The rape memoir

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“While the frequency of rape in the United States varies from state to state, it averages out to one every 1-2 minutes”

In his book «Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town», Krakauer wrote that rape is the most underreported serious crime in the United states. In the memoir «black box» that details her rape and her fight after the fact, Shiori Ito writes that the same can be said for Japan.

A country to country comparison is difficult because countries define rape differently. Some might count reported cases, while others, like Sweden, counts instances even if it is the same victim and same offender. Some countries still only count male to female cases, while others count female to female, female to male and male to male also. 

Reading Black Box by Shiori Ito I found many similarities with other memoirs I have read on the topic. For instance, rape is often committed by someone the victim knows. In Ito’s case, she was interviewing with a man hoping he would become her boss. The fact that the victim often knows their rapist creates a pushback in society where the victim is accused or blamed with questions like “why they *let* it happen?” As if it was that easy. Another common accusation is “why didn’t you tell anyone?” if you happen to divulge it later in life. (Like Lena Dunham had to deal with publicly!) Personally I have heard several accusations from friends, saying things like “she should have known better” and “is it true, because women often lie about that”. Needless to say I’ve cried every time I’ve heard things like this and it proves that victim blaming is a real thing and it answers their own questions as to why people don’t always tell.

Another thing that I was unaware of before reading Ito’s book was how common it was for victims of rape to contemplate suicide. World population states as much as 33%. And not to mention that 94% of victims that experience PTSD. On cases where victims are brutally abused both physically and mentally we add the difficult task of our justice systems and procedure. Ito goes into detail on how the system did it’s best to break her down, and her colleague defined this as a “second rape”. And before you say, but that was in Japan, Chanel Miller describes the exact same gruelling procedure in her case and how she was grilled on the stand. They truly do everything they can to try and discredit and humiliate you. It is no wonder many refuse to report it and there are dark numbers when it comes to rape. 

Ito mentions visiting a hospital in Sweden that has it’s own rape clinic with a separate entrance so that victims can avoid crowded waiting areas. In the clinic she describes them having an all female staff to handle everything from the rape kit, to follow up and mental care. In 2017 they became the first and only clinic to offer the same services for men. I tried finding if any other country has followed suit, but I couldn’t find one, which was disappointing. However I did find several hotlines and websites in the UK and a center in Boston that was open for everyone. The development on this seems to be slow. 

Ito’s book launched the #MeToo movement in Japan, but this is so much more than what is become in “outing” abusers and giving fuel to “cancel culture”. There is clearly a need for a more common definition and better reporting along with a complete overhaul of the system that abuses and shames it’s victims. There is a need for more education and specialism on the topic. We cannot expect someone who is not trained in handling trauma victims to do that work. This of course is after the fact, but the ideal would be to teach our children better to make sure this doesn’t happen. Teach them about consent. Which Ito found is questionable in a survey she found:

Excerpt from Black Box by Shiori Ito

Below are a few memoirs I’ve read that speaks about sexual assault, some as a main topic and some as a part of their story. Alice Sebold’s Lucky was pulled by the publisher after the man she identified as her rapist in the book was exonerated in late 2021, however I feel it still stands as a great book on the topic and also on the handling of the case by the police and the court. (However the narrative has shifted from rape and conviction, to – rape and wrongfully convicted. I feel it’s an equally important story to tell.)