What if it was someone close to you?

By Drum Digital
06 August 2013

A woman has an affair with a man who happens to hold a position of power and is soon after reported to allege that she was raped.

The focus on this story starts with the love affair admitted by the two parties and the commentary on the allegations of rape. The context is multi-layered. Both are married; agree that they had sex in the office and that they are “colleagues.” The woman states that one of the sexual encounters, albeit months ago, was an incident of rape.

From the outside there is a labor issue as well as a social issue around infidelity. And there is an instance of non-consensual sex. The employer is involved in trying to establish the truth, or so we are lead to believe.  And up to this point it all seems quite clear and possibly not too far-fetched if we stretch our imagination.

Then within hours, we know the name of the woman, and not long after that we hear she has dropped the charge of rape. Soon afterwards social media explodes with bile, vitriol and judgment directed at her.

What follow are jokes featuring two powerful men with insinuations that they’re so powerful and beyond reproach and that they’re colluding over their “conquests.” Pictures of the woman in this case are circulated - forwarded, commented on, laughed at and all manner of nudge-nudge, wink-wink jokes go viral.  And the employer appears to have taken the side of the more powerful male.

From my world and space I observed the progression of events as well as social and official commentary. Throughout it all, I sat and am still sitting with a sense of disappointment, disgust and disillusionment.  What’s going on in our society? Who are we as a people? Where does this base, vile and insensitive behaviour stem from?

I wonder if I want to be part of a society where men in positions of power prey on innocent young women and girls. Preying on their poverty, their lesser position of social power and justify this in the name of not being able to control their urges.

Regardless of the facts in this case, how has this young 26-year-old (young enough to be my daughter) become the victim and object of such a vile display of insensitivity, lack of consideration, compassion and fairness?

Where in all of this did it become okay to strip her of her dignity in such a vicious denigrating and dismissive way? And where then is the value of women in our society? Because the powerful man is almost let off the hook because she’s so “hot” - can you blame him for having an affair.

The young woman could be your sister, your girlfriend - someone you love.

Where would you put your vitriol and disrespect then? Would your lack of compassion extend to her? Would your insults have a place then? And if your answer is “yes” you affirm my concern. If your answer is “no” I ask you, how is it okay then to do this to another human being?

How is it okay that our society doesn’t see the damage of rape and abuse and the prevalence of transactional sex, imbalanced intimate relationships and the fact that the man will always be given the benefit of the doubt and the woman labelled as a “harlot, a whore or a slut” deserving of ill-treatment?

Regardless of where the truth lies in this case, there was never a need or cause for the level of base defilement of the privacy of this young woman. There was never any cause for this impertinently salacious sexual commentary circulated for the world to see. My biggest fear is how we place the heart of a country in the hands of a society that exhibits such lack of value for another human being. Because for me, the manner in which we treat others has a direct correlation to the way we perceive our self worth and value.

My question to you is what do you value and what responsibility are you willing to take for a safer and more compassionate society?

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