of rape cases, struggled with the administration after bringing her case against the school. In her formerly elected position of Resident Advisor for her sophomore year, she struggled with fair treatment yet again. The administration attempted to pressure her into sharing information about a rape of a third party, which she learned about before she began performing her duties as an RA. The school removed her from the position, stating, “she’s considered by law a responsible employee of the college.” Ferguson, though, viewed her removal as “an issue of retaliation” caused by her legal action against the school. The fact that she even had to consider the possibility of the school wanting to retaliate against her because of her attempts to seek justice and fairness – not only for her but for every student at Swarthmore– is absurd.

This story is just one example of the perpetual injustices that college campuses, and perhaps even society, create regarding sexual assault crimes. It is undeniable that the system must be changed; a victim of assault should not be forced into silence because of additional obstacles in their search for justice against their perpetrator. As Winerip claims, ‘bystander training’ and other actions must be taken by campuses to take a more proactive role in this dilemma. While federal laws are beginning to demand more transparency in reporting these attacks, college campuses must find a way to provide more support to their students victimized by rapists. Instead, though, many victims feel further demeaned and attacked by the treatment they receive through seeking justice because of the menial punishments given (if any) and because of the way the campus and others may perceive them for being strong enough to fight for their rights.

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“Deogratias” and the Portrayal of Rwandan Women During the Genocide

Deogratias tells the story of a young man whose life is devastated and ultimately destroyed by the genocide in Rwanda. The pain and suffering so clearly illustrated on the pages of the graphic novel allow readers to catch a glimpse of life during a horrific period in Rwanda’s history. The story centers around Deogratias, a Hutu boy who experiences flashbacks to a time before the outbreak of violence. Part of the story is light, giving the reader an idea of everyday life in Rwanda. Although prejudice is present prior to the genocide, it is somewhat controlled and does not cause insurmountable barriers until the President, Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu is assassinated. This event spurs a bloody one-sided battle, in which the Hutu majority attempts to completely obliterate the Tutsi ethnic group.

Deogratias’ story reveals the terror that the Interahamwe strike into the hearts of not only the Tutsis, but also those Hutus who resist the movement. Deogratias, who has a special relationship with two Tutsi sisters, Apollinaria and Benina, is one of those Hutus. The story makes a number of sexual references, with part of Deogratias romantic life being a central plot. He engages in romance with both Apollinaria and Benina, something that comes back to haunt him when the Interahamwe gain power.

Although the text sheds a dark light on Rwanda’s past, it sheds an even darker light on the treatment of Rwandan women. Throughout the text, women’s roles are clearly defined as inferior to those of men. The women are viewed as sexual objects from the very first pages. Apollinaria and Benina are, primarily, just love interests for Deogratias. Similarly, their mother, Venetia is depicted as an overtly sexual woman with loose morals. The female characters Stassen picks to portray in his graphic novel tarnishes it, perpetuating stereotypes about women. He shows Venetia using her sexuality to earn favors and grossly highlights the gender differences in Rwandan society. Although this may be an accurate portrayal of the way women were (and are) treated in many parts of the world, Stassen makes a point of sexualizing the women.

When the Interahamwe begin murdering the Tutsi, Stassen demonstrates the way women were treated in the course of the mass killing. Based on the graphic drawings, it can be assumed that Venetia is brutally raped and murdered by the Hutu. The Hutus heckle Apollinaria and Benina, calling them “little whores,” and taunting Deogratias about his relationship with the two girls. Contrary to what Meredeth Turshen argues in her article, “The Political Economy of Rape,” the Interahamwe do not seem to target the women for their productive or reproductive purposes. Rape is a method in which the Hutu humiliate not only the women themselves, but also Deogratias, who is reluctant to join the Interahamwe. Rape is simply another means for the Interahamwe to show their strength and power. The Hutu are not trying to wrest personal assets from the women they rape. The brutal way in which the men rape and kill women seems to be solely rooted in an intense anger against and hatred for the Tutsi.

Deogratias explains and demonstrates the growth and culmination of the ethnic conflict between the Hutu and the Tutsis. Although rape and sexual violence was common during the genocide, it was not used in the same way as other conflicts. Rape was used to humiliate the women, not to take away their capabilities. It was used as a way to cruelly torture them; a way to exact revenge on a group they blamed for their troubles.


