Franz Kafka: “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”

I finished reading a memoir this morning, titled “Lucky,” a gripping story of a rape victim: Alice Sebold. This is one of the best books I have ever read, detailing what goes on in the RAPE world, a topic that people find it difficult to discuss openly. I think every woman that reads and understands English must read this book, for that matter any man who thinks rapists belong in hell must also read it.

I have a sister. And of course a mother, too. I would never know how I would feel if they were to be rape victims. We live in this world, infested with men who think with their Penis first; it is not ridiculous to imagine that any of your relatives or friends could become the next victims. If it happens to one, it can happen to another one. If it happens to Ms. Sebold, it can happen to my sister, too; in Ms. Sebold’s book, the reader discovers that her close friend was the next victim. It is a matter of luck.

I read the Metro newspaper this morning, and on page first, the headline ran: Rape reports climb uptown! I said to myself “what a f-ing coincidence!”, that’s because I was just done reading Ms. Sebold’s book minutes before I walked to the subway station, picked up the paper, and hopped on my train. The subtitle of the article read: Sexual assaults rise in precincts bordering Central Park; reports up 50 percent on Upper East Side; Uptown advocates note more victims.

In the morning, there I was, feeling sick to my stomach after reading Alice’s story and learning how it changed her life upside down; not to mention the fact her best friend also became a victim right after her traumatic experience—an act she believes could have been orchestrated by her attacker whom she fought back in court and sent him to jail.

After I read the article on rape, I told myself WTF is going on in this world? Alice’s story happened in 1981. The rape cases in the Metro article were fresh stories, some just within the last month. According to the article, just in the Upper West Side, there were 19 rape victims in the last two weeks, only God knows the number for the unreported! The article also mentioned that in five uptown precincts, 45 rapes have been reported so far this year. That is a staggering number, especially because this is happening right in the center of NYC, not in some war zone, where rape crimes happen rampantly.

Ms. Sebold’s piercing autobiography begins:

In the tunnel where I was raped, a tunnel that was once an underground entry to an amphitheater, a place where actors burst forth from underneath the seats of a crowd, a girl had been murdered and dismembered. I was told this story by the police. In comparison, they said I was lucky.

Two words boldly stand out and function as the front and back doors of this memoir: Rape and Lucky. Rape metamorphosizes Ms. Sebold from a flamboyant teenage collegeΒ girl (18)Β into a dehumanized creature. Luck helps her reclaim her dignity, her womanhood, her self-respect; it exorcises the demons of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from her inner soul. Anyone can be a rape victim, but not anyone can be lucky, and that is what Ms. Sebold’s book clearly and engagingly demonstrates. Ms. Sebold was lucky, her close friend who was raped after her wasn’t, at the very least she couldn’t even identify her rapist.

Lucky is a great book for both men and women who want to fight against rapists and who don’t know how to deal with rape victims. In the book, Ms. Sebold, who once was both humiliated and frustrated, reminisces her past: “I was learning that no one—females included—knew what to do with a rape victim.”

Alice’s story not only deals with rape, but also how the identity of the rapist plays a major role in the politics of rape. She is a White woman, her rapist was Black. Go figure. Dealing with such a subject in America or anywhere else in the world is like walking on a minefield as Ms. Sebold argues. Remember Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s (the Frenchman, White guy, the Head of IMF, etc) fiasco that became a headline for quite some time? For majority of the people, the story sounded more interesting because his victim was not just any woman, but a hotel maid, a black woman from Guinea! It is as if the degree of the criminality of rape gains or loses value based on the identity of the victim or the criminal; the human-ness of the victim suddenly becomes invisible, her pains and traumas left to social scrutiny that will either set her victimizer free, or lock him in jail based on court decisions, which may be influenced by stereotypes.

In the last pages of Ms. Sebold’s book, there are questions raised for discussion, and one of them reads: “What role does race play in Alice’s story? How might the rape and its aftermath have been different—for Alice, her family, and her friends—if the rapist had not been black?” That is one tough question on which one can write several books.

I don’t give a damn if a rapist is black or white, I would call a spade a spade! A rapist is a rapist, and I have zero tolerance for him or her, regardless of their racial or ethnic background. Sure, one cannot understate the role stereotypes play when it comes to such topics as rape. There are non-black woman, and even some black women, here in America, who assume every black man that approaches them in the street is either a robber or a potential rapist; they develop that attitude because of the way the mainstream media portrays black men in general; you rarely hear a white man raping a woman on the news, and if you do the story dies overnight (unless the guy is, of course, a big shot), but you hear news of a black or hispanic man raping a woman almost every day—does this mean white, middle eastern or asian rapists barely exist, or that the reports, which expose black and hispanic rapists quite often, are ill-fabricated? Obviously not.

