Security chief's remarks on rape are illogical and misguided

Alice Wu says rape victims through the ages have been damaged by society's twisted beliefs, voiced most recently by our secretary for security

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 5:14pm

Was Tess Durbeyfield raped or seduced? The answer depends on which version of Tess of the D'Urbervilles we refer to. For all the changes Thomas Hardy has made to the story, and the web of ambiguities spun in each revision, it would seem he has purposefully left that to our imagination.

I'm in the "raped" camp, and I'm pretty sure Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok is also, though probably for very different reasons. Tess was "raped" after a night in town with the people of Trantridge, a place Hardy ascribed to have an "abiding defect; it drank hard". Every Saturday night, after a week of hard labour, the people of Trantridge would travel a few miles to consume the active ingredients of their weekly Sunday hangovers. On one fateful September Saturday, Hardy's heroine joined the workfolk on their pilgrimage, and before the next break of dawn, Alec D'Urberville had made Tess "maiden no more".

In Hardy's 1891 manuscript, Tess was forced to drink from a "druggist's bottle", which basically knocked her out, after which she was sexually assaulted. So, in this version, Tess was raped.

I have no knowledge of Lai's literary tastes, but given his "appeal" to young ladies not to drink too much, in response to a 60 per cent jump in rape statistics, Tess would fit perfectly into his logic. The "unmaidening" of Tess was most probably forced, since the act itself followed a hard-drinking escapade. And the rapist, Alec, was more than an acquaintance. He was her boss and, to Tess at least, he was also supposedly her cousin. So, if we follow the logic Lai based his appeal on, if Tess had not joined her friends in heavy drinking, she would not have been raped.

But Lai's illogic lies in his erroneous weighing of the cause and chronology of rape, and his inability to understand rape - the act and the crime. His misappropriation of chronological facts to the crime has put the blame on the victims of sexual crimes. So, if a woman enjoying a night out in D'Aguilar Street had, for example, stayed at home and done some knitting instead, she would not have been raped.

That may be true but it completely disregards the woman as a human being with a free will, and denies her her rights as a person to take part in personal pursuits, unharmful to others. Worst, it purges the moral obligation of those who prey on women, who take advantage of situations to violate their bodies and traumatise their psyche for their sexual desires.

We would all like to have victims of rape come forward so we can put sexual predators behind bars. Asking the prey to stay at home, essentially, isn't going to reduce rape rates. Instead, it affirms the false belief that rape victims bear some blame for placing themselves in situations conducive to getting raped.

That is as atrocious as Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto's open endorsement of rape and sexual slavery by saying "comfort women" were "necessary at the time to maintain discipline in the army".

Rape victims of all times and "comfort women" of any war are robbed of their "lives" by their rapists, their captors and by the societies in which comments like these are rationalised and tolerated. Hardy's Tess was ruined not only by Alec, but by a world of unfair sexual standards and logic.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA