Commentary: Victims first, then the assailant

By Ariani Mohd Nor

(Disclaimer: Although this piece only focuses on women, I do believe men can be victims too. Rape does not know gender, and male victims are as equal as female victims. There are also cases of false accusations. However, the article is my interpretation of victims being blamed by women and their purported preference for the alleged male perpetrator’s action.) 

A few weeks ago the nation shook as the news about a celebrity preacher was charged with counts of molest, unnatural sex, and rape.

The incident stemmed from a tweet that went viral about said ‘Islamic evangelist,’ exposing of the sexual assault one of the victims had gone through in November last year with screenshots and proofs of their conversation throughout the affair. Since then, many have come forward with similar ‘Twitter threads’ and exposures of the same person.

For the past few weeks, the alleged perpetrator was faced with at least seven police reports against him, one of them a nurse whom the suspect took out to dinner before inviting her into his home.

The preacher was then released on a RM35,000 bail just a few nights ago, which brought about mixed reactions in social media.

While I do not know whether he has truly attempted the crime, it has brought to my attention how many have defended this Da’i (English: preacher) regarding the alleged crimes that he has committed while also cursing the victims out of spite.

Worse? Those defending him are women, who were supposed to support one another in these trying times.

A redacted Twitter user (woman) aggressively defending the Da’i. (Translation: I cannot believe Malays, in times of hardships, would be happy with the accusations towards other Malay Muslims when there are no proofs to begin with. It would be better to renounce your religion if you cursed the Da’i. The religion in your heart has no meaning anymore. There is a hadith regarding ‘cheap women’ nearing the End of Time – find and read it. Your parents raised you wrong; be sad for yourself. Please.)

The way the world works is strange, to me. Just because he’s famous and a preacher, does that mean he is not bound to the wrongs of human error? Of course, in this case, it’s not a simple human error. Rape is a crime and should properly be dealt with in the face of justice.

Covering up the tracks of a possible assailant, regardless of they are, weighs a huge burden to the victims as they are aware that they have been silenced when they are finally brave enough to speak up.

Celebrity preacher status aside, women have always been the blunt end of the stick in sexual assault cases. 

Were you wearing revealing clothes?” 

Who told you to walk alone?” 

Why didn’t you report it sooner?” 

Were some of the quotes we keep seeing from those who refuse to believe the victims.

Referring to the Twitter screenshot above, the Twitter user addressed the victims as wanita murahan, which directly means cheap woman. Victims are called names, liars, and even banished for bringing down the perpetrator’s dignity – as if the perpetrator ever had any to begin with.

This mindset has to change, and change only starts with us.

The culture of victim blaming should be abolished, and the failure of people realising this would not only bring a huge advantage for the perpetrators to create more harm, but also enabling rape culture.

According to a YouGov Omnibus statistic in 2019, over a third (36 per cent) Malaysian women have experienced sexual harassment, and only half (53 per cent) have the courage to report the incident to the authorities.

Trauma is not the same for everyone. The most you can do for a friend who refuses to report to the authorities is to offer support and care, and spread as much awareness as you can. Encourage them to make a report when they’re ready.

Being safe is not wrong as everyone should be staying safe. But not acknowledging that women are constantly in danger wherever they go only enables atrocities to happen and will not come to an end.

Always remember that rape is always the rapists’ fault. At the end of the day, it will always be better to believe a liar than a potential rapist.***

(This article is written as part of individual assignment series for Feature Writing class)

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