Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Case of Chaim Pinchas - Blaming the victim

Blaming the victim
Most rapes don’t take place by strangers who poison their drinks, but by acquaintances
by Sharon Mayevsky
Ynetnews, Israel
April 4, 2006

Chaim Pinchas, the owner of the Dom nightclub in Tel Aviv, was recently caught with 13 bottles of a substance thought to be the "rape drug."

Media reports were accompanied by advice from the police about how to protect oneself from the dangerous drug. We, trying to find a way to defend ourselves and wanting a list of dos and don’ts, take the advice with our womanly hands.

Pinchas is suspected of using the drug to seduce young boys, but the police investigation focuses only on young girls. Adult men and women, it seems, don't matter.

What's a girl to do?

What don't we women have to do? Should we stop accepting drinks from good looking guys? Should we refuse drinks from ugly ones? Must we be careful not to leave our drinks unattended on the bar? Do we have to keep our drinks with us at all times, including on the dance floor, and remember to keep a finger in the top of the bottle?

Must we coordinate? Is that even possible for women? Do we have to take our drinks with us to the bathroom? Hang on. The bathroom is also dangerous. Maybe we should just "hold it in" while we're out on the town. Maybe we just shouldn't drink alcohol during a night out. Maybe we shouldn't go out. In general, maybe its just better to hold back.

I shouldn't go out because someone might try to drug me up. I shouldn’t hitchhike, surf the internet or go on a blind date. Slowly but surely, we are being compartmentalized out of everyplace and every social situation. Just stay home, we are being told, with our loving families and husbands who will protect us.

Loving families

Really? In 2005, out of 8,970 calls to emergency help centers to report sexual assault (and our of 33,424 total calls), 20 percent of attackers were family members, and five percent were spouses.

25 percent of calls reported their attackers came from their immediate surroundings – you know, the people who are supposed to be supportive and loving.

A significant number of callers said they knew, to one degree or another, their attackers. Just 10 percent of victims were total strangers. But do you really think the general rules apply to just one-out-of-10 cases? What about the rules for thousands more victims? How can we teach them?

Invalid approach

Presumably, the intent here is good: realization brings forth questions. The rules may not be valid, but the approach that wants to characterize them is faulty, and focuses on just one part of the equation.

The police's approach represents the difficulty and refusal of Israeli society to separate between the myth that rape victims are attacked by perfect strangers, and to try to deal with issues like spousal and family rape, or rape between friends. Complicated situations, that don't work according to lists of "dos and don’ts."

Blaming the victim

The key to dealing with sexual violence has little to do with my ability to protect my drink with the palm of my hand. Responsibility for these actions cannot fall on the shoulders of the victims, either ideally or after the fact.

And what if I fail to observe the rules? What if I tried, but still got raped? It is good for the police to warn the hedonists of the dangers they face (again, not only women victims). But, as rape victims know, the road from here to blaming the victim is very short.

Every victim must deal with feelings of self-guilt, especially when she is overcome in a public and media atmosphere that "it all could have ended differently if only I hadn't spoken/smiled/flirted/drank/gone home with him."

If only I'd kept close to my drink, if only I'd been careful only to drink from a sealed bottle, if only I'd protected myself, if only I hadn't forgotten my poison at home…

In all of Israel there are only two emergency medical centers to treat victims of sexual attack – Wolfson Hospital in Tel Aviv and Bnei Tzion (Rothschild) hospital in Haifa. Rape victims from around the country must travel to these centers after their attacks, even if those attacks took place in Eilat or Jerusalem.

And if there is a suspicion of drug use, the tests are sent to Tel Hashomer, the country's only unit capable of identifying GHB, the so-called "rape drug." It should be noted that the tests cost a lot of money.

Still shocked by the attack, and assuming she will not be greeted with a reaction that she "likes violent sex" (such claims are not unheard of), the victim will be forced to ask herself why she didn't protect her drink.

After all, if you don't protect your drink, you've got no one to blame but yourself.

Sharon Mayevsky is the spokeswoman for the Association of Rape Crisis Centers


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