Ruth Rosen: Rape: The Universal CrimeRoundup: Historians' Take
tags: feminism, Ruth Rosen, rape, ReaderSupportedNews
Ruth Rosen, a former columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times, is Professor Emerita of History at the University of California Davis and a Scholar in Residence at the University of California Berkeley. Her most recent book is The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America.
The feminist writer Susan Griffin called rape "The All American Crime" in Ramparts Magazine in 1971. She was the first feminist to explain that men rape children, elderly and disabled women, not just girls dressed in mini-skirts. In other words, she challenged the belief that that rape was a sexual act, fueled by men's irrepressible sexual drive. Instead, she argued that rape was an assault against a woman, fueled by the desire to control and harm her, not a sexual act at all.
While I became a professor of history at the University of California a few years later, an elderly woman was raped by a man who stalked the campus looking for prey. He finally found a woman in her 90s and raped her in Davis's Central Park. (I can't find the newspaper story, but I remember the terror he caused among the town's women.) In 2012, a 43-year-old man raped a 73-year-old woman in New York City's Central Park and even boasted about how many elderly women he had raped. So, no, rape is not a sexual act.
Griffin was right. Even more, we now know that rape is the universal crime. Men don't need seductive young bodies scantily dressed to incite them to use their overwhelming power over a vulnerable woman. Even though rape has been declared illegal in war as a means of demoralizing an enemy, the Balkan wars revealed the creation of "rape camps" on all sides....
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