By Karen Nickel
This is a tale of two rapes. One has been widely reported, protested and has sparked a global outcry and condemnation. It inspired actions of solidarity against rape culture and decried the lack of women’s rights. The other rape has barely been noticed locally, let alone nationally or globally.
A woman in New Delhi, India, boarded a private bus and was beaten with iron bars, tortured, raped for hours, dumped and left for dead. A male companion traveling with her was also beaten. She ultimately died from the horrendous injuries she sustained. There were riots. Tear gas, batons and pepper spray were used against anti-rape protesters, which could not suppress their anger and outrage.
There was another rape, equally as horrendous, the product of sexism and racism, but the response to this woman’s suffering is deafening in its silence. Her experience of violence and rape started on the way to the store one night in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The 36-year-old, aboriginal, single mother was walking when two white men in a car accosted her.
According to a post, since removed from her Facebook page, but repeated in an Indian Country Today Media Networkreport, Christi Belcourt, a friend of the victim, claimed that the two men threw objects out the window at her while calling her racist epithets like “dirty squaw”.
One of the men got out of the car, grabbed her by the hair, dragged her into the back seat and sat on her while they drove out of Thunder Bay to a secluded area where they sexually assaulted her, beat her, strangled her and left her for dead.
During the assault they told her that it wasn’t the first time they had done something like this and “it wouldn’t be the last”. They told her that “You Indians deserve to lose your treaty rights,” in reference to the Idle No More movement. She didn’t die, but walked four hours back home to her children, then called police. She lives in fear that they’ll come back.
The world points their finger at India and condemns their religions, cultures, caste system and ultimately men in India for their behaviour towards women – minimising our own country’s incidents of rape, ‘disappearing’ their own rape victims’ suffering – in this case, one that is being investigated as a hate crime by Thunder Bay police.
Canada’s history of missing and murdered Aboriginal women shows us this is not a rare event here. Is it possible, looking through the same lens used for the rape in New Delhi, that we have a culture that also condones the rape of women? Isn’t it time we ask that question?