Reading Paul White’s short story “Estelle’s Tattoo” is a shattering experience. As you reach the final line, it’s hard to find the proper words to leave a comment. This piece of writing is food for thought and fuel for attitude. It has haunted me since yesterday and it stirred something inside me.
This morning I suddenly realised that Estelle’s tattoo is engraved in each young girl almost from her birth. When you are born a woman, your life stands under the shadow of being a potential rape victim. As a girl born and raised by two women, this mark was all too familiar, even if we never discussed it openly. But this status of “potential victim” was hanging in the air and became one of the main reasons for disliking my femininity. And I was not living in a war zone.
In fact, I was born and raised in a quiet and peaceful, less complex and complicated society, with a low rate of criminality, a place where my Mom could come home from her night shift at the newspaper, walking all alone the streets at 3 am. Still, my mother and my grandmother were watching over me and protecting me as I was growing into a teenage girl from that possibility of becoming the victim of a man. So I’ve learned to watch my back, to walk in broad light and main streets, to hurry up if I a man was following me, to learn to read their glances, smiles or smirks and keep out of trouble. I grew up learning that I can be a prey so I’ve learned to avoid the hunters. This “survival kit” has grown into me without being fully aware of it. Luckily, I am an optimistic person so I didn’t become paranoid about men. In fact, I seldom gave a thought about this, once I became an adult. Until yesterday when I’ve read this heart wrenching story about rape and the life under its permanent threat.
You might dismiss this topic as an exaggeration. “Come on, this is not happening here…We are not like this”. I beg to differ when I see how the community of my fellow citizens reacted at the news of a collective rape happening in a Romanian village. Half of its inhabitants were blaming the girl for luring the boys into having sex with her, despite all the proofs that this was a premeditated act of two of the perpetrators who lured the girl into a friendly meeting, then called in their friends for the …fun.
You might suggest that women should take defense technique training. But why would they? I for instance, I’m a non-conflicting person despite my strong opinions; I dislike any kind of aggressivity. And for what reason should I train myself in fight? Do I live in a jungle? Is that the real face of thousands of years of civilisation? What happened to us? How did we drift this far that a person has to live her life carrying that shadow of threat simply because she was born a woman? How did we end up losing the count of “Estelles” who have died and keep dying all over the world?
We keep reading about such cases or hear about them in the media. For days we keep debating…then another shocking event sends the rape case into oblivion. Sometimes we dismiss it because we think that this is something happening only in less civilised areas. Wrong. The fact that a rape victim has tremendous difficulties to report what happened to her is the best proof that in all kind of societies there is something deeply wrong about how we think about women.
When you learn that in all too many cases/places the victim is first to blame, when you learn that there’s “corrective rape” against lesbians, when you learn that women need to “learn their place” and so on, then you come to realise that rape is a socially/historically ingrained habit that emerged as a byproduct of human civilisation. You won’t find rape at our close relatives, the Bonobo chimps. We share with them a lot but rape is our own cultivated flaw. THIS is something to think about. The fact that rape is a cruel and criminal act performed nowadays not only against women but anyone vulnerable (Gay, Transgender or children) only puts this act in proper light.
We need to educate this out from our human inheritance, we need to educate mutual respect and we need to cut off from the long forgotten conditions that had lead to this act.Each time when a “ NO!” it’s disregarded, each time when someone forces itself on another one because it can, it’s à rape and and the life of the victim is brutally changed, if not taken away.
It’s a long way out of this dark shadow and the moment to start is now. We live in the dawn of a new century. We cannot let the “Estelles” to keep dying and to die in vain. We owe them that much just as we owe to our daughters, sisters, mothers, girlfriends to give them the chance to live their lives in freedom and dignity, and not as potential prey/victims.
Paul White’s “Estelle’s Tattoo” is à Must Read. You can find it here : https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/
Don’t scroll down easily. Let’s break the habit and let’s erase rape from our long term inheritance!