Works Cited


Stassen, Jean-Philippe. Deogratias, a Tale of Rwanda. New York: First Second, 2006. Print.

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Theory and Practice: The Predatory Nature of Rape on College Campuses

Rape. Why is this term, formally recognized to encapsulate a range of situations, violations and perpetrators, so often thought of in a different context on college campuses? Many consider rape in a college setting to be perpetrated by ‘nice boys,’ who made poor judgement calls but should not suffer for the rest of their lives. It is often viewed as an ambiguous example of he-said-she-said, when the use of intoxicating substances blurs the line between yes and no. The academic David Lisak’s published study in Violence and Victims certainly challenge the notion that perpetrators on college campuses simply misjudge a situation and should be dealt with in a less serious manner. He found shocking parallels between male rapists on a college campus and incarcerated rapists, suggesting that the majority of college perpetrators are predators and often rape more than once. However, despite the growing evidence and changing mindsets among scholars, it is shocking how widespread and deeply-entrenched the assumptions and stigmas about rape have permeated into college society.

As an undergraduate student at Emory University, I have overheard and engaged in conversations about crimes that occur in our immediate community. The administration can pride itself on remaining transparent during the chaotic times when acts of violence have been reported. Title IX, a policy implemented by the US Department of Education, guarantees this response and ensures that school’s receiving Federal financial assistance properly investigate and resolve claims of alleged sexual discrimination. These colleges respond to instances of sexual violence with campus-wide announcements that state the location and approximate time of the reported crime. However, there are certainly repercussions when email alerts with vague descriptions are sent out to the entire student body. Rumors or misinformed facts spread about the incident, often making the healing and legal processes even more difficult for the survivor.

The seemingly obvious reaction for college students to discuss the incident occurring on or around their campus to try to learn what actually happened was not what surprised me about the email blasts that Emory students received on February 12, 2014. Rather, it was the way in which students discussed the emails. Although the rapes occurred only about two hours apart on the same night, they occurred in drastically different contexts and sparked various reactions among the student body.

The first email describes an incident in which a female student was raped in a wooded area at 11:15 PM. The perpetrator was said to be a “white male, mid-to-late 50’s” who was last seen running from campus. The second email involved “forcible fondling” at a campus fraternity house at 1:15 AM, perpetrated by an alleged Emory student. The female student then kicked the perpetrator and left the premises.
    Both occurrences demonstrate that sexual assault is most certainly an issue on college campuses. However, ‘stranger rapes,’ when the perpetrator is not an acquaintance of the victim, occur less often than ‘date rapes’ or non-stranger rapes, and are thus more shocking for many students to hear about. The conversations that took place after the emails were received took on decidedly different tones, with stronger and more fearful reactions involved in the dialogue about the stranger rape.

Sexual assault is defined by the Department of Justice as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Why should one example of sexual assault be taken more seriously than another? I believe many Emory students’ emotional and fearful reactions to the stranger rape are the indirect effects of a subtle and socially constructed “rape culture,” including a sense of victim-blaming that diminishes the guilt that should be placed on the perpetrator. However, victims of date rape and sexual assault by acquaintances are in no means responsible for their experiences and their trauma should not be trivialized.

The conversations I overheard following the email blasts support Lisak’s claim about the “continuing perception, both generally and within the criminal justice system, that rapes committed by undetected rapists – rape of acquaintances that typically go unreported – are somehow less serious than stranger rapes” (Lisak 74). Giving justice to the survivors of sexual assault, whether perpetrated by an acquaintance or a stranger, requires a changing mentality among the general public and legal administrators. Public discourse must recognize that non-stranger assaults are just as serious and traumatic for the survivors, and must be dealt with in the same manner.


Works Cited

Lisak, David. “Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists.” Violence and Victims 17, no. 1 (2002). Accessed February 17, 2014. http://www.wcsap.org/sites/www.wcsap.org/files/uploads/webinars/SV%20on%20Campus/Repeat%20Rape.pdf.

“Title IX and Sex Discrimination.” Policy Guidance, June 18, 2012. Accessed February 17, 2014. http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/tix_dis.html.

“USDOJ: Office on Violence Against Women: Crimes of Focus: Sexual Assault.” Accessed February 19, 2014. http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/sexassault.htm.

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