Snuff has been around for a long time, but it’s something that the average Jo/anne has managed to be more or less protected from, but this morning, a three week old video of a gang rape of a sixteen or seventeen year old girl (the reports on Twitter vary) went viral. I haven’t seen the video, but #RapeVideo is trending on Twitter in Johannesburg.
I’m glad I haven’t seen it, simply because I think once you’ve exposed yourself to something like that, the image will be with you for a long time. A breakdown of what’s on Twitter is all I can really offer. Seven boys, aged 14 to 20, gang raped a girl, who could be heard pleading for them to stop. They mocked her pleading an encouraged each other as they took turns. When done, they paid here two rand for her silence. I don’t think much more information is needed to understand what happened. The boys have apparently been arrested and are awaiting trial in Roodeport. The girl has not been found yet.
One wonders, with the recent discussions here on objective versus subjective morality, whether someone could argue that these kids aren’t guilty if they didn’t consider themselves to be doing wrong. If we consider the idea of morality as a characteristic, it could be argued that the effects of rape on society are measurable. My parents grew up in a time when they could walk around Durban after dark, without fear of murder; mugging or rape. They didn’t have burglar guards, in fact, on hot summer evenings mum slept on the balcony (of a split story house, where accessing the balcony from the ground wouldn’t be too tough.) Society has drastically changed, with heightened security as increased crime has raised fear among citizens. Of course the fact that woman can’t trust men to be gentlemen also has an adverse affect on people, and this Twitter trend shows how much people are impacted by an issue that they are removed from, it instils fear and loathing. Although this issue is important, and I will continue to blog about the need for moral objectivity, it’s not really what struck me while reading the Tweets on this trend. Three things really struck me. Firstly, the fact that people where requesting links to the video; secondly, the blame being cast, and lastly, the various suggestions for punishment.
People wanted to share the video so that the rapists would be caught, or at least that was one excuse. If this was really the case, then it would be better for a call to send the video to SAPS, rather than sharing it all over Twitter. Another option would have been to ask someone who already had the video simply to circulate frames showing the perpetrators faces. But since there is enough sex and violence coming through mass media already, and the dignity of the victim is at stake, it would be irresponsible to give it any more exposure than it has already generated.
The casting of blame ranged from society to the president, people have at least started looking at the boys themselves though. Far from me to be deterministic here, but we live in a society where mass media bombards people with sex and violence. This is bound to at least have a numbing affect on people. As a horse trainer, I’m often in the position where I have to desensitize a fearful horse. With enough work the horse not only learns to trust people, but also to enjoy their company, and attention. Is it not possible that by being exposed to so much sex and violence, that it has actually started to excite us? Is watching fictional accounts on TV no longer good enough that people need that real situation of sexual violence to excite them? No suspension of belief needed. If you answered no to these questions, consider that the video has gone viral.
As for blaming the president for his many wives, I don’t think that there is an established link between rape statistics and polygamy. That said, rape is considered to be about power, not sex. Many of us would have seen newspapers analysing the presidents wives and the apparent unbalanced attention they get. Polygamy puts men in positions of power (have you ever heard of a woman with many husbands?) This could possibly influence the way male citizens view woman. In the absence of an empirical argument here, I’d rather not jump at blaming a president I didn’t vote for, simply because my opinion of him is far from impartial.
Continuing with the power, I’m still inclined to look at a society where education has been failing, and continues to fail, the youth. Marked with the prospects of little chance at tertiary education, and just as small a chance of admission into a fickle and overloaded job market, these kids must feel somewhat disenfranchised. I’m not saying this in any way justifies their act. I’m not saying it’s not their fault, or that it’s subjective. I’m saying that we know rape has adverse effects on society, but if rape is a symptom of something else, then we need to address that, or we’ll be saddled with the rape every seventeen second issue for a long time. I don’t think society is entirely to blame, but as it is an issue that affects society, society needs to address it.
Punishment is a tough one, from calls for mob justice (think stoning/burning) to the death penalty, someone actually tried to be the voice of reason on Twitter and suggested the legal system. Mob justice is just two wrongs trying to right things. The death penalty is the one that I had to wonder about. We’re talking about a modern society with human rights here. Whether you agree with the death penalty or not is an aside here, consider the facts. Is any civilised country in the modern world going to off a fourteen year old for anything. Capital offences are very specific, it’s unlikely that the twenty year old would get the death penalty for this act, so bringing it back for this crime would either take us back to Leviticus, or serve no purpose at all.
The problem with leaving it to the law are the following: they often under sentence, and then parole people for various reasons. These kids have a right to an education, so they’ll probably come out better educated than the kids who can’t afford education, and who didn’t rape anyone. They’ll likely be raped and beaten in prison, and will come out worse than they are now. The legal system isn’t much help at all.
With advances in understanding morality and the brain, we can only hope that in the future, permanent beneficial effects can be applied to peoples’ cognitive moral faculties, rather than the current temporary detrimental effects that neuro scientists can exert on them. If this does happen, there will no doubt be an outcry against it from human rights fronts, who will argue that we are simply trying to play God, and are messing with peoples’ freedom to choose by altering cognition, but this wouldn’t be the case, since it wouldn’t be choice, but the moral awareness that was being influenced. Still, human rights groups are seldom reasonable. Whatever happens, we need something other the arcane eye for an eye, and the current criminal training camp that is the department of corrections.
I seldom actually ask for comments, I think this is only the second time, but I’d be interested in your suggestions here. Who, besides the perpetrators, if anyone, should also be shouldering the blame here? What can be done to prevent such incidents in the future? What sort of correction/justice should be meted out for such acts? Should an attempt at rehabilitation be made, or is this crime unforgivable?