Sexual assault is a cheap and effective weapon. But in a new case in which this weapon has so horrifyingly been wielded, in the northern state of Haryana, India, the perpetrators may actually have defeated its own usefulness. If that is to be true, it is up to us.
A 21-year-old woman is accusing five men of raping her inside a car on Wednesday in Rohtak, where she goes to college. Some of the men were the same ones who raped her twice over the course of four days in October 2013, she told police.
“They tried to strangulate me,” the woman has told the press. “They said they would kill my father and brother.”
Her family says they have been pressured by the accused men to settle the first case and that they believe the new rape was meant to scare the family once and for all into backing off of legal proceedings. “The accused were constantly threatening us to compromise outside the court,” the victim’s brother told the Hindustan Times. “They even offered us a hefty amount for settlement. But we didn’t agree.”
With Indian police yet to make an arrest in the new attack, nerves are raw as social media and pundits voice the mounting international outcry. It’s yet another moment in which we are shocked, shocked, by the brutality of men. But to be clear, mainly we are shocked by the brutality of men “over there.” We separate ourselves from what happens to women in far off places in order to protect ourselves: This couldn’t happen here! But happen here it does. Again and again.
When Gloria Steinem and I wrote about a concept called the “cult of masculinity” a few years ago, we talked about a kind of false idea of manhood that makes some men act violently and risk their lives against their own self-interest as human beings. With male violence plaguing the planet, it is time to stop distancing ourselves from the “over there” and recognize that we are not doing as well as we’d like to think in this country and in most places around the world.
Whether it is in a newsroom in New York or a house in Iowa, there are many things we can do to push back at the mindset and the behaviors — large and small — that lead to abuse of women. It’s not hard to draw a straight line between language that casually degrades women, pop culture that objectifies them, political and cultural norms that render them “less than,” and the impulse of some men to feel free to harm them.
To read the rest of this op-ed, please click over to CNN.com.