In a world where rape victims frequently report that they haven’t gotten the care and emotional support need or that they have become the victim of “victim-blaming”, learning that someone is working hard to help victims gives many a sense of hope.
The Nobel Peace Prize
It was announced on October 6th, 2016, that Dr. Denis Mukwege who many know from a documentary called “The Man Who Mends Women: The Wrath of Hippocrates”, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the third time.
Dr. Mukwege began his career as a gynecologist in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he opened Panzi Hospital. He initially hoped to help reduce the number of women who died during childbirth, but his focus changed when his first patient arrived.
She had been beaten and raped with what he called “extreme violence”.
Today, his hospital is an international foundation which helps rape victims. Their services don’t just cover the medical recovery, they also offer the support needed to heal emotionally and mentally. They’ve even created a five-step process called the Panzi healing model. The “five pillars” are:
- Medical care
- Psychosocial therapy
- Socioeconomic support
- Reintegration into society
- Legal assistance
His work has earned him numerous awards, including:
- UN Human Rights Prize
- Olof Palme Prize
- Wallenberg Medal from University of Michigan
- Civil Courage Prize
- Sakharov Prize for the Freedom Of Thought
- Hillary Clinton Award
- Human Rights First Award
Several universities have also extended him an honorary degree as a Doctor of Science, including Harvard.
The work that Mukwege does is not appreciated by many, however, and in 2012 after giving a speech against the horrors of mass rape in the U.N., a man entered his home and tried to kill both the doctor and his family. Thankfully, a guard stopped the man and they were able to flee.
U.S. Rape Culture
While the U.S. certainly does not have to face many of the horrors experienced by women in the Congo, we do have our own rape culture through which the victims of rape are further victimized.
What Is Rape Culture?
Any environment in which rape is widespread, but the media and popular culture “normalizes” or excuses it, is rape culture. Examples include:
- Making the act seem not as serious as it is, a “boys will be boys” attitude.
- Victim blaming – implying that she or he may have asked for it based on what they were wearing, drinking, or doing just before the attack.
- Allowing sexual harassment or cat calling to continue and thinking that’s ok.
- Teaching women that they need to constantly be aware and protect themselves but not teaching men that they are responsible for the harm they cause women when they rape them.
- Law officers failing to take rape allegations seriously.
A lot of attention has been brought to this culture in the U.S. over the past year, especially after an anonymous victim wrote a letter detailing the way she was treated after her attack by her family, friends, attorneys, and the public.
Given the stress and attitude that many victims believe they will receive if they report what has happened to them, it is hardly surprising that a large percentage of rapes go unreported.
Can Things Change?
Yes. Change won’t be overnight, but there are steps we can take as a society to encourage change. There are many groups that work with victims so that they feel comfortable with reporting the crime and understand all of their legal options. As for public outcry, poor decisions made by judges are being put under a microscope and petitions are being signed demanding that they be pulled from the bench.
You might think that you can’t make much of an impact but all it takes is someone speaking up and making it clear that allowing the general attitude to continue is unacceptable. If you see someone behaving inappropriately, don’t just look the other way. Speak up or contact the police.