Indonesia's Police Chief Shows Exactly Why #MeToo Is So Important Here Too
Another day, another sign that rape culture is still a huge issue in Indonesia.
Illustration by Dini Lestari
As women worldwide shared their stories of sexual harassment and assault with the hashtag #MeToo, Indonesia's most-powerful cop decided it was the right time to tell the press that his officers routinely ask the victims of sexual assault if they enjoyed being raped.
Yeah. You read that right. Indonesian police think that when a woman comes in and says she's the victim of sexual assault, one of the most-important questions an officer can ask is whether she felt "comfortable" at all during the experience. Don't believe me? Read this excerpt from National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian's interview with BBC Indonesia below:
The issue is were there any sensitive questions posed by officers during their interrogation? As an investigator, they need to understand the nuances and background of a crime. Sometimes the police need to ask sensitive questions in order to obtain a complete picture of the alleged criminal act.
For example, in a rape case, the police sometimes have to ask the victim if they felt fine after being raped. Questions like these are very important. If I was raped, how did I feel during the rape? Was I comfortable? If I was comfortable, it's not a rape... such information is valuable to me.
This is exactly why women are afraid to tell the police they've been raped. One recent survey found that 93 percent of rape victims chose not to file a report with the police. Of those who did, only 1 percent saw their case end in a conviction. The data casts a light on just how hard it is to be the victim of sexual assault in Indonesia. Police officers routinely doubt a woman's story outright, ask unsympathetic questions, or blame them for their own rape.
Then if you can actually get through the interrogation, you still need to deal with a trial where a defense lawyer will again try to cast doubt on your testimony with statements like a woman can't be raped more than once without secretly wanting it.
So what if you don't report it to the police and, instead, take another approach. Maybe you tell all your friends what happened. Or maybe you risk the likely attacks on your character and just out the sexual predator yourself on social media. It's only a matter of time before someone asks, "if you were really raped, then well then why didn't you report it to the police?"
Those who try to expose their assailants are often accused by their neighbors of airing their "dirty laundry" in public. Or worse, they risk being charged with defamation, a criminal offense here that carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail. What's a victim to do?
The entire ordeal is often so terrifying, so degrading, that many would rather stay quiet instead of risking further trauma. This is why one survivor once told me that after she reported her sexual assault to the police, she thought to herself, "I wish I was murdered instead so nobody had to doubt whether or not I was really raped."
When a woman would rather die than report her own rape, then we have a problem. But, sadly, the problem goes far deeper than this. The #MeToo campaign is important because it shows the extent of the problem. But it also, once again, asks the victims of sexual assault and harassment to come forward again and scratch at their old wounds to raise awareness of sexual violence.
I know this because I'm a survivor myself. I know exactly how hard it is to come forward and tell others of your abuse. When I was seven years old, an out of town relative was staying with us at my family's home. He snuck into my room when I was asleep and fondled my breasts. I woke up to find his hand on my nipple.
My young mind didn't know this was sexual assault. All I knew was that it made me feel uncomfortable. But when I mentioned it, he told me that he did the same thing to his own sisters. "It's OK," he said, "because I'm their brother."
It took me nearly 20 years to finally tell my mom. I cried when I told her what happened. She was angry too, annoyed at me for not coming forward sooner. Clearly, I was scared that no one would believe me. Or maybe that they would belittle me and my experience. But most of all, I was afraid of being the reason my family fought.
Today, my abuser lives a good life with his wife and two cute daughters. And I am stuck living the rest of my life thinking about his abuse. I wonder sometimes if he forgot about the entire thing. It's enough to make me sick.
This is the kind of pain women have to carry with them for their entire life. Men can assault, harass, or abuse women then go on with their lives like nothing even happened. And a lot of the time, they don't even seem to know they've done something wrong.
Catcalls. Unwanted advances. Sexist comments. They all seem to float by a lot of men without a second thought. Take the one time a guy sent me a bunch of Iwan Fals lyrics as a way to flirt with me that basically told me I shouldn't get mad at his advances because I'm just too cute to not make a pass at.
This guy had no idea that kissing someone without their consent was wrong. He didn't understand that he needed a woman's permission to touch her. But once it happened to me, I started to see these "innocent" love songs in a different light. Maybe they weren't so innocent after all.
I'm now upfront with my significant others. I tell them right off the bat that I'm a victim of sexual abuse, and that I've been diagnosed with PTSD and depression as a result of it. I want to make sure they're an ally, not another secret rapist or sexist in hiding.
My partner accepted me for who I am, but that doesn't mean he doesn't too sometimes say or do things that are a symptom of our wider rape culture. He's broadcast degrading WhatsApp messages without thinking twice about how his female friends might feel. He's uploaded photographs online objectifying women. He once added the word "beautiful" to a headline with the hopes that it would attract more male viewers.
Each time I confronted him right away. He didn't even realize what he was doing was wrong. He does these things because they are accepted. They are considered "normal" by society at large. This is all "boys will be boys" behavior, but wrapping it up in such a quaint colloquialism doesn't mean it's any less shitty. We all need to ask the men in our lives if they will work to support a safer system for women. We need to ask them if they are actually our allies in this fight.
My partner said he was with me. Has yours?