And yes, people do take advantage of stereotypes. How many non-white men are in prison for a crime they have never committed, but the man who has indeed committed the crime walks freely in the streets, using his color of skin as evidence of his false innocence? And how many colored men who have indeed committed a crime play the race card when they are put on trial? The answer for both questions is PLENTY.

Despite the role stereotypes play in our society, here is what I think: our judgment on issues such as rape must never be clouded by the cultural identity of the criminal and of the victim. We must first ask these questions: was crime committed or not? Is there enough evidence to support it? What can we do to help the victim? How does he or she feel? The questions “is the victim making-up story to take advantage of her alleged victimizer? Is the victim or the criminal black or white, rich or poor, famous or ordinary person?” must not be our priorities. Regardless of the background of both the victim and the criminal, the rape case must be dealt with objectively, minus any bias.

Here is my advice, especially to my fellow sisters:

Become advocates of rape victims whenever you have the opportunity, try to understand what these people go through—because if it happens to them, it can happen to any of us.

If you have been a victim, never suffer inside, by hiding it. Expose the criminal. And liberate your soul; it’s never too late. Break the silence. Silence is never a solution. Talk it out. Exorcise the demon.

Those of you who are not victims: never give these crooks a chance to destroy your lives. Am saying that not to lecture you on how to keep yourself safe, but so you can be more watchful every time you are in or out of your apartment or house by yourself. Yes, as Alice angrily states in her book, it sucks to be a woman because of the fact you can never feel fully safe in the presence of inhuman rapists who are always ready to ambush you any minute they get an opportunity.

Let me add some more stuff that you probably know and practice already:

Do not be too adventurous past midnight hours on your own, especially in creepy neighborhoods—the idiots are most active in those hours because they know almost everyone is sleeping, and so they salivate the moment they see you walking alone in the street. They are like Hyenas. Do you know that Hyenas barely attack if they sense that you are a man walking in the darkness alone, but they attack you if they know you are a woman or a young boy? In the Hyena-infested village I grew up, an elder told me that story.

Know that some rapists do their homework well before they attack you. They plan for weeks before they make a move. They study at what time you come and leave home, i.e. your daily schedule, where you live, who you live or hang out with, etc. They make full background check on you just like Uncle Sam does when he needs your information. And they strike. These bastards mean business. To avoid being caught by the police, or be identified by you, if they succeed, they make every attempt to conceal their identity. The rapist who raped Ms. Sebold’s friend wore a mask so she couldn’t see his face, and just like one of the rape stories on today’s Metro article, he managed to get into her apartment through her broken window, which he knew was left unfixed; he knew, too, at what time she would be home, and where her roommates were at that particular time; she was taking shower as he broke in and waited for her to come out of shower.

If you sense someone is following you, get your cellphone ready to dial 911. Or call your friend or someone, talk. Walk unafraid. Rapists take advantage of their victim’s fear. Their purpose is to intimidate you, to make you become fearful so when they attack you can’t even scream. Don’t let fear take control. Watch your surrounding. Always watch your left, your right, glance back as they mostly attack from behind. Walk on the side of the road where you see people walking. Don’t walk alone in deserted streets, dark neighborhoods, or parks. That is their safe heaven.

Always be cautious. Don’t be careless, naive, stupid.

When you go to bars or clubs, be next to a friend or friends that you trust. Don’t get intoxicated beyond your limit. Don’t leave your drinks unattended, you don’t know who may add what on it.

Don’t take trains during weird hours on your own. If you do, make sure you are seated where you see more people. Yes, rapists target women in the subway; it has happened to a friend of friend of mine. Or just take a cab. Be watchful of cab drivers too! There have been rape cases in NYC, cabbies raping lone female passengers—some of these women were boozed up.

Cops are other dangerous groups to watch out for. Unfortunately, just as there are good police officers who maintain their professional integrity and self-respect, there are also the bad ones who have no self-respect and who abuse their temporary power—it’s as if they join the police force for the sole purpose of misusing their title or of getting an E-ZPass to commit crimes such as rape. In the last few weeks, some cops in NYC have been in the news, accused of sexually assaulting women during emergency calls as well as raping them at gun point! These guys are supposed to protect us, but some of them instead choose to abuse their authority and to take advantage of our vulnerability, armed with guns and official badges. Very sad!

