Thursday, September 11, 2014

Small Small Thing

While at my sister's home we watched "Small Small Thing" about a rape of a little girl in Liberia. She isn't the only one.

In the movie one of the doctors explains how the war built up a culture of rape (wars tend to do that) and subsequent frustration when the now-disarmed fighters feel powerless and want the perks they used to have. That's nice and plausible, but I'd think the crimes would be concentrated where the ex-fighters wound up. There wasn't any hint that the uncle (or the other men in the stories mentioned) was anything but a long-time member of the village--and the village stuck together to protect him.

A driver, taking the team up-country to the girl's family (and the uncle who raped her), talked about rape of children, and said something that startled me: "It was worse before the war." He said a lot of men did it to get power and money--presumably magically.

In Southern Africa (Wikipedia says sub-Saharan Africa) there's an ugly belief that sex with a virgin will cure AIDS. That suggests that magic really is one of the motives there.

There's another possibility--that cultures turn nasty when faced with a superior culture. The Atlantic article on rape in Alaska wants to blame their sky-high incidence of rape in the tribal areas on colonial efforts to disrupt the native culture, but I wonder if this is part of a reaction against inferiority. I'm told that some guys (not all, or even a majority) get psyched up for battle and violent sex at the same time. (And that others regard women as a reward of conquest, which isn't the same thing. I've not been in the army, much less in combat, and have no first-hand observations.) If a similar reaction drives the rape of children in villages, then there should be a before and after, and maybe it would have been observed. Aborigines? Newly found South American tribes? It doesn't seem perfectly convincing to me, but maybe I just don't have a clear enough understanding of the dynamics.

They know it's wrong, or they'd not try to hide it as hard as they do. But there's always some excuse. The guy is the only able-bodied hunter, and they'll starve if he dies or is imprisoned--I get that one, though there still ought to be some way of shaming him. But blaming the teller rather than the do-er for shaming the family?

At this distance, as an outsider, I have no idea what to do. Pray, yes. In this country I can denounce the glorification of violent sex (a staple of some music genres) and other trends, but abroad?

My mother wrote an AIDS prevention pamphlet aimed at girls, warning of the dangers of taking up with sugar daddies. I tried to write something for men, but realized it relied too heavily on combating desperation with some notions of chivalry--which is a western concept we haven't tried to either cultivate or export lately. But if sex is tied in with magic--my concept was completely hopeless.

And it keeps happening.

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I followed the Alaska link because my son and some others I know are there.

While people are generally agreed that colonisers were horrible to the Natives, most people do not attribute incest and rape culture to their arrival. What little evidence we do have is that these were violent societies before the arrival of Europeans.