The horrors of gang rape

In December the world learnt about the horrendous, violent gang rape of a young woman aboard a bus in India. The woman spent days in intensive care battling for her life, but passed away from her injuries. The crime spawned mass protests in Delhi with people demanding justice and increased rights for women. A couple of days ago, we were reached by the news that a woman in Sweden was sexually assaulted by five men in the street. Though a rare type of crime in Sweden, it reminds us that these kinds of crimes take place anywhere in the world.

Yesterday we received a woman at the Family Support Center who had been raped by a group of men. The rape was perpetrated as revenge. The woman’s husband’s cousin had raped a woman from another clan and now the clan members came for vengeance. The woman told us that the perpetrators broke furniture in her house, killed the family’s pigs, belted her husband and then they took turns in raping the woman.

The latter incident has in my opinion many similarities to war rape, which is a tactic used to humiliate, dominate, punish and psychologically terrorize the enemy. In this case the perpetrators took revenge through sexually assaulting a woman (and physically assaulting a man) from the enemy clan even though these two were not involved in the original crime. Raping a woman in front of her husband also punishes the husband. However, here the issue is more complex. Another component that must be considered is also the question of identity. In Tari, the identity of a person is more of a collective nature. One is not considered merely an individual, but rather a part of a greater collective identity; one’s family. That way, the enemy can punish a person for something that was actually done by a cousin, like the case with our patient.

Gang rape, like the case in India and Sweden, is often a whim where men egg on each other. The common denominator in all cases is a varying level of lack of respect towards other people, and lack of respect towards women in particular. The perpetrators dehumanize the victim in order to justify their actions. They can also claim that the woman was agreeing to the incident or “leading them on” in order to diminish their own guilt.

MSF in Tari provides medical and psychological help for persons who have survived rape. Rape is a crime that affects many aspects of human life; it is a medical emergency, it is a psychological trauma and it has deep consequences on both family and societal level. It is of utmost importance that survivors of rape have access to immediate medical and psychological care, and also for the sake of preventing sexual violence altogether in a long-term perspective it is important that women’s rights in general are improved.

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11 Responses to The horrors of gang rape

  1. Omer A. Abdalla says:

    Seems like a global problem, regardless of the reason, it is one of the ever horrible experiences one can go through….
    I am just back to Khartoum from Islamabad, where I am working for MSF as mission pharmacist…
    Khartoum is quite as usual, the same people, the same everything… A part from the fact, that the city is overwhelming with the news of couple of recent rape crimes… Primary school teachers were involved on both the crimes!
    A teacher accused of Raping more than 10 of his class pupils in different occasions… All of the victims were under 15 years old..!
    The other private Teacher, had raped an 8 years old child, whom he suppose to teach, and her 3 years sister receptively, in their house while the family were away home for some social obligations!!
    Just have seen on the newspapers that another suspect has been sentience by Death penalty because of another Child/Rape crime that was occured in 2012.
    People are pushing and focusing on Women rights, not against that, but I think children are more vulnerable than women, it is time for a global action to protect child from Rape…

  2. Sandra Sedlmaier says:

    For sure rape is used for different reasons against women. But how sick is it to defile children? I am working for MSF in the slum of Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya and it is frightening the numbers of children (sometimes as young as 8 months) we do see in our SGBV clinic….. and this is just the tip of the iceberg! Many incidents are settled between the family of the concerned child and the perpetrator just to gain some money! The general stand of a woman in the slum is low…….. that of the children even lower!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Many people pushing for gender equality and to empower women. Please do the same for the children!

  3. Imran says:

    Damn Minja that’s some hard stuff you’re dealing with in PNG… stay strong homie. Out here in South Sudan, all good, except for a Hep E outbreak in the camp… Implementing some emergency WASH strategies to break transmission… hopefully it works. Extended my mission two months, so here til March. Keep writing!

  4. Ariana Tobe says:

    All men need to learn how to treat women with respect. They need to know that in no cases will a woman ever “egg them on” to be disrespected in such a drastic way. Countries across the globe should recognize rape as a more severe crime than how people perceive it now. Especially in areas around the world where woman are victims of this everyday, but because they are woman, receive no help. What you are doing in PNG is very admirable, and I wish you the best of luck!

  5. Kaush says:

    Indian politicians are arguing about the name of a new law without considering the failings in enforcement that make this poor woman’s situation far from an exception. Thank you both for the reminder that the fundamental issues are universal & for the work you do to help the survivors. Here’s hoping we can make the change we want to see.

  6. ms says:

    Thank you so much for this post and for your efforts in helping these women & their love ones. These issues speak to me not only because I’m a physician, a woman, and a citizen of a developing country but because weeks before the attack of the woman in India a dearly friend of mine was attacked in a very brutally and similar way while doing community work. Just the thought of the possibility of her ending like that Indian girl breaks my heart and I can’t imagine what their love ones are going throug, let alone the survivors. It is grafetul and spiring to know that there are people out there who care like you do. girl just

  7. Sean McGowan says:

    Open peoples eyes through education and disclosure of the ugly truth and as a society, maybe we can change! Tearfull reading, well done!

  8. morealtitude says:

    I used to work in PNG, and the issue of rape was always a terrible one, and so prevalent. Got to know your HoM a little while I was there, and the work MSF was doing around Lae with SGBV survivors. Given that MSF generally has a mandate for working only in the worst places- war zones & disaster areas- and not generally in development contexts, it shows just how critical the issue of rape & sexual violence is in PNG. You’re brave engaging in the mental health arena in this context- I wish you all the best.

  9. Dear Madam
    we in india are in different context. we have a different situation! many of us don’t know the classification of Rape!!!

  10. Raef says:

    Words will never describe how much I’m appreciating what MSF does for the mankind. It is something calls for pride to be working for MSF.

  11. Liesl Sorrell says:

    Thanks for your good work!