Something has been nagging at me ever since I read the interview which Ariadne Massa carried out with one of the young men falsely accused of gang rape who has now been cleared of all charges. He speaks of how his life was ruined because of what happened that fateful afternoon six years ago, and how he is trying to get his life back.
According to the court report, it was the 18-year-old girl who invited the three boys for group sex, and they obliged. Actually it was more of a “challenge”, which they took her up on, which means that the sex was consensual and it was not rape. In fact, no signs of violence were found by medical experts to substantiate her claim that she was forced to have sex with them against her will.
Still, there are still some parts of the story which don’t quite make sense. In L-Orizzont, which came out with quite an unnecessarily explicit account of the court proceedings, it was stated that at first she didn’t want to go through with it, but then the sex continued. This detail has now been brushed aside, but when I first read it, it reminded me of the famous slogan, “No means No”, which was first used to create awareness about date rape. So I could not help but wonder at what point the girl changed her mind for the sex to become consensual?
The reference to the girl suffering from mental problems also seems to have been swept under the carpet, as is the fact that one of the young men was her cousin. Nice.
In the rush to condemn the girl (and I am not condoning her false accusations), for ruining the lives of the young men, few have pointed out that this girl obviously needs psychological help.
For, despite what sexual fantasies some men might have, the girl’s promiscuity is nothing but a cry for help. This is what has been bothering me about the whole story. People are rushing to say how sorry they feel for the young man who spoke about how six years of his life were wiped out. But when I read his statement that “while what I did wasn’t right, it wasn’t wrong either”, I flinched.
I have tried to understand what part of it was ‘not wrong’, but so far I have not succeeded. Here I am not talking about religious morals, but simply a bit of decent respect and compassion which should have been shown towards a young woman who has clearly lost her way. Or are we now saying that an 18-year-old openly inviting her cousin and his friends for a group romp is normal behaviour?
And what about the behaviour of the three young men in all this? Yes, hormones are hormones, but in between all the religious references in the above interview to the the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel which he now wears around his neck, as well as in the court proceedings (the invitation for sex was made near the statue of the Madonna, we were told), we seem to be forgetting that men are capable of controlling their sexual urges no matter how enticing the offer.
After all, women are pestered with invitations for sex all the time, sometimes by means of subtle and not so subtle sexual innuendos, and sometimes through crass, vulgar language uttered by perverts who are complete strangers. That does not mean we automatically take them up on their dubious “offers” and head into the first abandoned building, tearing our clothes off and shouting, “yes, take me now!”.
If women can control themselves, I’m sure men can too.
I suppose it all comes down to promoting responsible sexual behaviour and a more healthy attitude when it comes to talking about sex as something which is natural within the context of a mature relationship, rather than something which is “dirty” and deviant, carried out furtively by wayward girls and a few boys looking for a cheap thrill.
The implications of crying ‘rape’
This story of the false gang rape will eventually fade into the archives, but the silent messages which have been imparted won’t go away so fast. One message which came through from the court sentence is that if a girl is sexually active then her allegations of rape cannot be taken seriously. I quote:
“Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera in her judgement said that although the alleged victim pretended to be innocent and genuine, she was clearly experienced in matters where men were concerned and that same morning had had sex with another 33-year-old man, as confirmed by the examination of semen”.
So what are we saying? That if you are sexually active with one man, that means you cannot claim to to have been raped by others? The problem with such a statement is that there are going to be genuine cases of rape which will remain unreported as the woman will fear that her past sexual exploits will discredit her story.
On the other side of the coin, women cannot just go around crying rape when it’s not true, and I agree that in such cases, there should be some form of prosecution. Unfortunately for the genuine cases, we are hearing rather too many stories of women who are falsely accusing men of rape and/or sexual harassment. Stories such as this one, in which four women were found to have falsely accused their manager of sexual harassment, not only cause untold suffering to the man and his family, but they make it that much harder for real sexual harassment cases to be believed.
Women must understand that accusing someone of rape or sexual harassment should never be done lightly. The gravity of this extremely serious charge is like a stain which will never go away.