With Julian Assange now out on bail, Naomi Wolf blasts, fiercely and eloquently, the cynical "theater" that is the rape case against him. The "hateful manipulation of a
serious women's issue" in the name of silencing dissent, she charges, "is not the State embracing feminism – it is the State pimping feminism."
Her full piece:
J'Accuse: Sweden, Britain and Interpol Insult Rape Victims Worlwide
How do I know that Interpol, Britain and Sweden's treatment of
Julian Assange is a form of theater? Because I know what happens in rape
accusations against men that don't involve the embarrassing of powerful
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is in solitary confinement in
Wandsworth prison in advance of questioning on state charges of sexual
molestation. Lots of people have opinions about the charges. But I
increasingly believe that only those of us who have spent years working
with rape and sexual assault survivors worldwide, and know the standard
legal response to sex crime accusations, fully understand what a
travesty this situation is against those who have to live through how
sex crime charges are ordinarily handled -- and what a deep, even
nauseating insult this situation is to survivors of rape and sexual
Here is what I mean: men are pretty much never treated the way Assange is being treated in the face of sex crime charges.
I started working as a counselor in a UK center for victims of sexual
assault in my mid-twenties. I also worked as a counselor in a battered
women's shelter in the US, where sexual violence was often part of the
pattern of abuse. I have since spent two decades traveling the world
reporting on and interviewing survivors of sexual assault, and their
advocates, in countries as diverse as Sierra Leone and Morocco, Norway
and Holland, Israel and Jordan and the Occupied Territories, Bosnia and
Croatia, Britain, Ireland and the united States.
I tell you this as a recorder of firsthand accounts. Tens of thousand
of teenage girls were kidnapped at gunpoint and held as sex slaves in
Sierra Leone during that country's civil war. They were tied to trees
and to stakes in the ground and raped by dozens of soldiers at a time.
Many of them were as young as twelve or thirteen. Their rapists are
I met a fifteen-year-old girl who risked her life to escape from her
captor in the middle of the night, taking the baby that resulted from
her rape by hundreds of men. She walked from Liberia to a refugee camp
in Sierra Leone, barefoot and bleeding, living on roots in the bush. Her
rapist, whose name she knows, is free.
Generals at every level instigated this country-wide sexual assault
of a generation of girls. Their names are known. They are free. In
Sierra Leone and Congo, rapists often used blunt or sharp objects to
penetrate the vagina. Vaginal tears and injuries, called vaginal
fistulas, are rampant, as any health worker in that region can attest,
but medical care is often unavailable. So women who have been raped in
this way often suffer from foul-smelling constant discharges from
infections that could be treated with a low-cost antibiotic -- were one
available. Because of their injuries, they are shunned by their
communities and rejected by their husbands. Their rapists are free.
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Women -- and girls -- are drugged, kidnapped and trafficked by the
tens of thousands for the sex industry in Thailand and across Eastern
Europe. They are held as virtual prisoners by pimps. If you interview
the women who spend their lives trying to rescue and rehabilitate them,
they attest to the fact that these women's kidnappers and rapists are
well known to local and even national authorities -- but these men never
face charges. These rapists are free.
In the Bosnian conflict, rape was a weapon of war. Women were
imprisoned in barracks utilized for this purpose, and raped, again at
gunpoint, for weeks at a time. They could not escape. Minimalist
hearings after the conflict resulted in slap-on-the-wrist sentences for a
handful of perpetrators. The vast majority of rapists, whose names are
known, did not face charges. The military who condoned these assaults,
whose names are known, are free.
Women who testify to having been raped in Saudi Arabia, Syria and
Morocco face imprisonment and beatings, and being abandoned by their
families. Their rapists almost never face charges and are free. Women
who testify to rape in India and Pakistan have been subjected to honor
killings and acid attacks. Their rapists almost never face charges, are
almost never convicted. They are free. A well-known case of a high-born
playboy in India who was accused of violently raping a waitress -- who
was willing to testify against him -- resulted in a cover-up at the
highest levels of the police inquiry. He is free.
What about more typical cases closer to home? In the Western
countries such as Britain and Sweden, who are uniting to hold Assange
without bail, if you actually interviewed women working in rape crisis
centers, you will hear this: it is desperately hard to get a conviction
for a sex crime, or even a serious hearing. Workers in rape crisis
centers in the UK and Sweden will tell you that they have deep backlogs
of women raped for years by fathers or stepfathers -- who can't get
justice. Women raped by groups of young men who have been drinking, and
thrown out of the backs of cars, or abandoned after a gang-rape in an
alley -- who can't get justice. Women raped by acquaintances who can't
get a serious hearing.
In the US I have heard from dozens of young women who have been
drugged and raped in college campuses across the nation. There is almost
inevitably a cover-up by the university -- guaranteed if their
assailants are prominent athletes on campus, or affluent -- and their
rapists are free. If it gets to police inquiry, it seldom gets very far.
Date rape? Forget it. If a woman has been drinking, or has previously
had consensual sex with her attacker, or if their is any ambiguity about
the issue of consent, she almost never gets a serious hearing or real
If the rare middle-class woman who charges rape against a stranger --
for those inevitably are the few and rare cases that the state bothers
to hear -- actually gets treated seriously by the legal system, she will
nonetheless find inevitable hurdles to any kind of real hearing let
alone real conviction: either a 'lack of witnesses' or problems with
evidence, or else a discourse that even a clear assault is racked with
ambiguity. If, even more rare, a man is actually convicted -- it will
almost inevitably be a minimal sentence, insulting in its triviality,
because no one wants to 'ruin the life' of a man, often a young man, who
has 'made a mistake'. (The few exceptions tend to regard a predictable
disparity of races -- black men do get convicted for assault on
higher-status white women whom they do not know.)
In other words: Never in twenty-three years of reporting on and supporting victims of sexual assault around the world have I ever
heard of a case of a man sought by two nations, and held in solitary
confinement without bail in advance of being questioned -- for any
alleged rape, even the most brutal or easily proven. In terms of a case
involving the kinds of ambiguities and complexities of the alleged
victims' complaints -- sex that began consensually that allegedly became
non-consensual when dispute arose around a condom -- please find me,
anywhere in the world, another man in prison today without bail on
charges of anything comparable.
Of course 'No means No', even after consent has been given, whether
you are male or female; and of course condoms should always be used if
agreed upon. As my fifteen-year-old would say: Duh.
But for all the tens of thousands of women who have been kidnapped
and raped, raped at gunpoint, gang-raped, raped with sharp objects,
beaten and raped, raped as children, raped by acquaintances -- who are still
awaiting the least whisper of justice -- the highly unusual reaction of
Sweden and Britain to this situation is a slap in the face. It seems to
send the message to women in the UK and Sweden that if you ever want
anyone to take sex crime against you seriously, you had better be sure
the man you accuse of wrongdoing has also happened to embarrass the most
powerful government on earth.
Keep Assange in prison without bail until he is questioned, by all
means, if we are suddenly in a real feminist worldwide epiphany about
the seriousness of the issue of sex crime: but Interpol, Britain and
Sweden must, if they are not to be guilty of hateful manipulation of a
serious women's issue for cynical political purposes, imprison as well
-- at once -- the hundreds of thousands of men in Britain, Sweden and
around the world world who are accused in far less ambiguous terms of
far graver forms of assault.
Anyone who works in supporting women who have been raped knows from
this grossly disproportionate response that Britain and Sweden, surely
under pressure from the US, are cynically using the serious issue of
rape as a fig leaf to cover the shameful issue of mafioso-like global
collusion in silencing dissent. That is not the State embracing
feminism. That is the State pimping feminism.