By Charles Akhimien
Rape is defined as one person forcing another, without this person's consent and using violence or threatening violence, to have intercourse or other forms of sexual activity. The same definition is applicable if the person is violated while in a vulnerable state such as sleep, unconsciousness, intoxication, physical or mental disability. Any present or previous relationship between the parties is irrelevant.
Rape is an act of violence against women that occurs in all cultures and amongst all races. A growing trend in cases of rape is that most of them are now being perpetuated in the home, by family members. This for most women is their home where they are supposed to feel most safe. For many, ‘home’ is where they face a regime of terror and violence at the hands of somebody close to them, somebody they should be able to trust. These victimized women suffer physically and psychologically, even more so that other victims of rape, because more than the act itself it was a breach of trust. They are unable to protect themselves and their human rights are denied and their lives are stolen from them by the ever-present threat of violence.
Here is the story of Laura Hardesty, a 26 year old.
At the age of 15, I was sexually abused by a family member. I was raped, losing my virginity to my Uncle. At the time he was 35 years old and married.
It was July, and I was on summer vacation. I went to visit my Moms side of the family in Alaska. I flew into Anchorage, Alaska on the 4th of July. I had never been to Alaska before, and had never met most of my family members that lived in Alaska. I had been invited to visit by my Grandfather. I was going to stay with him and meet all my Aunts, Uncles, cousins, and even Great- Grandma. I was so excited!
After that I wish I could go into more specific detail, but I have very scattered memories of the month I was there, actually, there more flashbacks than memories.
I hadn’t had alcohol much before, but it seemed so cool that my Uncle was giving me dinks. I remember having champagne at his house while he showed me around. His wife was at work, and he took me to meet her on the way to their house. But he refused to introduce me as his niece. He told his wife I was his cousin, he told other people I was his wife or girlfriend. He had a nice house and fancy things, drove a new car. Looking back, things should have started to seem strange. He told me details about the “open relationship” he and his wife had, but it was all kind of over my head and I was happy to go with the flow so everyone would like me. He also told me how much I looked like my Dad, and how much fun he’d had spending time with my family in the past. He even told me stories about babysitting my older sister and brother before I was born. I thought I was safe, he was family, my Moms brother, he was older, and married. He just seemed like the “cool” Uncle. At 15 years old I had no idea that those things weren’t enough to keep me safe. I didn’t know I should be worried, and no one else did either.
We were all going on a family fishing trip. When my Uncle asked me to ride with him it seemed great! Cool car, cool guy and a road trip! We both drank beer during the car trip. It never occurred to me that he was drinking and driving. In the car we talked a lot, I’m pretty shy, but the beer put a big dent in that. He kept pushing me to drink more, handing me drink after drink. I tried saying no, but he’d tease me, making me feel stupid and keep giving me drinks anyway. He asked me all about school and friends; he seemed really interested in everything I had to say. I wasn’t used to this and it made me feel special. He went on and on about how pretty I was. No one had ever paid attention to me like that before; it felt good to be noticed. At one point my Uncle asked me if I was a virgin. But by now, I had figured out that he was going to think it was stupid if I said yes, so I lied. This is one of the biggest regrets I’ve ever had. I’ve struggled for years thinking that this point alone could have changed things. If I had just told the truth and said I was a virgin maybe none of it would have happened. I’ve been told many times that it wouldn’t have changed things, but I still struggle with feeling like that lie made it my fault. The lie that changed my life forever.
After that things really get fuzzy. I was in numerous bars, and he had stepped things up to hard liquor. I’ll never forget his drink, rum and coke. He started pushing drinks with double shots in them and that was it. I vaguely remember an elevator ride. The next thing I remember was waking up in a motel room. I was naked and there was blood all over the white sheets and I had no idea why. I was so confused and sick; I went straight to the bathroom and vomited. After that I began looking for my clothes. I couldn’t find my underwear. Somewhere along the way my Uncle woke up. I asked him what happened, and he told me that I had invited him into my bed. He asked me if I was sore, I didn’t understand why. I got sick again. Then he gave me back my underwear. I asked what the blood on the sheets was from and he said he didn’t know, he even asked me if I had started my period. I was stunned. When I started to put things together I felt nothing, not mad, not sad, nothing. I never cried. I asked him if he used a condom. He said he hadn’t, I was instantly worried I was pregnant. I told him I had been a virgin, explaining I hadn’t started my period, he had taken my virginity. He reasoned with me that he would never have done it if he’d known that I was a virgin. After that I took a shower so hot my skin turned bright red. I felt so dirty, no amount of soap and hot water seemed to be enough. I also noticed a cut on my head. But after that I was just vacant inside.
(Laura is a survivor and a member of the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) Speakers Bureau).
Tales such as these are becoming increasing commonplace all over the world, as violence against women perpetuated by family members is on the rise.
These acts of violence against women represent the most egregious infringement on human rights in the 21st century. In a world of so much sophistication and technological advancement, violence against women is an anachronism. To eradicate such acts we have to take them just as serious as racism is taken. My mother always used to say “women are like flowers”. Indeed women are flowers that need to be handled and treated delicately. Thus protecting a woman is the decent thing to do; the only thing to do!