What Malaysians can do to end rape

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Malaysia is fast becoming one of the rape capitals of the world. With an all-time high in cases of sexual assault last year, there is much finger-pointing toward law enforcers and the government who stand idle on the matter, but surprisingly little towards society itself that ultimately has the power to end rape.

Women and girls in Malaysia live with the knowledge that we are targets of sexual assault on a daily basis; we are never safe in the daytime nor at night, not on the streets, indoors, and certainly not in our own homes as reports suggest. There is more information foisted upon women and girls on how to prevent rape – from locking their car doors, not walking alone at night, never accepting an invitation to meet with a stranger, to never parking their cars in poorly-lit and isolated places – but little to no information on how to tell men – and women – to stop raping.

The issuing of preventive measures but not tough reminders to would-be rapists suggest that women and girls are responsible for our own safety. If we get raped it becomes mainly our fault for getting ourselves in compromising situations. Rapists may or may not get their legal comeuppances, but the damage has been done for both sides of the assault. Before we become a brutalised society baying for the blood of retribution, we should at least place heavier responsibilities on members of society who have greater access to committing violence – those with capital, social, and physical power.

Many people often assume that rape will continue to happen no matter what; there is an assumption that rape is committed by one lone violent person who is not normal, not one of us, is mad or whatever psycho-pathological characteristic one cares to describe. But this is not true. Most people will never commit rape in their entire lifetime, but are complicit in the prevalence of rape in Malaysia by not taking rape seriously enough. Some may even commit rape without even recognising it as such.

The following are 10 steps Malaysians can take to stop rape. Since women and girls make the majority of rape victims and survivors, at times I will address certain steps as male privilege issues. In such cases, the steps are directed at men, but women and girls are encouraged to be supportive of said measures.

1. Stop trivialising rape.
Do not joke or laugh about rape. Do not consider some forms of sexual violence as less serious than others. Do not threaten someone with rape when you are angry, even if you think you won’t go as far as to rape that person.

2. Speak up against daily injustices
Rape emerges out of a continuum of violence in society, it is not an isolated act of violence. It occurs because there are other social injustices and other forms of violence – such as sexual harassment, physical and emotional abuse, poverty, homophobia, transphobia, classism, racism, and xenophobia (especially against domestic helpers), that contribute to the aggression, hate, and dehumanisation of people.

3. Express and promote a healthy attitude towards sex
Because sex education in Malaysia is inadequate, people learn about sex from pornography, abstinence is promoted, and hardly anyone talks openly about the naturalness of sexual desire but instead frame sex in the context of shame and deviance, Malaysians in general have an unhealthy attitude towards sex. The myth that male sexual desires cannot be controlled must end and replaced with the idea of mutual respect and informed sexual practice.

4. Stop the vilification against sex workers
When sex workers are raped because of their profession, ALL women and girls are implicated in this act of violence. How? Sex workers are assaulted and abused because they are viewed as ‘damaged goods’ or sex objects who do not deserve society’s respect. This means that all women and girls have to be careful about how they behave and dress, because the line between ‘pure’ and ‘slutty’ blurs and changes beyond our control and exposes us to a similar abuse perpetrated against sex workers.

5. Trust survivors of rape.
One of the major setbacks in rape convictions is the lack of trust in a survivor’s account. But no matter what she wears or has done, it is never a woman or girl’s fault they are sexually assaulted. Men and boys who do become survivors of rape often find it more difficult to come forward about their assault for fear of insult, humiliation, and even disbelief. Only when survivors of rape are taken seriously and supported, society can understand the severity of the crime.

6. As men, challenge other men
This is a step that men have to be responsible for, and that is to speak up against the misogynistic and chauvinistic things other men – primarily their family members, friends, religious leaders, and work colleagues say or do.

7. Listen to women and girls
Listen and do not talk over what women and girls have to say, because a male perspective on rape that has never been deeply informed by the experiences of women is doomed to be narrow, arrogant, and ignorant.

