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Rape as Weapon By: Phyllis Chesler
Pajamas Media | Monday, August 03, 2009


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First, I want to thank my many readers (90 so far) who have posted comments in response to my blog about the four child barbarians from Liberia who gang-raped an 8-year-old-girl in Phoenix. As more than one reader noted, even in (imperfect) America, the gang-rape of a child, even by other children, is considered a crime and prosecuted as such.

Thus, Phoenix prosecutors have charged 14-year-old, Steven Tuopeh, as an adult, while the other boys, who range in age from nine to thirteen, have been charged in juvenile court. In addition, the 10- and 13-year-olds also have been charged with kidnapping. Their identities are being withheld because of their ages.

According to the Phoenix police, calls have come in from all over the United States offering money; some people have offered to adopt the young girl. The girl’s family has been admonished by the President of Liberia, who is a woman, who said that she herself had been the victim of an attempted rape during the Civil War and that now, in Liberia, rape victims are no longer blamed, the shame does not belong to them but to the criminals who sexually violate them.

Google records nearly 60,000 articles about the case (some are repeats of course), from all over the world. People are interested in the issues this case raises. How we understand these issues will determine our destiny as a nation and as a modern, civilized culture.

When a Western country accepts immigrants from a non-Western country, where war zones exist on an almost permanent basis, we must understand that child soldiers, mainly boys, have been recruited to hate, rape, kill, and torture. Professor David M. Rosen has written a powerful book about child soldiers: Armies of the Young: Child Soldiers in War and Terrorism. Rosen, a professor of anthropology, compares Jewish children who fought against Nazis, child soldiers in Sierre Leone, and Palestinian child fighters and raises important ethical questions.

Traditionally, rape was a spoil, not a weapon of war. That’s all changed. On every continent today, when war is waged, repeated, public, mass, gang-rape has increasingly been used as a weapon of war, not as a spoil. For years now, I have called this “gender cleansing” because the repeated gang-rapes are meant to destroy the girl or woman’s soul and through her, the soul of her family and people. Many wartime rape victims kill themselves. Many are rejected by their own families. Some are killed by their own families. At best, the victims enter serious depressions which, if untreated, may last a lifetime.

I was once asked to accompany a Christian mission to Sudan to help the raped women. Unfortunately, I was unable to undertake the physical hardships that would have been involved but I suggested the creation of a private “Woman’s Tent” in which the rape victims could bare/bear their shame and sorrow in a comforting and consoling setting. I believe that just this, (and it’s little enough), could nevertheless save some minds and perhaps lives. Trained lay counselors who could speak the same language would have been required–and they would have had to understand rape in a very western and feminist way.

So much for the victims. I am not sure about the victimizers. Like batterers, rapists do not often change their ways through talk-therapy. They do not usually seek treatement and court-mandated treatment does not seem to work. Not even in the civilized West, not even in America. In America, more rapes are reported than in a Third World country where rape is shameful and sometimes leads to the family’s murder of the rape victim. Americans do prosecute rapists more than ever before (which is good) but prosecution and conviction do not necessarily lead to rehabilitation. When rapists are freed, they tend to rape again.

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Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the well known author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (2005). She has just published a new edition of Woman's Inhumanity to Woman (2009). She is an Emerita Professor of psychology and women's studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969) and the National Women's Health Network (1976). Her website is www.phyllis-chesler.com.


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