Don’t let in random strangers into your apartment. I was furious once when my friend told me she did just that … and she had no idea what to do with the man. Luckily, he wasn’t a bad guy. Never open your door if you don’t know the person or the reason he or she is standing there. Look through the pip-hole and ask questions from inside. Not everyone is the FedEx dude!

Some of the rape cases occur because of the carelessness, naivete, or stupidity of the victim. Some people have a false sense of security. They think they are immune from any danger. So they fail to take precautions. The thing hits them onlyΒ when they become its next victims.

It is unfortunate we live in a world where we have to think about such ugly stories. But we must not live in fear as long as we take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves from any danger. Sometimes, yes, we have to be lucky because no matter what we do, we may still be victims. However, it is always better to do what is expected of us, and let fate or luck decide whatever it wants to decide.



4 thoughts on “Franz Kafka: “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog very much Elias, it was quite eloquent and appropriately toned.

    There are a couple of girls in my life who went through similar horror and I can tell you that their life has been ruined as a result. They hold it in silence, but I know they are hurting and it shows in their interactions. It is not easy for them to come out into the open and seek professional help, neither do ordinary people know how to help women that have been raped, as you appropriately pointed out.

    If you could imagine the number of girls and women that get raped in Ethiopia, often by people that are close relatives and people they trusted, you would be amazed. I get sick to my stomach when I think of these people.

    Unfortunately, our culture prohibits exposing such misfortunes, and the leaders in this regard are our mothers themselves! In their attempt to maintain the dignity of the family, and that of their daughter, many mothers suppress the agony of their daughters and subject them to suffer in silence. Some even go as far as blaming their daughters for letting themselves be vulnerable or trusting the company of men. Dressing this way or that, talking this way or that. Anything but the only action that would actually stop these rapists on their tracks – justice. By hushing such incidences, we encourage them, we let it flourish, unchecked, hidden in plain sight.

    As you correctly pointed out, yes we need many more activists, and many more women to come out of silence and expose these men. We need society to talk about it and lift the stigma and fear the victims and mothers feel. We need to develop a society that scorns at these men but takes care of, and helps their victims. We need to advocate for stronger and longer punishments for rapists, rules that make it easier for a woman to report rape or sexual harassment, a legal system that is on the side of the woman as opposed to the man. For that to happen, people need to be doing a lot of activisim and lobbying on the ground, to bring about these concrete changes. We have a long way to go, sadly. Writing a book is probably the best thing this woman could have done. And writing a blog about it was a good example of initiating a discussion. By the simple majic of a pen, this woman has many of us reflecting and discussing what our sisters go through on a daily basis. Kudos to her. I hope our sisters will learn something from her too.

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful response, Sieru hawey! I really appreciate the fact that you took your precious time to post such a constructive comment. In fact, you have superbly addressed points that I had left out, especially within the context of Ethiopia. This is a topic that really requires intense discussion and reflection, both sexes equally involved. The silence on this topic is reflected even on this post… since the day I posted it, more than 50 people have read this article according to the internal statistics I have. Not a single person, except you, a guy, has commented. Since they are the primary victims, more than men, women should take the lead in discussing and in making rape a no-stigma subject, fighting passionately against it in public, condemning and shaming the criminals; especially the privileged ones who now enjoy certain freedom or those who once were victims but decided to keep silent have a huge responsibility to speak up against such injustice on behalf of those who have no opportunity to voice their indignity! Unfortunately, you don’t see that happening. And it really irks me a lot! … Activism has many ways and writing is one such way—privileged women, in particular, need to take advantage of it!

  2. Very well written. Thank you for sharing the book and your thoughts on it. I feel that the best way to prevent rape in the long run is to begin at childhood. Rapists typically had childhoods in which they never realized their passion in life and never felt a purpose. When parents encourage the natural gifts in their children and treat them with love and respect, then they will grow up to love and respect their fellow human beings.

  3. Aloha, Carmen! πŸ™‚ It’s great to see your comment here!! I agree with you that it should start with kids, how they are raised and everything. But sometimes even there are ppl, who were treated with love and respect as kids, and who now as adults seem to have realized their purpose in life, that tend to fall into such a criminal and morally reprehensible act—they may not stalk their victims out in the streets like some of the people in this article, however. So yes the nurturing has to be there for kids to follow the positive direction, but there also needs to be a mega awareness campaign targeting adults, while at the same time shaming the criminals, and making their victims feel comfortable to come out and talk about their experiences.

    Cheers and greetings to OC! πŸ˜€

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