A ‘No’ means ‘No!’

Understanding date rape At 24 Mutesi is like any other girl of her age. She has a job she loves and is looking forward to marrying her boyfriend in a few months. One would think she has it all, but this is far from it. 

Understanding date rape

At 24 Mutesi is like any other girl of her age. She has a job she loves and is looking forward to marrying her boyfriend in a few months. One would think she has it all, but this is far from it. 

Mutesi is haunted by her past. It has been four years since the horrible incidence, but she remembers it like it was yesterday.  The day she was raped shall forever be etched in her memory. In tears she remembers the day Tom invited her for a date while they were both on campus.

“I had known him for long and so a date with him was one I looked forward to,” she remembers sadly. After the date she remembers going with him to her campus room where she made tea—only to realise later Tom had ill motives.

“He was my friend and it hurts me that he did this to me,” she continues. Her friend turned a molester and she wonders how someone she trusted could rape her.

“I’ve always wondered if he was drunk since we had a few drinks before heading to campus. I hope he was. I hope he wouldn’t do that while sober. I don’t even know if he thought it was rape, but I definitely did not want it. I was fighting the whole time.

“I don’t know whether to call it rape since I didn’t try to stop him I was in shock the whole time. The truth is that this was not an option but an excuse to a crime that this man had committed.

So the question is, “Was she raped?”  Someone took advantage of her. Someone made an internal decision to violate her and hoped to get a way with it.

He forcefully took her without her consent whether she fought him off or not, whether she reported it or not this person raped her.

Date rape is a very strong word. It is a word that many women feel uncomfortable using. Few even know that such a term exists.

The perpetrator is normally an acquaintance, a friend or even a relative. This is date rape. The perpetrator often doesn’t believe that he is committing a crime, but he is.

When a woman goes willingly on a date and is involuntarily violated this is date rape. These women are often ashamed, confused, and afraid they won’t be believed or even they might get blamed for the event that took place, so they do not report the incident to anyone.

According to Haguruka, a non governmental organisation (NGO) that provides legal aid to women and children. In their statistics Mutesi’s case is not an isolated one; it is unfortunately far too familiar.

At least 68 rape cases were reported 2007 across the country. Most of the perpetrators were friends or neighbours to the victims. Then why aren’t these young women pressing charges? Date rape is hard to prove.

Unlike other crimes, this kind of rape is under reported because of the powerful stigma associated with it. According to Ellie Nzeyimana Haguruka’s legal department advisor.

Date rape cases have increased over the years and many girls like Mutesi are ignorant of their rights and fear the gruelling procedure involved in the prosecuting of their perpetrators.

Rape in Rwanda carries a life sentence if the victim is under the age of eighteen. Having intercourse with an under eighteen child is considered rape with or without evidence of consent from the victim.

However for those over eighteen, unless the perpetrator is caught in the act the process is harder and more evidence has to be produced to ensure prosecution.

Victims have to prove to the judges beyond reasonable doubt that the perpetrator raped them even if they voluntarily agreed to go with them to the scene of the rape.

Victims, usually women, are viewed as liars as the man in question uses their prior relationship as a base of his defence. The woman has to prove that she was not willing to go all the way.

Unfortunately it is a case of her word against his. Most cases are not treated with the urgency they require for evidence to be collected in due time.

To avoid this process these women simply keep quite or the case is resolved out of court between the families involved. In some cases the women are forced to marry their perpetrators should she become pregnant as a result of the rape.

Huguruka supports poor women who otherwise cannot afford legal representation however their statistics show that still more and more women do not report rape cases due to fear of what it might entail while some do not have any idea if they have been raped or not.

The truth is there is still not enough information available to sensitize women about rape occurrences and how they can protect themselves. No one should have to go though a rape experience.

Both men and women need to acknowledge that sexual assault happens and that it is intolerable. Date rapists will only stop viewing themselves as being law abiding people when the justice system and the public stops living in denial of date rape occurrence and its rising statistics.

Unless we say no to criminals who take advantage of women our silence only goes to advance their malicious acts. Unless we stand up for the fallen women we continue to condemn them in their loss.

Contact: pgathoni@gmail.com

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