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Analysis: New Cases Reveal Shocking Rape Culture Dominates Brazil

05/27/2016 - 09h33

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CLÁUDIA COLLUCCI
FROM SÃO PAULO

The latest horrific case of sexual abuse in Brazil went viral thanks to the morbid fascination of one social media user. Michel, an avid tweeter, posted the lurid account of the rape of a young girl on his Twitter profile.

The 16 year-old had been raped in Rio last Friday (20) by 30 men. That same night, 2,124km away in the Northern city of Bom Jesus in the state of Piauí, a 17 year-old was raped by five men, four of them underage.

Exactly one year ago, on May 27, 2015, four women were victims of a collective rape in Castelo do Piauí, also in the North East. The women were then thrown off a cliff, a drop of roughly ten metres. One of the four died as a result.

The exact punctuality of these dates is no coincidence. Nor is this, thankfully, some kind of sick, anniversary commemoration. In fact, these dates could be picked at random. They simply evidence, disturbingly, the extent to which the culture of sexual violence has become a dominating force in Brazil. Rape is commonplace in Brazilian society: a daily affair.

Every 11 minutes a woman in Brazil is raped, according to the Brazilian public security annual report from 2014. That year, results show there were almost 48,000 rape victims in Brazil.

What's more, it seems highly likely these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. Terrified, threatened, and beaten into humiliation and consent, hundreds of women are too afraid even to denounce their tormentors. Many only report such crimes if they fall pregnant and are forced to look for legal abortions.

The barbarity in Rio came to light almost one week later. And this was only because Michel, who is now the target of a police search, decided to reveal the crime on the internet.

It is not just Michel who deserves to be punished for this crime. Anyone who witnesses, films and uses online social media to share details of sexual abuse and violence is just as complicit.

Anyone who takes an interest - or worse, pleasure - in watching this kind of grainy cell-phone footage uploaded to the internet is just as guilty. Anyone who finds these abominable, depraved acts of utter cowardliness amusing is contributing to Brazil's heinous rape culture.

Brazilian Society can turn a blind eye no longer. These girls were not raped because they were drunk or drugged or scantily dressed. They weren't raped because they wore low-cut tops exposing cleavage or because they had somehow "got in with the wrong crowd".

These women were raped because, as women, they are seen as sex objects, and male property. They are not seen as human beings with rights and freedom.

We have only to look to the vast literary outpourings on this issue to see the phenomenon's shocking ubiquity. Take, for example, the North American work "Rape Culture" or the Brazilian book "Sexual Violence in Brazil: Perspectives and Challenges" (Violência Sexual no Brasil: perspectivas e desafios).

More recently, the results of survey by Brazilian think-tank Ipea in 2014 leave no room for further doubt: 26% of those interviewed considered that "women who wore revealing clothes deserved to be attacked".

Facing the facts and dealing with daily violence against women should become an important part of our way of life. These should be the kinds of lessons that every mother, every grandmother, every sister, aunt, and every head-mistress pass onto the young male population while they are still just boys.

Tolerating, accepting and normalising sexual abuse will only incentivise, excuse and perpetuate these crimes.

Translated by GILLIAN SOPHIE HARRIS

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