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What is rape?

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What is rape?

There is no particular face of a rapist. A rapist does not have to look a certain way. They come in all shapes, colour and forms. From high-profile personalities to your trusted schoolteacher. You cannot tell who is a rapist from their appearance.

When veteran Ghanaian broadcaster Kwesi Kyei Darkwa, known as KKD, was arrested for rape last December (the case has since been dropped), it was shocking to learn that there were people in Ghana who said it wasn’t possible that he could have done it because “he looks like a gentleman”.

Now before I go on, I have to make it clear that in as much as I was inspired by the KKD case to write this month’s column, this article is not about him or his case, but what rape actually is. What I want to highlight and emphasise here is that not all rapists look like evil people.

In this day and age, many Ghanaians believe that because someone dresses well, they cannot possible be a rapist! Shockingly, they have this outmoded view that rape can only take place in certain places. Seriously, this level of ignorance is beyond belief! Listen up! Rape is not just an act that takes place in a dark alleyway when a stranger attacks you. Rape can take place anywhere and at any time. Rape is when someone has sex with another person without his or her consent. It’s as simple as that. If person A wants sex from person B and person B says no but person A goes ahead and has sex with them anyway, that is rape. Rape can also be said to have taken place when somebody violates another person’s body in a sexual manner, without necessarily having sex – person A can use an object to rape person B.

Basically rape is forcing yourself sexually onto someone. A man can rape a child of any gender, teenager, women, or even old people. A woman can also rape children, rape other women and some would even say rape men! Children can rape children. There is no one type of person that you can say is a rapist. Because rapists come in all shapes and forms. They can be found in all classes of society, from the very upper echelons (as you will discover when you follow the news from the UK, for instance, of high-ranking politicians raping young boys) to the very poor. A person who feels their body has been violated against their will will say they have been raped.

When a woman is in a relationship with a man, be it her boyfriend or husband, and she says no to sex, but the man insists and has his way, without her changing her consent, that is rape.

Rapists are not just sinister strangers waiting in the dark to pounce on innocent victims. And rapists are not just men who rape women. Most times, it turns out that the rapist was known to the victim as a friend, colleague or acquaintance.

Just look at the news, even from many parts of Africa. It’s not unusual to hear of a father raping his daughter or a pastor raping a married woman in his congregation. Anybody can be a rapist. There isn’t a type of person that we can say for sure is a rapist or not, based solely on their appearance.

I also want to emphasise that rape is not always violent. Talking to my friends and other women I have met over the years, it seems many of us have been raped. Because like I said, rape means forcing your way onto someone to have sex with them without their consent. Now, this force can be loud, physical and aggressive, or it can be persuasive and calm. There are some men who, when their intention is to have sex, there’s no amount of saying no that will stop them.

In some cases, rape is not necessarily loud and violent. Imagine a teacher that you trust. You find yourself in his room and he starts to hit on you. In my country Ghana, as a child you were brought up to respect your elders and to do as they say. Children are taught never to talk back and unlike children in, say, Britain or America, Ghanaian children are not educated about the dangers of rape and never talking to strangers. Our culture is still one in which children do as they are told, by any adult – be it one they are familiar with or a total stranger. Rape or the dangers of it, are subjects that are not commonly discussed in many households. So we can only imagine what goes on in our schools when a teacher is hitting on his or her pupil and they cannot say no, or do so feebly or are too scared to offend the teacher.

No! Means no
But it’s not just children who can find themselves helpless victims of rape. Older women too have their stories to tell. Sometimes, when a woman has said no, but the man keeps going at it, she ends up just keeping quiet and hoping he will finish quickly and get off her. Just because she didn’t scream under those circumstances does not mean consent. In such instances, there’s no outer sign of violence such as bruising or torn clothes. But just because there is no physical sign of abuse does not mean it did not take place.

There are so many reasons why rape victims sometimes opt to not scream. Fear is one of them. They could also just give up in despair. Sometimes they will just be forcibly suppressed by their attacker who may cover their mouths. They may feel powerless. The rapist may be a respected member of the community. If you have been following the news in the UK, cue Jimmy Saville. From all accounts he was a serial rapist. Did any of his victims scream?

No – none did. Why? Because they felt powerless compared to him, as he was a revered celebrity.

Like I have stated earlier, rape can take place anywhere, any time and under any circumstance. I remember a story that was in the UK news about 5 years ago. A 14-year-old boy mugged a 9-year-old boy for his mobile phone. However, dissatisfied that the 9-year-old boy didn’t have a modern Android phone, the teenage boy proceeded to rape the 9-year-old boy as his punishment!

So you see, rape can take place under circumstances that one would not even expect it to. But it does happen.

Therefore, for any Ghanaian to say KKD could not have possibly raped the girl because he dresses well, speaks ‘’good’’ English and took her in a toilet, is simply ignorance in many forms. Again, I am not passing judgement on KKD. That’s for the law courts to do.

What I want to do is educate people as to what constitutes rape because the views that came out of Ghana also reinforced how women are still not afforded their due respect in society and to a certain extent are seen as sex objects.

Men touching women in an inappropriate manner, suggestive sexual come-ons, women being judged by the size of their derrieres, demands for sexual favours in return for getting jobs/contracts, these things are the norm in Ghana. And because such notions are so ingrained in our society, it’s almost impossible for some people to comprehend that there is such a thing as rape, and rape victims – more so women rape victims. To some men, every woman is fair game. By virtue of being a woman, it means she is his for sex.

They say everything happens for a reason. That there are lessons to be learnt in whatever occurs. I hope that the publicity of the KKD rape case (when there have been many and many have made the news), which had the whole of Ghana spellbound, will open the floodgates for more discussions and education about rape and rape victims.

Men have to understand when a woman says no, she means no! She is not trying to appear as a ‘’good girl’’. The no can be a soft, gentle no. It can be a loud aggressive no. It doesn’t matter how that NO! is said, it is a NO!

Any sexual act that comes after a woman has said NO! is rape!

You may not agree with it. But hey, these are just the reflections of an ordinary African woman.

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Written by Akua Djanie

Akua Djanie, better known to her fans in Ghana as Blakofe, a TV, radio and events Presenter. At IC Publications, Akua has been sharing her 'Reflections of an Ordinary Woman' for the past three years in New African magazine.

  • Japhet Mwaya

    You are very right, Akua, that rapists come in all forms and shapes. Actually the cases of rape are innumerable and take place daily. Those which get media attention are very few. There are very few women who are courageous to report their cases of rape to respective authorities for legal proceedings. This could be due to shame, fear, ignorance or culture. As feminism takes roots in Africa, the future could be very bright!

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