I’ve written a few posts about my views as a “radical feminist,” mainly “Why I’m Rising” and “Radical Feminist”, but this time, I want to discuss how these issues have played out in a most recent experience here in HK.
Earlier in July, I attended the court hearing for a client at the women’s migrant shelter associated with my organization and the Mission for Migrant Workers. The employer raped this client twice almost one year ago (for privacy reasons, I will not share many other details about her case). When I arrived in HK (almost 11 months ago), she had just arrived at the shelter, and her case was FINALLy being heard a few weeks ago. Per HK foreign domestic worker regulations, she could not work while she had an open police (or labor) case nor could she file her labor case until her police case was settled. Annoyed yet? I am.
While attending the trial, I experienced a range of emotions, but primarily anger and sadness. As an avid watcher of Law and Order: SVU, I thought that I was prepared to attend a rape case, but I was not. I was deeply saddened by the level of detail that the prosecutor required the client to share, especially in front of so many strangers. I was also so proud of her for standing up to her employer, pursuing this case and fighting for her right to justice.
The trial illustrated the inherent bias that victims of sexual violence must contend with while trying to pursue a case. The bias in court cases of course reflects the larger gender issues in our society, where women receive blame for “exciting” men and inviting sexual violence. The idea of “she wanted it,” she “sent mixed signals,” she was wearing revealing clothing, she was drunk. All of these are components of rape culture, and it needs to end. People (usually men) commit rape. They force others to perform unwanted sexual acts. Women (or men/boys) do not invite sexual violence.
I have read about rape culture and about how it plays out for victims, but this was the first time that I experience this behavior first-hand.
The bias that I witnessed in the courtroom played out in many ways. Firstly, the burden of proof was on the victim rather than the defendant. Did she “invite the rape” in any sort of way? What was she wearing? What language did they communicate in and did he misunderstand? (For the record, “no” is pretty similar in a lot of languages) The laptop that he loaned to her before the incident, was that payment for sexual acts? Secondly, any slight contradiction between her original statement to the police and her testimony in court meant that she lied.
AS IF ANY OF THESE “REASONS” JUSTIFIES THE ACTIONS OF RAPIST.
I have had enough; enough of victim blaming, “boys will be boys” and rape culture in general. It all must end. Our society needs to re-orient our way of thinking, and assign blame to the perpetrator, not the victim. We then need to offer the victim real justice, real support and real love.
Note #1: I posted this blog entry with permission of the client at the shelter.
Note #2: A major factor in this client’s ability to pursue her case relied on her receiving physical (food, lodging) and emotional support from organizations here in Hong Kong, primarily Bethune House and the Mission for Migrant Workers. If you feel called to support other women at the shelter, please click my “Support Me” tab to learn how to contribute to the work of the shelter.