When “no” is dumbed down with “why”

May 9, 2010

I was reading this article in the Sunday Star Times today: http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/features/3670518/Beyond-the-call-of-duty

It’s a pretty amazing story of a dedicated cop who tracked down a serial rapist.  The following article http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/features/3670516/How-Junior-Pillai-became-one-of-our-worst-serial-rapists almost reads like an instruction manual for would be rapists.  It also contains this snippet:

A clue to Pillai’s behaviour lies in his childhood. Born in Fiji (the family name was originally spelled Pillay), the third of five siblings, he was sexually abused regularly by an adult male cousin when he was only 10. The man bought Pillai’s silence with cash and said he would beat him if he talked.

People’s experiences definitely shape the person they become.  However I argue vehemently that while abuse as a child may affect a person’s self esteem, body image, and sexual function as an adult; it does not force the survivor to rape or abuse others.  It could be argued that people with a history of sexual abuse or rape understand exactly the damage they are causing in a way that a non-survivor never can.

I worry about the way male-male sexual abuse is clearly specified in this article.  I feel that there is an unspoken message in the media that male-female sexual abuse is somehow more ‘natural’, but that male-male sexual abuse is an abomination that men never recover from, that they can’t be responsible for their actions after such an experience.

I am concerned about the way our society focuses on ‘why’ when someone has committed a crime.  ‘Why’ is not necessarily helpful, illuminating, or progressive.  ‘Why’ asks for sympathy and understanding from victims to rapists.  It undermines the sense that rape is ALWAYS unacceptable.

Asking ‘why’ of survivors who don’t rape or abuse might be more useful.  Such articles would provide role models in the media of survivors who are not criminals, and could bring about better rehabilitation programmes for other survivors.

Thanks Maureen Glassey for focusing on what happened and to whom.  Thanks for seeing the victims of Junior Pillai as vulnerable people rather scheming minxes.  I’m sorry that the article about you is entitled Beyond the call of duty. I think you were probably just doing your duty as a cop, it’s a shame your colleagues weren’t helping.  I’m also sorry that the article goes into your personal appearance and popularity at work; though maybe your male colleagues are jealous that their ‘sharp cheekbones’ are not noted in the national press.  I’m glad that there are cops like you out there; now we just need objective journalists to report the facts and a receptive public looking for truth rather than excuses.

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