You will probably be disturbed and irritated at me for writing this… “Lee, why you always gotta be such a downer?” Well, don’t blame me for being down, blame the Patriarchal world we live in for getting me down. It is not possible to cover our ears, shut our eyes, and run our mouths about human rights all at the same time, monkeys.
This week in news (Cambodian Daily-style)…:
Tuesday: Training Aims to Protect Children From Predators: British experts in Phnom Penh are training about 160 teachers, police, government workers and childcare professionals on how to better protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation as part of a three-day workshop that began only yesterday. …British Ambassador Mark Gooding said the training was necessary because of “the growth of Internet use in Cambodia, especially among young people.” According to… the country director for anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour les Enfants, there are clear signs that online sexual predators are beginning to have a presence in Cambodia. “We have observed a few cases where children were groomed online by traveling sex offenders, and that means it will be a great concern in the future.” (by Lauren Crothers)
The growth of the internet has produced many learning opportunities for kids in Cambodia, but the downside is that it also increases their risk of encountering predators who use this anonymous technology to seek out victims. Kids, especially boys, can use the internet in towns and cities (and, increasingly, larger villages) completely unmonitored. These days this is how young boys are more often exposed to porn; they can pay less than 50 cents for 30 minutes to an hour of unrestricted access to any site on the web, and many of them go with friends to watch pornography at public internet cafes. Even when shop owners and others know this is going on, there is little or no stigma attached to boys (even very young boys) viewing porn. For all children, though, “playing chat” on the web is the new “big thing”; my impression from my students is that there is a certain prestige to having foreign friends on Facebook and Skype– I can imagine how easy it would be for a foreign pedophile to arrange a meeting with a child in Cambodia via the internet. Cambodian nationals will probably catch on to the internet as a way of hunting victims, too, as their access to the web increases; probably they have already, but there are very few statistics on crimes organized using the internet here.
Court Charges Man with Raping 8-Year-Old Girl: The Kandal Provincial Court yesterday charged a 31-year-old man with raping an 8-year-old girl in her home…on Sunday. The suspect was drunk at the time of the attack and had gone looking for the victim’s 16 year-old sister…”But he did not find her and met with the victim,” said police chief Mean Samnang. (by Khy Sovuthy)
Um… I don’t really have anything to say about this. I think it speaks for itself. But if your first thought was, “It would have been better if he’d found the 16-year-old instead,” I hope you ask yourself why.
Wednesday: Girl Detained, Drugged and Raped Over Two-Week Span: Girl was allegedly given sleeping pills by suspect, fed little in order to keep her in a weakened state.
The Ratanakkiri Provincial Court on Monday charged a teenager with rape, after he allegedly detained a 17-year-old girl at his home, drugged her and raped her over a two-week period, court officials and police said yesterday. The suspect, 17, was arrested on Friday after his uncle discovered the girl locked in his wooden house in Banlung City… After being questioned by police, the suspect confessed to raping the girl– who was his neighbor and knew him well– giving her sleeping pills and barely feeding her so that she would be sleepy, weakened, and unable to cry for help, [police chief] Vun said. “The girl was detained and locked in the room. The suspect had given her medicine that we assume must have been sleeping tablets,” Mr. Vun said. “He confessed that he raped her seven or eight times, but says it was because he loves her.” ..”After seven days, we were hopeless. We thought she had died, and we lit incense and put out offerings for her,” the victim’s mother said. (by Chhorn Chansy)
It is unlikely they will do a follow-up story here, but it is quite possible that the survivor will be mistreated (or disowned) by her family for “allowing” the rape to occur, or even worse she might be forced to marry her rapist. Well, he does love her after all.
Horrific? Toahmadah in the Kingdom of Wonder– normal, that is. If you talk to young adults, especially pre-teen and teenaged boys, in Cambodia, you will find that they have very unhealthy conceptions about “love”, “relationships”, “boyfriends/girlfriends”, and what constitutes “romantic”. A friend of mine had it from her teacher that the first time he had sex with his girlfriend, he had to hold her down and force his penis inside of her as she said “no no no” while physically resisting him. This girl later became his wife. Most people can look at this scenario and say, “This is rape.” But many people see this is “what must be done”, since it is culturally unacceptable for a girl to say “yes” to sex; if a girl says “no”, the default assumption can be that she wants to have sex, but cannot consent to it without looking like a whore. So the young man in the article above may have thought he was doing his “love” a favor by drugging her and locking her in a shed– maybe he really believed she wanted to have sex with him, but “could not consent”.
