Saturday, March 29, 2008

trauma, large-scale (societal/national)

via feministing, a disturbing, sad story from South Africa:
"Traumatised South African children play 'rape me' games".

reproduced in full, emphases added:

(byline: Chris McGreal, Johannesburg)
* Thursday March 13 2008

South African schoolchildren are so affected by crime that they play games of "rape me, rape me" and mimic robberies in the playground, according to the country's human rights commission. In a report on school violence published yesterday, the commission said schools were the "single most common" site of crimes against children, such as robbery and assault, including rampant sexual violence, some of it by teachers.

The commission said it had identified a number of games pupils played in response to the violence, including one in which they pretended to rape each other. "This game demonstrates the extent and level ... brutalisation of the youth has reached, and how endemic sexual violence has become in South Africa," it said.

The report said that a fifth of all sexual assaults on young people occurred at school. A survey of 1,227 female students who were victims of sexual assault found that nearly 9% of them had been attacked by teachers.


A separate study by the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme found that a quarter of secondary school students said that forced sexual intercourse did not necessarily constitute rape.

The human rights commission report said that more than 40% of the young people it interviewed had been victims of some form of crime. It recommended that the education department consider introducing metal detectors and fences at schools, after the Red Cross children's hospital in Cape Town said it commonly treated school pupils who had been assaulted with fists, knives, machetes or guns, or who had been raped.

when i first started this blog entry about this article, i had it up in another tab on firefox. the full title didn't show up in the tab - i only saw "traumatised south afr." looking at the title as it appeared on the tab, i didn't connect it to the full title of the article. in my mind, that excerpted title turned into "traumatised south africa," as in: a traumatized nation.

and, really, that would also have been an accurate title. because south africa is a traumatized nation. and the cycle of trauma continues there: the atrocious societal and individual traumas that it's endured in recent years aren't being healed. instead, they're being passed down, generation to generation. passed down from the adults of the country to their children.
the fact that children are playing "rape games" on the playground is disturbing and sad, yes, but not all that surprising. kids act out and play at what they know. i wish it surprised me that they know rape and sexual violence. but it doesn't. it doesn't surprise me about south africa, and it wouldn't surprise me about the u.s.
if you think of it from a child's perspective, it makes perfect sense: if they're playing these games, if they're doing it "willingly" (however "willing" something that comes from such a wounded place can be), they have control over it. if they can control this violence that they see all around them, this violence that they endure, then maybe it's ok, maybe they'll be ok. they don't even have to play games that pretend the outcome changes, they don't have to pretend that they get away in the end...just by playing it, by choosing to play these games, they can have the illusion of control. and that's vital for these abused kids to have.

(we, as adults, play these games all the time, too. they're not as obvious as running around the playground, running from a pretend-rapist, but we have the same underlying intention and seek the same kind of control.)

i get the impression from this article (in a newspaper from the country that colonized South Africa for so many years), that there is an assumption about traumatized nations. being that: South Africa, a new democracy, is so fucked up that their kids are playing rape games. that South Africa, this backward country trying to forge their way "into civilization," is so different from us developed western countries. that South Africa has created this rape culture because it's had such a turbulent history.
thing is:
we're pretty traumatized over here, too. we've got a rape culture every bit as damaging as South Africa's; ours is just more concealed. our kids rarely breathe the word "rape," even though it happens to them at what's probably a comparable rate to South Africa's. (and let's not forget that it was Britain, the country now reporting on this recent report, that colonized and, in a lot of ways, raped South Africa for years and years, contributing a good deal to their national trauma.)

[for further reading, see also my good friend's blog post on this article, here.]

moving on to a second, related point:
the ellipsis in the article as posted above was my decision to leave out a small section of the article, since it's a bit of a subject change. however, it's a subject i still want to pursue here, so here's the paragraph i left out above:

The commission also found that some boys committed what they called "corrective rape" on lesbians, justifying the assault by claiming that it would make the victims heterosexual. "There is a growing phenomenon of corrective rape. This refers to an instance where a male learner [student] rapes a lesbian female learner in the belief that after such a sexual attack the learner will no longer be lesbian," the report said.

...i wasn't aware that there was actually a term for lesbian-target rapes. "corrective rape." it's chilling. (literally: a shiver just shook my body.)

again, though, this doesn't surprise me. it chills me, but the chill doesn't come from being astounded that this happens. i'm well aware that this happens. i want to say that i may be more aware than a lot of queer women, but i don't think i can -- being raped for being queer isn't exactly an unheard of phenomenon.

i wish i had more to say about this. something wise, revelatory, beautiful, or touching. i wish i could say more about the fact that the level of homophobia in South Africa, a country which actually has protections against discrimination written into its constitution, is so high that lesbians - lesbian schoolchildren, even - have boys trying to "correct" them through sexual violence.
but all i've got is:

my heart is weighed down with rocks, stones, pebbles, sand.
this news story? it's more than a news story.
it's her story.
and her story.
and millions of women's stories.
all different, all the same.
millions of women with heavy hearts,
weighed down with rocks, stones, pebbles, sand.

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