She woke up naked and she realized she was raped. She didn’t know how and when, because she couldn’t recall anything from that night. The last thing she remembered was feeling dizzy and nauseous after a drink that must have had some drug added. Two guys who helped her bring furniture in the new room she rented from one of them, offered her to have some drink and hang out. Then they mixed something into her drink and one of them raped her while she was under the influence of the drug or maybe even unconscious.
She woke up naked and she realized she was raped. And she is not the only one. Figures say 1,5 persons out of 100 000 are raped in Turkey, but these statistics are heavily biased. The problem that makes rape hard to recognize and punish is the fact that the vast majority of cases remains unreported. So in statistics it may actually seem there is a significantly higher rate of rapes in Sweden for example, while the reason for that is in the percentage of rapes that are reported. In Turkey the number of reports to the police is very low, also because of lack of confidence to the police and fear from policemen’s inappropriate reactions. But the bigger part of the problem lies deep beneath the surface.
She woke up naked and she realized she was raped. Don’t ask yourselves what were the circumstances, what was she wearing, how much alcohol she drunk, how wrongly the rapist interpreted her behaviour. How badly she wanted that to seem different as it was. Stop it! He raped her. And nothing changes that. If we ask ourselves that questions, we have to ask what are we really suggesting by questioning victim’s »willingness to have sex«? Consent doesn’t matter.
But it does. Consent matters. Let’s stop normalizing sex without consent, let’s call it rape. Let’s stop blaming the victim. Let’s stop diminishing one’s personal integrity and freedom by questioning his or her decisions in ways like: »women* say no, but they actually want it« – that’s first of all violation of somebody’s rights and moreover it’s sexistic, misogynistic and gives the opportunity to both patriarchy and inequality of genders to flourish.
Bianet published their findings about violence against women, killings and rapes in Turkey according to media reports and, among other information, they say in 2014 only 109 women took legal action after they were raped. Most probably that does not show that number of rapes decreased almost by half from 2010 (when 207 women took legal action). To compare: in Slovenia, with almost 40 times less inhabitants, around 64 rapes are reported per year – fast calculation says that more than 2500 rapes would actually happen in Turkey every year, if the levels of violence would be the same in both countries. It is clear that sexual violence and rape are seriously underreported in Turkey. And violence against women is even rising. At least 281 women were killed by men in the last year. To add injustice to that, the punishments for most of those crimes are ridiculously low.
The outrageous facts about what seems as a closed circle of violence make speaking about consent seem almost impossible: it seems like woman’s consent to have sex isn’t personal choice, but public consensus, emerging from the whole discourse of woman, which is sexist and heteronormative (not implying there are significant differences anywhere else regarding those two aspects), but it doesn’t spark any dobut for quite some part of people. The reason for that not only lies in the objectification of woman and female body, but also in complicated status of sexuality in culture – greatly influenced by shaming sex in any other relationship than marriage and emphasized masculinity, which glorifies man’s sexuality and connects it with power – it demeans lack of sexuality as weakness on the other hand. Sex is in a way man’s »need«, while women are shamed for enjoying sex, but neutralized if they do it »for the man« (but in no way »for a man«!). And when you are doing something for somebody, it is not hard to lose the meaning of consent. I am probably not mistaken if i assume consent is not part of sexual education for children and youth in Turkey. Neither am i if i suggest a certain part of people believes women actually owe sex to men. And finally, historical sense of man’s ownership over female body is still haunting around today’s Turkey.
Which is simply wrong. And allows all the violence to reproduce itself again and again. And deeply disturbing from any kind of perspective. Men’s expectations from women normalize rape within relationships and tries to legitimize shifting responsibility to the victim. It also gives free way to »harmless« harassment in culture that normally condemns rape (what looks like innocent comments might cause a lot of discomfort: Yes, i’m talking to you, sexy man!), because outside of home female body becomes public space for everybody to invade. Does it?!
She woke up naked and she realized she was raped. I am not going to say, she was raped because of the neutralized portrayals of rape in popular culture or spectacularization of rape in media, but i want to say maybe he raped her because he does not perceive forcing somebody to have sex or having sex with somebody who is unable to decide if she or he wants it, as rape. That might be connected to how sexuality, gender, sex and relationships were introduced to him/her. It might be connected to what he witnessed and learned from his environment, family, school and various social groups.
Recently i came across with an article about a young girl from Germany sticking hygienic pads with messages against rape and for body awareness to lampposts. I was surprised how the comments on a particular message »imagine if men were as disgusted with rape as they are with periods« somehow widely agreed on the idea that rapists are either mentally ill (which is disrespectful towards people with mental disorders or diseases!) or criminals and not usual men. But my point is exactly opposite: usual people become criminals when they rape. Wouldn’t it be possible to change that? By teaching children they are in charge of their body, but not of anybody else’s? By teaching them to respect other people, not what to expect from them?
She woke up naked and she realized she was raped. This is what happened to a young woman from Poland who came to Turkey as an exchange student. She reported her rapist to the police and he is being prosecuted for rape. He will probably face some punishment. There are much more cases, for which rapists will never be found guilty. But all of the victims will carry a burden.
She woke up naked and she realized she was raped. It’s like in the Groundhog Day, where the main character wakes up in the same day every day. She would wake up every day and find out she was raped. The only difference is this is not fiction. Rape is here. The infinite day is happening now. It’s up to us to stop it, end this endless nightmare and wake up to a day, where rape and sexual violence is a part of yesterday only.
*using “women” in such case is of course not completely adequate since LGBTQIA+ people and cisgender heterosexual men are victims of rape and sexual assaults too, but i did generalize and speak for majority, although not forgetting rape is not exclusively done by men and victims are not always women.
Finishing BA in dramaturgy and performing arts, researching on culture in Gezi protests, activist for human rights. Interested in migration, gender, activism as intervention into public space, sustainable living. Musician by heart.
Photo Credits: Carmen Jost, Atilla Kefeli, Escael Marrero, Cat Branchman, Nora Kastrati