Let me just say that there’s absolutely no way to kick off 16 days of blogging about gender violence lightly or gently. I did, however, hope that I wouldn’t have to begin with something as horrific as this. But that’s what this is about: waking up and telling the nasty truth that no one wants to hear. So here we go.
A woman in Brazil has alleged that she was left in a police cell for almost a month with 20-30 men. I don’t think that it takes a huge leap of logic to guess what happened while she was there.
Authorities in Brazil are investigating reports that a young woman was left in a police cell with some 20 men for a month and repeatedly sexually abused.
The governor of the state of Para, where the reported case took place, has promised a full inquiry. [. . .]
Women’s rights groups in Brazil say it is not an isolated case.
According to reports in the Brazilian media, the number of men in the cell with the young woman ranged between 20 and more than 30.
Media reports suggested that the girl was placed in a police cell in the town of Abaetetuba on suspicion of theft.
But human-rights groups say there is uncertainty about what offence the girl was accused of and she was not formally charged.
They say that she was raped relentlessly and forced to have sex in order to obtain food.
This is not a “mistake,” or a “fluke,” or a “bad judgment call.” If there is a set of rules for holding prisoners in jail, segregating by sex should be at the top of the list. It’s also impossible that the authorities could not have known what was happening in that cell. A woman who has been repeatedly raped and kept in a jail cell looks like she has been repeatedly raped and kept in a jail cell. Another article from the BBC reports that she was covered in cigarette burns. Not to mention the fact that such cells are, or should be, closely monitored.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that such a set up would be potentially the most ideal microcosm possible for gang rape. The articles also state that she was forced to offer sex for food (read: was raped and then potentially given the chance to eat). Who she “offered sex” to in those situations is not clear. Was it her fellow prisoners? If so, who the fuck was distributing the food? I’m in no way ruling this scenario out as a possibility, but let’s just say that I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that those who were raping her before giving her a chance to eat were the police officers themselves.
Regardless of the specifics, the police at that station are directly responsible for not only condoning, but promoting gang rape.
To add insult to injury, the police’s excuse is that they thought the girl was not a minor. Reports on her age are unclear — she has been placed between 15 and 20. But the idea that you would first treat a prisoner as though she were an adult until it’s proven that she’s not is absurd. That they think it’s okay to put women in police cells with men as long as they’re adults is just incomprehensible.
I can say with some relief that Pera State Governor Carepa seems to be taking the allegations very seriously. She has launched an investigation, condemned the police’s actions and denounced their excuses for them. Carepa seems to have decided that she believes the victim, and sided with her. I think that this shows some character (compare to government reactions to allegations of what happens at Guantanamo, at Abu Ghraib, and even at domestic prisons). But words are not enough. And the fact that this happened on Carepa’s watch is something that she needs to be held accountable for. It will be interesting to see what concrete steps she takes to ensure female safety and if she will indeed prove her sincerity.
Until then, my thoughts are with the survivor, and I commend her courage for going public with the story. Though few other cases of this type of abuse have been officially reported, not to mention received media attention, Amnesty International has reported that this case is far from isolated. And that’s something we need to know.