No matter how famous one is, rape is inexcusable
- Reports indicate that worldwide, one in three women has experienced sexual harassment, violence, assault or rape in their lifetime.
- Everybody can play a role in ending the vice by focusing on and condemning rape, and not tolerating or excusing it.
It is hard to hold status and fame to account. This statement becomes glaringly and painfully palpable in cases of sexual violence.
Sex predator Harvey Weinstein, who was charged with rape, among other offences, proved this point to the world in an unforgettable way.
His accusers, the majority of whom were women, had the Herculean task of proving that the powerful Hollywood producer assaulted them to a world that held him in high esteem.
Thankfully, the scandal triggered similar allegations against equally (if not more) powerful men across the world in what came to be known as the Weinstein effect. And it brought them down. Clearly, this effect skipped Kenya.
In many cases of sexual violence where people of high social status are the perpetrators, they are often exempted from the common criteria used to judge rapists because of their achievements.
It is unfortunate that the victims of these predators are often shamed and stigmatised in the process.
The most egregious local example of the above is the case of rugby players Alex Mahaga Olaba and Lawrence Frank Wanyama.
The two stars, or role models as their lawyer referred to them, were recently found guilty of gang-raping a musician identified as W.A. in the court case.
It is reported that the vile act happened during the musician’s birthday. She said she could not fight off the two men, who were heavily built because of their sport. And she also admitted that they had all been drinking alcohol.
The classic reactions by some social media users about the guilty verdict by the courts point to a disturbing rape culture where the crime is excused, condoned and normalised.
Their lawyer argued that the two men were "role models to young people and were just starting out in life and, if given a custodial sentence, it would dash their dreams".
Of course, one would imagine that these are the thoughts that should have ran through the role models' heads right before they pinned down the girl and gang-raped her.
Aren't we told, after all, that rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen?
And is a rugby player's life more important than the victim's? Shouldn't they be looked at through the same lens as the stereotypical rapist?
And why should they get to fulfil their dreams after subjecting their victim to perhaps the biggest nightmare of her life?
The shaming of W.A. started way before the guilty verdict of the two rugby players, when the musician narrated her side of the story through a social media post.
Her morality and judgement were questioned, with some using the trio's inebriation as an excuse for sexual violence.
This is appalling, especially considering that hardly a week goes by without reports of toddlers, teens or grandmothers being raped.
The point is, "What was she drinking?" must never be a question asked to rape victims because that is part of excusing rape.
One can only imagine the heartache and loneliness that W.A. must have felt, watching alongside her child borne from the rape incident, as her character was brought to the stand alongside her rapists’.
Now, this is not a call for anybody to slide into a swamp of pity and sympathy for rape victims.
Rather, it is a call to reflect on how speculating on what the victim did to deserve to be raped perpetuates rape culture.
And why focusing on how a guilty verdict could ‘ruin’ the lives of perpetrators excuses and tolerates rape.
One huge, hairy, inconvenient truth is that rape has become a cultural staple in this country.
Reports indicate that worldwide, one in three women has experienced sexual harassment, violence, assault or rape in their lifetime.
In Kenya, the stigma and shame that accompany rape make it difficult to report the crime.
Everybody can play a role in ending the vice by focusing on and condemning rape, and not tolerating or excusing it, no matter who the victims or perpetrators are.
The writer is the editor, ‘Living’ magazine.