I want to share a story that a Brazilian friend of mine wrote about on facebook about the case of a 21-year-old Brazilian law school student who killed herself after being raped by a colleague. One can’t say for sure, but it’s highly plausible that a macho culture that doesn’t take rape seriously and believes women bring it upon themselves by being “provocative,” combined with weak efforts by the law to prosecute rapists, may have contributed to this young women’s decision to end her life.
Here’s what my friend said (the original Portuguese follows):
RAPE IN BRAZIL AND INDIA (the “BR” and the “I” of BRIC of corruption and impunity): After hearing even here on facebook that the cause of the downfall of innumerable Brazilian officials has been, naturally, their women, their lovers, I was fed up with accepting the attitude of accepting machismo that exists in Brazil. Because of this, in conducting my own comparisons between India and Brazil, we have here the case of a law intern who, as far as we know, was raped at a Christmas party by one of her “lawyer” colleagues (probably because her clothes were too provocative, as I hear constantly in the accounts of the strongest justifications for rape throughout the world, where the woman is always to blame) and I share here the name of the law firm, with the hope that this case is investigated as quickly as possible. The girl threw herself from the tenth floor of her apartment building. In India, society has now asked that rapes be investigated and punished. In Brazil, some say, it’s a little better, but the attitude of many people continues to be the same. I hope that this case will be investigated as quickly as possible and that the “lawyers,” just as our “politicians,” if they are guilty, that they be convicted [for their crimes]:
Viviane Alves Guimarães Wahbe, 21, was an intern at the law firm Machado, Meyer, Sendacz e Opice (São Paulo).
ESTUPRO NO BRASIL E NA ÍNDIA (O “BR” e o “I” no BRIC da corrupcao e impunidade): Depois de até escutar aqui no facebook que a causa da queda de inúmeros governantes brasileiros tenha sido, naturalmente, as mulheres, as amantes, dos mesmos, fartei-me de aceitar esta atitude de aceitacao machista que há no país. Por isso, fazendo as minhas comparacoes entre a Índia e o Brasil, temos aqui um caso de uma estagiária de direito que, tudo leva a crer, foi estuprada em uma festa de Natal por seus colegas “advogados” (provavelmente porque suas roupas deviam ser provocantes demais, como escuto constantemente nos relatos das maiores justificativas de estupro em todo mundo, nos quais a culpa do estupro é sempre da mulher) e posto aqui o nome do tal escritório de advocacia, com esperanca de que o caso seja esclarecido o mais rápido possível. A menina se jogou do décimo andar de seu prédio. Na Índia, a sociedade agora pede que estupros sejam esclarecidos e punidos. No Brasil, alguns dizem, é um pouco melhor, mas a atitude de muitas pessoas ainda é a mesma. Que se esclareca o caso o mais rápido possível e que “advogados”, como os nossos “políticos”, se forem culpados, sejam condenados:
Viviane Alves Guimarães Wahbe, 21, era estagiária do escritório Machado, Meyer, Sendacz e Opice Advogados.
I went to investigate the incident and here is what I found out:
Viviane died on December 3rd, having thrown herself from the 7th floor of her apartment building. The alleged rape occurred on November 24th, after a business dinner when she took a taxi home, sharing it with a male colleague. The following Monday, November 26th, Viviane came home distraught because the colleague had been telling others at the office that he had had sexual relations with her. Distressed, Viviane was taken to the hospital. There exists the possibility that she was drugged before she was raped. While Viviane was in the hospital, she told her family that she drank two glasses of champagne at the party and had a difficult time remembering what happened next – she blacked out, in other words.
The case is currently being investigated by the police in São Paulo.
I’m sure everyone would agree that this is awful. But the point really is: why is this still culturally acceptable? Why are men so convinced that they can impose themselves sexually on women? Obviously there must exist not only a sense of entitlement, but no threat of punishment either. The rapist in this case, remember, bragged to his colleagues about having sex with Viviane!
The solution is two-pronged: law enforcement must be more on top of things, increasing the penalties for rape, clarifying its definition, prosecuting quickly and educating the public about how all of these policies will be enforced. Secondly, there must be a cultural shift away from blaming women for the violence of men. We must support our women and protect them. The truth is, I find this argument of women holding full responsibility to be insulting to both women AND men. You’re telling me, then, that a man is incapable of keeping his pants zipped when he sees an attractive woman? That his basest animal instincts have to come flying out and attack her? Get real.
Furthermore, often it’s a case of men taking silence as “yes.” Who knows how forcefully Viviane resisted; if she was drugged, there was probably no resistance at all. She could have been scared and he, likely being bigger and stronger, wasn’t able to resist. Men may think that the girl is playing hard to get. The woman may be afraid of crying out, for fear that the encounter might turn more violent. It’s complicated. But men have brains and they should use them more – it should be clear when a woman does not want to have sex with you (especially if you drug her first! hello!) and you need to leave, instead of thinking that if you just stay longer, say the right thing, hold her down just right, whatever, she’ll comply, you’ll get your fix and life goes on. That’s sick.
As for the law firm where the rapist and his victim worked, Machado, Meyer, Sendacz e Opice – all they’ve said so far is that they are very sorry that this occurred, they are assisting with the investigation and that out of respect for the victim and her family, there aren’t discussing the occurrence publicly (“o escritório não se manifestará sobre o fato“).
Let us all remember Viviane and learn to become advocates in our own lives for ending this horrible crime. R.I.P. Viviane.