March 18, 2009

Lost Causes: What Nicole and Rhianna's Stories Tell Us.

In the television series The Practice defense attorney Eugine Young harshly cross-examined a rape victim during a trial with the words that go something to this effect: accusing someone of rape is a horrible thing...not only does it hurt the accused, but it does a world of disservice to future rape victims.

Now I do see how true this statement is.

In the past two days, news that reported (I no longer feel confident in not including identifying her as a victim, given everything that's happened) rape victim Nicole has migrated to the US spread like wildfire both in traditional media as well as in the blogosphere. I first heard about the situation from a plurk thread. Initially I sat back quietly and read the response of other plurkers until finally I figured out what to say: that's so sad.

At that point that's all I could think of. However, as the news continues to grow and details continue to emerge, I am caught in an onslaught of emotions ranging from curiousity, disgust, understanding, and dismay. True, I am not Nicole and I cannot begin to explain why she did such a thing, but for me, I am truly, truly saddened and disappointed by the news. I am not here to judge her as a person, but I feel that because of this, rape victims' cries have been silenced once again. It's not just her change of story that troubles me, really, but the fact that because of this, pursuing rape cases will now be even harder than it was in the beginning. I was a staunch defender of the principle of not blaming the vicitm for being raped, especially in response to the many criticisms about Nicole's behavior (i.e. drinking, "dirty dancing" with the men, wearing skin-tight jeans, etc.). However, with her recanting her story, it boils down now to the idea that it was her fault she got in such a precarious situation. Now, how can lawyers and women's groups fight and say that what we wear does not give men license to rape us? How when our own says perhaps it was indeed my fault?

Looking at Nicole's story from a wider lens, I feel the situation has caused the cause of Women Empowerment more than two steps back. After the hard battles to make just a little progress, it takes this one story to derail it from gaining ground. In many ways, this really gives the saying "a lost cause" meaning. It is not only Nicole's story that saddens me. I'm sure many are also aware of the Chris Brown-Rhianna incident. The breaking news of Rhianna's alleged beating at the hands of her lover caught the youth's attention and it was a great way to inform people about the dangers of domestic violence. But now that she takes him back, it seems to give the message that what happened is okay.

These two women tell the same story: that women are weak and can be "bought" and swayed. In Nicole's case, it was entry to the land of Milk and Honey. In Rhianna's, it was promises of love in the arms of her batterer. What's even worse, they give abuse victims a bad name.

I know this blog post is coming out as rhetorical and perhaps many would feel it is pointless. However, being a blogger, I decided to use my platform as a venue not just to share personal experiences, talk about new and upcoming events, but to also further causes and advocacies I beleive in, so I start with this one.

I am a woman. I am proud to be one and I will fight to defend the rights of women, in my own little way. With that said, I, along with all the other women in my country declare NO TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN in whatever shape, way, or form.

To all the Rhianna's and Nicole's out there: I will not claim to know how you feel. I will not even say I understand what you are going through. I do say, however, you are worth more than you think you are and NO ONE has the right to lay their hands on you.

Nicole and Rhianna's stories' tell us that fighting for our rights and really standing up for ourselves (or having "paninindigan"for that matter) is a lost cause. Let's change that story and say, no, it is not a lost cause.

2 stars twinkling:

Anonymous,  3/19/2009 10:02:00 AM  

Ewan ko, Ria. Super long story but may I just say that I can feel for Rihanna in more ways than one and I understand what made her take back her abuser. Which is not to say that I agree with what she did. Pero if she is going through what I've gone through, then her saga isn't over yet.

With regard to Nicole, ay my gad. I have nothing but the purest contempt for her. All this time, I was honestly never convinced that she was, in fact, raped. And suddenly she comes out with this - She's now a U.S. immigrant, was paid a sum of money she'll probably never earn in 5 years working in the Philippines and then she recants her testimony. Pucha. This is not allowing herself to be silenced. This is manipulation at its finest.

I'm not a fan of Americans. But I am tempted to write to that Daniel Smith every single day to urge him to sue that girl for perjury, defamation of character resulting in emotional and psychological distress and lack of earning capacity. And that's just for starters. How much are you willing to bet that the minute idemanda siya ni Smith e she'll say na, "Ay I was wrong pala. Sure pala ako na he raped me nga. Sure na sure."?

- Betsy

Ria 3/19/2009 05:03:00 PM  

Hi Betsy! I don't know what to say about your comment....but whatever it is you went through, I hope in the end you are at peace with it :-)

Well, that is the popular sentiment about the Nicole sad that dignity and integrity is only worth a greencard and x amount of $.

Let's see where the story goes from here....I do think Smith has grounds for a case against her. And much as Nicole claims there is no justice in the Philippines, I hope she faces justice indeed. On the other side of the fence this time.

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