8. Respect what women and girls have to say
We live in a society where what women and girls say are not taken seriously. Men dominate conversations, take charge, make decisions, and lead both women and men. The indirect effect of this discursive imbalance is the assumption that women and girls are emotional, scatterbrained or less capable enough to engage in serious issues.

When the words of women and girls are not respected, we find ourselves silenced and sometimes end up silencing ourselves. Valuable perspectives are lost and we end up drafting paternalistic measures that ignore input that arise from the concerns and anxieties of women and girls.

9. Contribute your time and money to rape crisis centres or any women’s organisations that have an interest in ending sexual violence.
Donate or volunteer at women’s shelters or at helpline centres such as the Telenita at AWAM and WAO in Petaling Jaya, Tenaganita for migrant workers in Petaling Jaya, Shelter for refugees and children at risk in Petaling Jaya, PT Foundation for transwomen, sex workers, and drug users in Kuala Lumpur, the WCC in Penang, and Pusat Kebajikan Good Sheperd in Perak. Volunteering can emotionally taxing for many people, but it will offer an insight into the kind of care provided for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Unfortunately, crisis centres are concentrated in bigger cities in Malaysia, but that does not suggest that rape only occurs in urban areas.

10. And finally, do not have sex with someone without their consent.
When someone says ‘no’ to your sexual advances, they really mean ‘no’. You do not have sex or sexually violate someone in their sleep or when they’re unconscious.

7 thoughts on “What Malaysians can do to end rape

  1. I am very happy to have found your blog. I would like to share your articles on my blog and Facebook, if that is okay with you. I am on a mission to battle the stigma of rape – I am a survivor of three rapes and childhood sexual abuse. I am a Malaysian and all of this occured while I was growing up in Malaysia, and I know firsthand what it is like to be outcast and stigmatized. Thank you for writing this.

    • Hi Sacrilege of the Goddess, thanks so much for dropping by! Yes, you can definitely share. There are more (updated) things on my other site Kakak Killjoy if you’d like to crosspost. I think I’m going to write a bit about your blog and your work on KK, purely out of admiration!

  2. May I add a step?

    I would add a 11th step.

    Everybod y (men and women), could ask for forgiveness to their ancestors (both men and women) about the abuses and rapes and violence commited against women.

    In a sacred ceremony, Men and Women could say to their female ancestors that the abuses commited against them is not something “normal”, that men’s desire must be met with a women desire if a sexual relationship is to take place.
    Men and women could say to their male ancestors that as their descendant, “I think that what you have done is wrong”. “I forgive you, I ask God to forgive you, and I ask God to help you to forgive yourselves”.

    As long as an individual (even if I am a woman, but of course firstly if I am a man), I do not take full personal responsability for the rapes, violences, hates commited by others, I “energetically” contribute to the perpetuation of these violences.
    It is only the day that I accept to dig into my own darkness, into the transmitted darkness from my ancestors and take personal responsability for its existence, that I can start to change the situation on a global scale.

    Of course, the “activits” actions (help centers, social campaigns, change in law, court actions against the rapist and the law enforcement members accomplices) must continue and receive support.

    But as an individual, IF I do not start within, to cleanse the Evil, it will perpetuate in my society and/or in the rest of humanity.

    Therefore, everytime that I see violence against women and Life in general, I can first acknowledge that there must be, to a certain extent, a seed of this violence within me that allows this external violence to appear before my eyes in the here and now. I am not saying that I must say to myself that what the other is doing is OK. Of course, it is Evil.
    I am just saying that IF I start within me to acknowledge that I am, in a small percentage, owner of this same evil. IF better still, I can recognise some of this evil within me, and genuinely ask for forgiveness of this small Evil within me, take personnal responsability for it, I might one day be able to have compassion for the Evil doings of others. Compassion is possible when of course, rage, anger and grief have been funnelled into proper channels. When one have found some assurance that their needs for personal safety will be met in the future (post-traumatic stress). This is tricky and can take time.
    But, one day, if I can see within me that sometimes, I have the same impulses of wanting to get my needs satisfied without taking into account the needs of others, then I might start to feel compassion for the rapist. And if I keep on turning my look within everytime that I feel upset by the wrong doing of others, it will help me to cleanse myself quicker. I know that the others cannot be changed from the outside. Therefore, I start to change Me myself, because it is the place where I have full power of transformation. And if I build on compassion within (born out of realizing my own small darkness), the others that trivialize violence will start to be subtly changed by my presence. Instead of getting into a debate, a confrontation that will leave everybody bitter and more entranched in his (hers) views. If within I feel genuine compassion for the perpetrators, in social situations when I correct the men (and women possessed by their ” Inner Patriarch “) that trivialize rape, being firm in my setting of barriers between good and evil, I will be firm and listened to because the same barrier will have been set within me.

