Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Rape Fear and the Jewish Israeli Experience (Judean Rose)

Disclaimer: the views expressed here are solely those of the author, weekly Judean Rose columnist Varda Meyers Epstein.

When the war started, I phoned my neighbor to make sure she knew she was welcome to bring her family to our safe room, at any time of the day or night. We talked about logistics and how we were having a key made for them and how I didn’t at all mind a LOT of children in a small space because I’d had 12 of my own. The whole time, my neighbor, whom I’ll call “Terry” out of respect for her privacy, said, “Thank you, but so far we’ve been sitting in the stairwell, and that’s fine with us.”

I got the idea she didn’t think the missiles were all that big a deal, and so finally I confessed, “Yeah. To tell the truth, I don’t worry so much about the missiles either. It’s the other stuff I worry about.”

“Exactly. It’s the other stuff,” said Terry.

Neither of us had to elucidate the nature of that “other stuff,” and I won’t say it here, either. But the thing I think about when I think about that “other stuff," is rape.

I can’t swear that this is the thing that worries my neighbor most, when she thinks about the things she fears most. She didn’t say. But then again, she didn’t have to—fear of rape is not exclusive to this writer—it’s fairly universal among women and researchers have been studying the phenomenon for years.

Take, for example, this abstract from “Fear of Rape Among Urban Women,” a 1985 paper by the (in-)felicitously named Mark Warr, of Penn State University (emphasis added):

Sample survey data from Seattle are used to examine fear of rape among urban women. The magnitude and prevalence of such fear are striking, particularly among younger women, who fear rape more than any other crime. The high fear attached to rape stems from the fact that it is perceived to be both extremely serious and relatively likely; and from the fact that it is closely associated with other serious offenses such as homicide and robbery. Fear of rape also lies behind fear of other offenses among women in our sample, and is strongly associated with certain social or lifestyle precautions.

Some four paragraphs into the introduction to this paper, Warr says something that touches on the universal nature of fear of rape among women. More women, it seems, are scared of rape than are actually raped (emphasis added):

This paper is not about those who rape, nor is it about those who are direct victims of rape. Rather, the paper considers a much larger group: those who fear rape. One of the major developments in criminology during the past 20 years has been a general realization that the social consequences of crime are not limited to those who are directly victimized. That principle is particularly true when it comes to fear of victimization, because the number of fearful individuals greatly exceeds the number of actual victims during any given period.

Wikipedia has something on “Rape Fear” that speaks to cause: the socialization of women. Women have been raised to fear and protect themselves from rape (emphasis added):

Socialization of Women

The fear of rape, unlike other fears of specific crimes, is almost exclusive to women. Among women, it is also one of the strongest crime-related fears, and is the strongest crime-related fear for young women. Levels of fear of rape vary among women by age, race/ethnicity, residential area, and other factors, but are especially high for women who have been victims of rape in the past or know victims personally (the latter group may include a significant portion of women, with one study estimating that over half of women know rape victims). Women are socialized from a very young age that rape can happen anywhere, to anyone, at any time. They are taught that they should always be aware of the possibility of rape and protect themselves from it. Young women are taught strategies to keep themselves safe, and this idea is instilled in them at a young age. This teaching women about the possibility of rape at a young age may contribute to higher levels of fear of crime in women. Studies have shown that women that take more precautionary steps to avoid being raped have more fear of actually being raped, whereas women who work nights and are outside in the dark tend to have less fear of rape. This may be because women that are out in the dark alone are more familiar with the area, so they feel that there is less of a threat.

What women know and men don’t: Women have an ever-present fear of being attacked,” a 2019 review of a PBS documentary, begins with a taste for the reader, of how fear of rape is experienced by women, and why (emphasis added):

Every day, women live with fear. It’s not paralyzing, but it’s omnipresent -- whether you’re walking out of work in the dark or asking a friend to watch your drink.

“Ask any woman you know. You always have a plan,” said Mary Dickson, who worked on a PBS documentary about women and fear in 1996. Nothing’s changed since then, she says.

The fear is low hum beneath the music of your regular life, implanted in your teenage years. You’re afraid a strange man will attack you.

So you don’t run at night.

You don’t park in a public garage.

You don’t enter an elevator already occupied by a single man.

You don’t leave a party without your friends.