Friday: Violence Continues to Go Unpunished, Adhoc Says: Domestic violence continues to go virtually unpunished, authorities appear unable or unwilling to arrest sex traffickers, and rape of minors is “exceedingly numerous,” according to Adhoc’s annual report on the state of women and children in Cambodia… Deep-seated cultural obstacles are part of the problem of combating the violence, noted [Adhoc's] report. “Domestic violence is seen as the norm and women themselves do not think it is criminal but a regular part of married life,” the report states. …Impunity also plays a role in the punishment of rapists. Courts handle only 2.52 percent of rape cases, and 11.34 percent are mediated by local authorities. …Last year was the first year in which rapes did not increase, but 72 percent of rape victims were children under 18, “which is extremely concerning” [the report says]. …Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the fact that figures remained “stable” was a positive sign. “It’s better than increasing,” he said. Asked about Adhoc’s focus on impunity, Mr. Sopheak said: “Oh, we don’t have an impunity culture. That is what people say, but the government does not have an impunity culture.”
Of course the Ministry of Interior is not going to just come out and say, “Hellz yeah we’re corrupt! LOLZ”. But Sopheak’s delusional observation of Cambodian rape statistics as positive because they are “stable” is insufferable. “It’s better than increasing”…? If you say dumb shit like that in the U.S., you lose your job (or you should, at least). Again, toahmadah. Whatever. Highly-ranked public “servants” can openly deny corruption and dismiss horrific rape stats in the same breath here with absolutely no consequences. If you live here, you’re thinking, “Well, duh. It’s not like this is a democracy.” And I agree. It still completely blows all my circuits though– I simply cannot comprehend it. I want to reinforce this point so that you understand how completely normative, pervasive, and acceptable rape culture is in this country. It is my personal belief that all of human society operates inside of rape culture, but it is more powerful and functions in greater degrees in some countries than in others. It is not just the lack of punishment and accountability of rapists that perpetuates rape culture in the Kingdom of Wonder, but the deeply-ingrained effects of enculturating people of all genders here with profoundly violent and misogynist behaviors and attitudes and acceptance of those behaviors and attitudes. Like the teacher I mentioned above: this is a teacher, a respected member of his community who wants to educate poor villagers for free and start a non-profit jobs training program and all kinds of stuff– Nice Guy™. He’s still a rapist, people. If a “nice guy” like him believes that you have to force sex on a woman the first two or three times you want to have sex with her, we can’t be surprised to see articles like the one about the 17-year-old who kidnapped and raped the love of his life, or the 31-year-old who raped his 8-year-old neighbor ’cause her older sister wasn’t “available”.
About the article… “But Lee, isn’t it positive that the statistics aren’t increasing?” The statistics, unfortunately, only take into account those rapes that Adhoc heard about in some way, shape or form. Most rapes are never reported to any official entity, let alone dealt with by the police. It is extremely common for rapists to simply pay off families of victims to maintain silence, and in some cases to marry the victim to the rapist in order to save face (especially if the victim becomes pregnant). If only around 13% of reported rapes were dealt with by some kind of official entity (courts, commune and village chiefs, etc.), then that means almost 87% of cases (again, of reported rapes) are being handled privately. Which means virtually no repercussions for the rapist. Who will then be free to rape again. And again. Well, you get the idea.
p.s. That 2.52% are case that are “handled” by the courts NOT cases in which the perpetrator is sentenced, let alone serves that sentence. The 31-year-old who raped his 8-year-old neighbor was charged, but that does not equate to being sentenced or going to jail, or even paying a fine (though he can, and probably will, pay a bribe to be cleared of charges). Are we getting the picture here? Really? (For a laugh, you could compare these stats with those from American courts and you’ll see that they are more similar that you might think. Ha. Ha.)
I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but the reason why I am so sickened by these statistics is because they don’t account for all rapes, but only a portion– how large of a portion? We can’t know, but remember that rape victims are extremely stigmatized here. If you knew you were going to be blamed, badgered, laughed at, possibly married to your rapist, and ultimately told to shut up, and your rapist would almost certainly walk free, would you tell anyone that you were raped, or would you keep it to yourself? I look around at my neighbors, students, friends, even my Khmer family and wonder how many of them have experienced violence, including sexual violence, and are stoically keeping their mouths closed about it. Actually, many of them would probably never label rape if it did happen to them, which is no surprise consider that Cambodian law excludes many forms of rape in its legal definition. I also look around at the same people and wonder how many of them have raped or are raping someone and they will never even call it that. It saddens me very, very deeply.
When I talk about things like this with my (most often American) family, friends, acquaintances, whoever… They express a good deal of discomfort, try to change the subject, attempt to “lighten the mood” by making jokes, and so on.
Am I getting you down?
I don’t care.
Perhaps this is the 2012 “new me”, but I intend to unapologetically disperse information to as many people as I can about the Situation we find ourselves is as often as I possible can. I will ignore your discomfort, I will refocus the subject, and I will carefully dismantle your jokes with psychosocial and cultural analysis so you see how joking about This perpetuates rape, the function of Patriarchy, and so on.
I am going to be SO POPULAR. :D