Brazilians Protest Their Country’s Prolific Rape Culture In Response To A 16-Year-Old’s Gang Rape

A 16-year-old Brazilian girl was brutally raped by more than 30 men in a Rio de Janeiro slum May 21, made public by a video of the attack posted to Twitter. Tens of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets Wednesday as Brazilians protest rape culture following the gang rape in a country where nearly 50,000 women report being raped every year (not to mention the attacks that go unreported). Initial demonstrations took place in Rio and Sao Paulo Friday, but the people of Brazil aren’t backing down.

The Brazilian police are investigating the horrific gang rape, and so far two men have been arrested and four others have been identified. However, Rio police chief Fernando Veloso told the Associated Press that rape kit tests weren’t done until five days after the attack, which could make them ineffective as evidence against the men.

The victim spoke to the press after receiving thousands of threatening messages blaming her for the attack. “It’s the stigma that hurts me the most,” she told the Brazilian O Globo newspaper. “It is as if people are saying: ‘It’s her fault. She was using scanty clothes.’ I want people to know that it is not the woman’s fault. You can’t blame a robbery victim for being robbed.”

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CREDIT: EVARISTO SA/Getty

Friday’s protesters held signs that read: “Mess with one, mess with all of us.” Organizers expect Wednesday’s demonstration, called “For all of them,” to attract at least 20,000 people just in Rio. “I am very sad to have to get to the point of a woman being raped by 30 men to cause all this commotion, because it happens every day,” organizer Laura Nunes told Vice’s Donna Bowater. “This case is the exact representation of what happens in Brazil.”

Photos and videos of the gang rape caught the conservative nation’s attention, and protesters want to put an end to a rape culture so predominant that being raped is normal and the country’s underlying sexism problem that seriously endangers women. Brazil enacted new legislation last year that criminalized gender-motivated killings, as 15 women are murdered every day in the country because of their sex, but many believe it won’t do much if the public mindset doesn’t change.

Even so, the fact that at least 30 men raped one teenage girl seemed like an extreme. “Brazilian culture is very sexist and rape is part of that culture even if as a society we deny it,” Luise Bello at the women’s advocacy group Think Olga, told the Associated Press’ Mauricio Savarese. “Rape is not rare in Brazil, but what is really shocking is the fact that more than 30 men raped a minor, filmed it and then shared the images on the internet.”