Women are raised to fear and protect themselves from rape. But fear of rape exponentially increases when women read about or see images or footage of rape. Perhaps that is the reason I sensed that my neighbor Terry felt as I did, after photos emerged of a female hostage being led away to Gaza, her pants bloodied at the crotch. I am also fairly certain that like me, Terry finds it difficult to stop thinking about Shani Louk, whose story I can’t bring myself to relate here.

We, the women of Israel, know that Hamas, in addition to raping women—and it must be said, men—uses fear of rape as a form of psychological warfare, to inspire incapacitating fear in Israeli women and rage in their men. For this reason, Israeli experts have advised Israelis not to watch the footage, read the stories, see the photos, or listen to podcasts where the atrocities might be mentioned. These things spike fears; in the case of women, fear of rape.

Female Fear, a US Dept. of Justice resource, speaks of several types of media that can trigger rape fear in women, among them “frightening press accounts” (emphasis added):

In the United States, the Nation with the highest rape rate in the world, warnings, admonitions, and fear of rape are handed down from mother to daughter. Although rape happens to 1 female in 12, frightening press accounts, violent pornographic movies, cultural stereotypes of rapists and their victims, attacks on friends and acquaintances, and escalating statistics have contributed to women's fear of rape. In exploring the social and psychological specter of rape in women's lives, this study probes both the myths and realities of rape and society's response to it, including strategies women have developed to protect themselves. Fear of rape is reflected in the way women think, organize their lives, and relate to others. As the authors indicate, a reasonable amount of fear is useful in motivating women to take reasonable precautions. The book presents concrete ways both women and men can begin to alleviate the destructive effects of the fear of rape. These include educating the public, integrating women into their communities, promoting legal reform, and forcing accountability in media coverage.

Fear of rape explains the “Believe Women” campaign, which arose out of the #MeToo movement. Rape is one of women’s foremost fears and concerns. Why then, do women at the forefront of efforts to support women, make excuses for Hamas rapists when the victims are Jewish? 

The UN, however, bears special mention for its spectacular betrayal of Israeli women in the face of widespread rape by Hamas terrorists, still an ongoing situation for Israeli hostages of both sexes.   

An October 26 Jerusalem Post editorial speaks of that betrayal (emphasis added):

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s speech to a special Security Council meeting on the Israel-Hamas war on Tuesday began promisingly enough.

“Nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring, and kidnapping of civilians – or the launching of rockets against civilian targets,” he said at the beginning of the speech.

Then Guterres’ moral compass went haywire, and he began to justify what he had just said was unjustifiable.

“It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum,” he said. “The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation. They have seen their land steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence; their economy stifled; their people displaced and their homes demolished. Their hopes for a political solution to their plight have been vanishing.”

Why does Guterres justify violence against Israeli Jews, and fail to mention at all, the sexual violence and the rape and degradation of Israeli women? How does anything make rape an excusable offense? In the enlightened world, how can it be that the head of the UN uses his soapbox to blame the Jewish victims and tell lies about the Jewish State—and the Gazan people?

By November 30, however, Guterres had apparently changed his tune. It must have been getting more difficult to get away with the sort of outright Jew-hatred that makes allowances for rape when the victim is a Jew. Hence his post on X.

"There are numerous accounts of sexual violence during the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas on 7 October that must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.

"Gender-based violence must be condemned. Anytime. Anywhere."

But why so vague? Where is the mention of rape? Where are the words “support Israel women” and “believe Israeli women” and what do we gleam from these omissions?

Here is my takeaway: with his fuzzy pronouncements of “investigating accounts” and “sexual violence” Guterres is telling the world that it’s okay to suspend belief in women when they are Jewish and Israeli; that it’s understandable that Hamas terrorists would rape Jewish women; and finally, that it’s fine and dandy to lie in public and make public proclamations about Jews occupying their own indigenous Jewish territory when everyone knows the bible is their deed.

My neighbor Terry is somewhat new to Israel. She and her family made Aliyah after there was a drive-by shooting not far from their home in the States. They took the shooting as a sign that it was time to leave the States and come to Israel. She hasn’t changed her mind. Why would she when the entire world repudiates her because she is a Jew, doesn’t care if she is raped because she is a Jew?

Rape fear is real for women everywhere, but fear of rape is compounded in a woman who is Jewish and Israeli, because she knows that the world sees her rape as legitimate resistance, and that the head of the UN himself, sees her genitals and body as free-for-the-taking, subhuman instruments for the release of pent-up Arab anger.

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