gang-rape-in-brazil-public-van

In a case that is deeply disturbing, both on its own and when you consider its similarities to other recent attacks, an American woman and her French male companion were abducted on a public van for 6 hours between midnight and 6 AM in the Copacabana district of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The assailants raped the female as they took turns driving and beating the male tourist with a metal bar, then forced the pair to withdraw money before leaving them somewhere outside the city.

“Everyone should be shocked by this horrendous crime,” said Aparecida Gonçalves, head of Brazil’s office for combating violence against women. While she stated that gang rapes are “relatively rare” in Rio, Gonçalves admitted that sexual assault on public transportation is still an issue in some areas.

The case is disturbingly familiar to that of the Indian woman who was gang raped so brutally while on a moving bus that she died. The world has collectively shaken our fists, yes, but what else could possibly send a message that this is simply unacceptable?

Female tourism in India has fallen 25% — something that one can only hope will give the government enough reason to do more about rape, though there shouldn’t ever have to be a monetary incentive to protect people from sexual violence. The interesting thing here is that women are not boycotting India on principal or to incite a reaction — we are simply afraid, and why shouldn’t we be? Females, and their companions, are being attacked by groups of men who aren’t ‘satisfying their lust,’ they’re seeing women alone or nearly alone as targets rather than human beings. Given that 5,300 people in Brazil reported rape to the police in just the first six months of 2012, I would say that Brazil — which is also preparing for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics — has a serious problem in need of addressing in a serious manner.

Obviously, rape has been an issue for much longer than the past year or two. But when will our governments collectively acknowledge that it’s a truly pressing problem — a global one that knows no national, ethnic, racial or religious lines — and that it desperately needs to become a priority?

The woman who survived the attack received treatment at two hospitals. The men who attacked her have been apprehended, though what will happen to them now is not yet clear what will become of them. The French male who was assaulted stayed in Rio to help the investigation, while the female left Brazil. While I am glad she was (rightfully) able to leave the country without issue, I’m still so angry about what happened to her; there is no reason a woman shouldn’t be able to board public transportation, take a vacation, go out at night or do anything, really, without being raped. This woman deserved, and still deserves, to be safe from violence, regardless of where she went, what she did, or how late at night she did it.

Photo: Raúl! / Flickr