    Once again, it is not an elaborate way of getting them rid of Their responsability. It is a way for me to accelerate the process of healing needed by all humanity. I realize that others might take a while to come to the same realization, therefore, I start with myself, trusting that if I do, I might transform the outer reality quicker than if I was only into blame; blame being the mental posture: ” I am good, They are evil “.

    A good place to start is to “cleanse” my ancestors legacy. If there is rape and violence in my society, my ancestors must have been part of it. Both as perpetrators and victims. Both attitude of perpetrators and attitude of victim must be corrected in my ancestors if I want to become free of their “dark legacy”.
    If I can get my ancestors to “correct” their wrongdoings, it will help me within. It will help my cousins and all people connected by blood to me that might be rapists potentially.

    This works. As a male descendant of mixed African women that have been systemically raped by their French slave masters, I can testify that my 11th step actually works. Now, my ancestors are in peace within me. That a start for feeling peace within myself.

    Wish you the best in all aspects of your life.

    Thierry

  3. I would like to add some thoughts to your subject matter. While I most certainly agree with you about the epidemic of rape and other terrible events of Malaysian women and girls, the problem extends to every country in our world, just some much worse than others. You are talking about making a major change to Malaysian society, which might be a good first step, but the problem is the world culture, not just the Malaysian culture. Let’s face it, the problem lies squarely on the shoulders of not quite half of the world’s population, men. And of course it didn’t start during our current era. It has been a problem with males ever since day one of our world. During that time, every people, every culture, every religion has been responsible for creating these monsters called, males. Even if you were ever able to completely change the Malaysian culture and bring forth your desired changes, the rest of world would come to your country and ruin your women. That is how the women and girls of many backwards countries has been ruined like the rest of the world. The English, French, Spanish, and eventually the Americans have come to your countries over the centuries, and spread the virus to your country just like they did with countries within the borders of, Africa, South America, Australia, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, China, and many, many more. We men, bigger and stronger than the women, have made it okay for ourselves to worse than the most viscious animals on earth. And our religions have allowed it to happen, even helped it out. Why, because they are all headed up by men. Your task, our task is many steps past the difficulty of changing the rotational direction of the Earth. Impossible? No, but it is something that requires much more than every woman making a total effort. But except through killing off all males, I can’t imagine how change can honestly happen. Why? Well because humans can’t mutually agree on anything. The likelihood of getting even a third of any group of people to agree completely on any one thing, is small at best. While I hope you and the women of the world are successful, I shall not hold my breath. While we in America have greatly improved the sexual conditions of women in our country, they are far from ideal. Mostly because men are involved. Best wishes for your efforts. Don

  4. What hope does a Mulsim woman living in Malaysia have to obtain justice when she has been violently raped on many occassions. She fears that rporting it with cause her family shame and embarressmant. What can she do? There is so much to her story and I am outraged that justice is not forthcoming. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • People (usually women) should report to the police. I believe on most occasions, rape survivors in Malaysia are believed. Although I am uncertain about the conviction rate in Malaysia, for both statutory rape and non-statutory rape.

  5. hey alicia watch this few vids thanks🙂 put things into perspective on the problems of rape really

    Try to search for more of the channel videos too
    I feel very impassioned about the feminism cause and it is great that some Malaysian are standing out and blogging about it! You go girl!

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