Ten things we should never forget about rape

Ten things we should never forget about rape

The case of Alexis Georgoulis, a member of the European Parliament for SYRIZA who resigned after an investigation into alleged sexual abuse, brought back familiar stereotypes about rape, which many of us hoped had been put to rest by now. But since repetition is the only way to deconstruct these cliches and disconnected inferences, let’s clarify some points again:

Rapists are not necessarily unattractive people. The exercise of violence and power are independent of appearance. The assumption that only ugly men resort to sexual abuse isn’t just unfounded, it’s bigoted.

The timing chosen to report an incident of sexual violence is solely the victim’s choice. It cannot be subject to the judgment of any third party. The constant questioning, “Why now? So many years later, a few weeks before the election?” – which in this particular case is not even true, since the complaint was made three years ago – directly calls into question the victim’s motives. And this is one of the most common mistakes in the handling of such cases.

The arguments “but they were a couple!” or “she took revenge on him because he left her” do not stand, because it has been known for decades now that rape is defined by an absence of consent and therefore can also be committed in the context of a marriage or relationship.

The anonymity of the victim is sacred. The victim should not be dragged into the limelight, as if she has to answer for something.

The anonymity of the victim is sacred. The victim should not be dragged into the limelight, as if she has to answer for something

Posting photos from a rape victim’s personal social media only serves the aforementioned effort of incriminating her.

Using sexual crimes as part of a political confrontation is pointless, because abusers exist across the ideological divide. The claim that rapists are only right-wing while leftists respect women as supposedly natural-born feminists has collapsed.

As long as the investigation is pending, it is fair to suspend the party membership of the alleged suspect, remove or expel him from positions of responsibility. But this cannot be done on the basis of simple rumors and scenarios. The criticism that main opposition SYRIZA acted too late is unfair, as is the association by some of ruling New Democracy with pedophilia, due to the double rape conviction of actor and director Dimitris Lignadis, who had been appointed artistic director of Greece’s National Theater by the current administration.

As in all criminal cases, a complaint, an investigation, and even the decision to indict does not imply guilt. Those who care about the rule of law in the country should maintain the presumption of innocence until the final judicial decision is made.

The handling of such delicate cases by the media requires journalistic sensitivity, seriousness and a culture of respect for the victims of sexual violence. The Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers (ESIEA) should organize seminars on the issue to educate reporters, instead of issuing angry statements after the fact.

Complaints like this one against Georgoulis will educate the younger generation. It is important that they learn to distinguish what constitutes sexual abuse, where a person can go if she finds herself in the victim’s position, what their rights are and be encouraged to exercise them.

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