I was horrified to read this week that a 73-year-old woman was raped in broad daylight in Central Park.
Read that again, let it sink in: a 73-year-old woman was raped in broad daylight in Central Park.
According to news reports, the woman goes to Central Park every day and sits on a bench, birdwatching. Last week she witnessed a man in the bushes masturbating, so she took his picture — presumably to show to police. He came up to her after being photographed and demanded she hand over the film, but she refused.
Then Tuesday around noon, she was back in the park and the same man confronted her, asked “You remember me?” and then savagely beat and raped her, vaginally and rectally. He ran off with her bag, which contained her camera, and tried to steal her watch, too. The elderly victim was discovered lying in the ground by a fellow birdwatcher, who called 911. (He was arrested yesterday.)
This story is insane for a lot of reasons. Being raped by a stranger is far less common than being raped by someone you know. Central Park has people walking through it constantly during the middle of the day (although admittedly it is so huge that there are places which are empty). But most compelling to me, the victim has been extremely vocal with the press, talking about the man who raped her and what she wishes she could do to him.
“Kill him. Cut off his penis. That’s fine. Cut off his feet, then hit him over the head. Then give him life in prison,” the anonymous victim told The New York Post. “I hope he goes to jail for a long time and gets raped, over and over again.” (Emphasis mine.)
This woman is tough, brave, scrappy and strong and I love that her attitude is totally My rapist can go fuck off. But every fiber of my being goes rigid when someone, anyone, says another person deserves to be raped. Every fiber of my being goes rigid when someone says a rapist or child molester deserves to be raped. The 73-year-old woman raped by a man she photographed in Central Park is the perfect example of how sexual assault is a crime about power. Rape is not about sex, lust, or love, and rape shouldn’t be about “fair” punishment, either.
Of course, it must be acknowledged that this victim is speaking out after a horrifying trauma, and I want to make it clear that I’m not criticizing her. I’m criticizing the sentiment — that rape should be a punishment for rapists/molesters — because it’s fairly pervasive and is shared and expressed by many, both seriously and jokingly.
When we say it’s okay to rape rapists, we’re saying it’s okay to rape. We’re saying we are not serious about eradicating rape culture. I don’t believe in “an eye for an eye” but even if I did, I still find it hypocritical that rape is a crime for some people but just desserts for others. Think how you would feel if someone took it upon themselves to decide rape was just desserts for you. (And yes, I believe the same thing about the death penalty, but that’s a subject for another post.) I’m not above the fundamentally human feeling of wanting to wish harm — physical, emotional, spiritual — on someone who hurt you so bad. We all feel that way towards the ones who hurt us; that does mean we should act on it.
My heart goes out to this anonymous 73-year-old woman; I hope she sees her rapist captured put behind bars in her lifetime. But I hope she — and society as a whole — changes the view that rape is sometimes okay, even for the most vile amongst us.