Trigger warning: This article or section, or pages it links to, contain information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.

Disclaimer

  • I have written about rape and sexual violence.
  • I have read a lot about rape and sexual violence.
  • I have thought a lot about rape and sexual violence.
  • I support a lot of initiatives regionally that deal with rape and sexual violence.
  • I have said no and it’s been ignored.
  • I have said no and it’s been accepted with grace.
  • I have said no and it’s been accepted and I’ve been made to feel shitty about it.
  • My politics are unapologetically feminist. I think rape is violent and often inextricably linked to masculinist notions of power and entitlement. Victims and survivors of rape (who are predominantly women) are never to blame.
  • I believe that regret regarding a sexual encounter and not wanting it to happen at the time (regardless of whether it is conveyed in ways a partner thinks are “strong enough”) are two very different things. The first indicates a conscious decision to have sex at the time, the second does not.

Today however, my reaction to hearing of a case (of which I know no details) where a man was sentenced to ten years for rape threw me for a loop. I was genuinely shocked at the length of the sentence. Well firstly, I was surprised that the case went to trial, and was successful, without it being a statutory rape case. But secondly, and almost frighteningly and shockingly, I thought: 10 years is too long.

What my reaction made me realise is that I have never really thought about punishment
and consequences surrounding rape and sexual violence. Most of my work has been on the prevention tip. With inspirations like Yes Means Yes I have more readily focused on sexuality, negotiating sexual relationships and teen romance to talk about sexual violence.

Upon further reflection though, my issue is not so much around the sentence itself, or sexual violence but my complete and utter lack of faith in the prison system. For anyone who knows me and my future this is pretty ironic. But I believe Angela Davis has the right idea, prisons need to be abolished. The length of the sentence is not a deterrent and I think in the long run it actually breeds contempt in the individual and the wider community.

Rape and sexual violence are not victim-less crimes but I think we need to think more explicitly about what we would like to see that will make things better. I believe in the possibilities of trans-formative justice. I know we’re not there yet, but I hope one day to be a part of making that shift. So regardless of a conviction, i.e. once a charge is brought, fully off the top of my head I would like to see:

for survivors of sexual violence:

  • praise for coming forward
  • counselling re:
    • (re)building intimacy and trust
    • dealing: with community backlash and negative emotions

for perpetrators of sexual violence

  • counselling re:
    • power, coercion and entitlement
    • negative emotions
  • psycho-education models re: enthusiastic consent

Longer periods in jail do not increase chances of rehabilitation. In the Caribbean as our crime rates continue to rise, and our prisons begin to fill to the brim we need to think more comprehensively about the long term effects of these measures on our communities. As a future mental health professional, I know there are possibilities, I certainly recognise the need. But without a doubt, we need to be more supportive (for the survivors) and creative (for both the survivors and the perpetrators) when it comes to justice.

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Comments on: "justice, rape and sexual violence" (2)

  1. Say what?!! I think 10 years for rape is just about right. People get more time in jail for possession of drugs, but we think that rape – a crime that seriously and devastatingly impacts the physical, psychological and emotional well-being of a person for years and years should not be as severely punished? I am lost with that one. Should rehabilitation be a part of sentencing? Of course. But punishment is the price to be paid for crime, for justice for those violated. And substantial sentences for rapists is an education to the wider public that rape is a serious crime.

    • This is certainly one of those posts where I expected someone to disagree with me. I tell you, I was completely taken aback by how shocked I was by the 10 year sentence. I maintain that it’s b/c of my lack of faith in the prison system. I’m just not convinced that lengthy prison sentences will always be the answer. Also, I think overall they are not deterrents, it makes conviction far more difficult and victim backlash even harsher.

      Side note: I think someone getting 10 years (or more) for possession of drugs (especially without intent to distribute) is ludicrous. I don’t think 10 years for rape is ludicrous, I was just genuinely surprised.

      But alas, here we disagree; maybe my position will change with time, it certainly surprised me this time. Thank you for commenting Simone. 🙂

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