& opinion

It is impossible to convey my reaction to the recent rape of a female student on campus without sounding like a hackneyed and contrived soundbite. Distress would be close to the mark, but even that doesnít explicitly state how a person should react to an incident of such grimness. I have replayed gruesome images in my head, and floundered at attempts to answer the barrage of gory and introspective questions. Iíve wondered why people still smile on the paths, why people still go out at night, why the sun still shines, why life still goes on. And I am not even the victim.

In a sense weíre all victims, falling for what now appears to be the veneer of security on campus. The idea that we live in a cocoon impregnable from the ills we allude to in the news, and second, third, and fourth-hand horror stories. This, on the other hand, happened on our doorstep. Rape can no longer be just conversation or debate fodder, but instead a reality and a soured memory that we have to live with for many years to come.

As a young man, its impact on me has caused an examination of the male type. The fact that a fellow human being can be violated by someone like me in this manner beggars belief. At first, stoning seemed to be the only just punishment. Bury the perpetrator up to his neck, and then stone the protruding head to death, similar to Sharia Law punishments passed to combat sexual immorality. I spoke to a young woman who could be misjudged to be a feminist, who stood by her unbelief in capital punishment. Even in this most special of cases. However, other men echoed my sentiments.

I have a somewhat flawed theory for this. As I walked around campus, I expected hostile stares from women, looks that would tell me how evil men are. Nothing of the sort was forthcoming. I was sure the incident had bedeviled all men, and I was certain that all men felt ashamed, and all women felt hate for men. Men, as you would have it, feel shame for what other men have done. Itís been said that every man is a potential rapist, a statement I disagree with vehemently. It is tempting to brand a rapist as subhuman or inhuman, categories to which I do not belong. To make every man a potential rapist is to mean that the traits of a rapist exist in every man, which in turn is to equate the word rapist with man. Rape is an extreme crime committed by extremely few men, and branding men as such is the same as waiting for them to offend. When does he cross that threshold between man and rapist? How wide is that berth?

On closing, I leave you with the last verse of Jan Strutherís hymn, Lord Of All Hopefulness. Even if you donít feel that gentleness and calm will come from a supreme being, the words still possess a soothing stillness. Hoping for a peace, wherewith, life can go on.

"Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
Whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day."

My prayers are with the victim, and I hope they catch the bastard.