Sexual Abuse at Abu Ghraib
Any woman who has been pressured not to press charges or speak about rape because it might damage a man’s reputation, any woman who has been told that speaking up about being raped might damage a cause for which the rapist stands or even just a poetic school, knows in her bones what the Obama administration’s refusal to release the pictures of the sexual abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib is about.
We, the survivors, know that rape in any context is torture. We know that when it is minimized, when exposing and denouncing sexual assault is made out to be less important than protecting someone else, the result is a horror contained—experienced and understood only by the victims. The perpetrators retain their social standing (in this case, the notion that the military represents the best of the US is maintained) and the possibility of rape being used in the future remains.
At the beginning of this post, I said “any woman”. The same could be said, however, of a man raped by a person of any gender, but rape is typically a gendered crime, and that plays into its use in prisons like Abu Ghraib. Because rape is typically committed against a woman, any man from a sexist culture (and that’s most cultures today) who is raped suffers the further humiliation of being treated like a woman. (Note that among the unreleased photographs is apparently one of a male translator raping a male detainee.)
All of this has been done in the name of the US and its citizens. It has even been done in the name of those of us who have survived rape at home. We have been made complicit against our will. I would say vicitimized all over again, but I know that the rage and pain I feel about this is nothing compared to what was and continues to be felt by the people who were physically violated.
These photographs must be seen. The perpetrators must be held accountable so that this can never happen again. Even that won’t be enough, but it’s the most we can do now.
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