Matthew Cohen, MSW

Matthew Cohen, MSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Accountability For Cultural Attitudes That Contribute To Rape

I came across a piece written By Urvashi Butalia, a feminist writer living in India. She wrote as protests began to develop around the country in response to the public gang rape of a woman. It is important to hear an inside perspective on such matters. Although some subjects transcend national barriers, cultural maturation will only come with the incorporation of the perspectives of all cultures. The author raises the poignant question about how we all contribute to rape.

It is important to raise our collective voice against rape. But rape is not something that occurs by itself. It is part of the continuing and embedded violence in society that targets women on a daily basis. Let’s raise our voices against such violence and let’s ask ourselves how we, in our daily actions, in our thoughts, contribute to this, rather than assume that the solution lies with someone else. Let’s ask ourselves how we, our society, we as people, create and sustain the mindset that leads to rape, how we make our men so violent, how we insult our women so regularly, let’s ask ourselves how privilege creates violence.

That really strikes home no? There are two major themes that emerge from rape: either the victim is blamed, or the rest of us distance ourselves from the nastiness by reminding ourselves that we have never, and would never, do such a thing. Yet, the author raises a point; rape does not happen in isolation, there are causes and conditions that give rise to it as much as any individual action. There are thousands of,  perhaps hundreds of thousands, years of a male dominated culture that oppresses woman. There are times when rape is over looked, such as in war, and there have been times that rape has been perfectly legal. When the ugliness of a gang rape emerges, we have to think seriously about enlarging the scope of the cause beyond the perpetrators. There is a collective mentality here, and although the rest of us might not guilty as individuals, as  part of the collective there is surely some aspect  that makes us all accountable. I say this writing in America thousands of miles from India; we are all, I included, accountable for rape, if not just by the silence and victim blaming. Her comments on this subject should be required reading for any social worker, and should be seriously considered for all the rest.

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