One of the most disturbing news items of late (aside from the acting attorney general of Yap being murdered, perhaps because she was investigating some level of corruption involving someone who didn’t want their corrupt activity revealed?) was a story in the Pacific Daily News on Oct. 15 about how prosecutors from the Office of the Attorney General had to dismiss a case against one Raimundo Ludwig, who was accused of raping a girl three different times. The court had to dismiss the case because they Could. Not. Find. the girl. According to court documents cited in the news story, “The prosecution also said they believed the mother was inhibiting their effort to find the girl for an interview, and they scheduled appointments with her but she didn't show.”
I realize there may be cultural norms encircling this type of case. On some islands in Micronesia, I am told by Micronesian women, a culture still exists where “females are for pleasure” and apparently, a man can “pleasure” himself with a female even if she does not want said pleasure.
My response to males from Micronesia or Guam or anywhere else on the planet who think that way is: It’s a new day, dudes. And you live in a U.S. territory where pleasuring yourself with a female (or a male, for that matter, and no matter her or his age) who does not want your pleasure is a CRIME. It’s called RAPE. Doesn’t matter if you are stinkin’ drunk from that $5 bottle of rot-gut liquor you bought at a mom-and-pop store, or if you are a kek-head strung out on ice or meth or some other drug. Or you are angry. Or have issues. It’s still a crime. Maybe not on your home island, but it is here. And it is NOT acceptable.
The story didn’t say why this mother may not have wanted her daughter to testify against this Ludwig in question. What we need to do as a community is to get to these mothers and help them to understand that rape is not part of their “culture.” That it is not culturally acceptable for a man to assault - sexually or otherwise - his wife, or his daughter, or his niece or nephew, or anyone. Anywhere.
Yes, you are absolutely right. We should not have to put the onus on the women, when it is the men who are committing these crimes. I totally agree: we should be focusing on the perpetrators. Unfortunately, the reality is that focusing on the men is not possible until you first get the buy-in of the women. Because time and again, it has been proven that when you educate the women in a community about something, that is when change happens.
If we can educate the women that it is not “culture” for the men in their families to rape or otherwise sexually assault their young daughters, nieces, granddaughters (or sons, nephews, grandsons), but rather it is a crime, that is when the change will happen. That is when mothers will no longer tolerate a male relative sexual assaulting one of their daughters and hide the daughter from prosecutors because of some warped excuse about “culture,” or about bringing shame to the family, or because they’ve been led to believe women are for “pleasure.” The shame needs to be brought upon the man. His action is wrong. It is a crime. It is not “culture.”
The question is how? How do we get through to the women of the islands? What are the words, images, or phrases that will resonate to awaken them (as an English major, I refuse to succumb to the use of the cultural slang “woke”) to the fact that it is not a cultural norm for their men to have at it with a vulnerable family member just to pleasure themselves, or because they were drunk, drugged, or otherwise altered?
Do we highlight the effects of these crimes on our daughters (pregnancy, STDs, psychological issues, poverty, etc.) Do we shame the men? Do we try to get them to be aware of the concept of respect for women? Will that even resonate?
If you have an answer, or even a suggestion for a campaign, please email me at the address listed below. Because while it is the man's fault, it is the woman who will bring out the change.
Jayne Flores is the director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs and a long-time journalist. Contact her at email@example.com.