I wasn’t supposed to attend this party over thirty odd years ago. Contentedly caught between the pages of a riveting novel, I declined. But my friends pushed and shoved until I had little choice but to say yes. And so, I went, reluctantly if not grudgingly, book still in hand.
The party was held in honor of an exchange student who had joined us for a year of studies in the university: this friendly, chunky, five-foot-five Joe Pesci wannabe reeking of his dad’s Old Spice while having the fashion sense of a dead lab rat.
He was, to be fair, fetching in his own way, boy-next-door type, mostly guileless, sociable, even suavely naïve.
It was the ‘80s kind of shindig—rowdy, smoke-filled, brimming with spirits. A local rock band played live in the backdrop. As the quintessential twenty-something bad boy of the bunch (if memory serves, I was already kicked out of the university by the time this happened), I made sure to mark the first sixty minutes with one too many beers.
Hell, there were only two of us boys sitting next to three absolutely lovely ladies, my closest women friends, in fact. My building a reputation as someone who can handle his alcohol, however, was nothing compared to how thirsty my lady friends were that night.
The hours wore on sans any incident. I was happy to socialize. The girls were racking up drinks faster than I could order them. By half-past one in the morning, one of the ladies, the closest I’ve had for a sister, requested that I accompany her home. By the looks of it, she’d be on all fours halfway to the parking lot.
Since I didn’t own a car, I motioned to the other guy, tipsily, to rev up his old coupé and drive us to the girl’s house.
I was right. By the time my lady friend and I reached the parking lot, she was out cold. I laid her on the backseat, gently overlaying her short skirt with my jacket, and sat next to the driver. When the exchange student arrived with his keys, he sat and leaned over.
“Is there a motel near here?” the guy asked rather casually. “Say what?” I replied, pretending not to hear what he had said. “Is there a motel near here? We don’t… have to bring her home. You know…” he said with a strange horrid look in his eyes.
I was in my middle twenties, by and large a tormented soul, recently blackballed from college life, the guy whom mothers warned their children about, caught between self-pity and a clinical rage much too overwhelming to control. You can just imagine how pissed I was. Still, I tried, rather successfully for now, to keep the storm in me at bay.
“Are you suggesting we bring her to a motel so we could… you know?” I said beneath my breath. He nodded. “She’s drunk as hell, man,” he hissed, smiling.
Well, suffice it that the night didn’t end well for this fat chap. I left him belly-up on the driver’s seat—with a hankie up his nose and shards of broken beer bottle on his dashboard.
I grabbed my lady friend and bore her on my arms while waiting for a taxi. In no time she was home.
I was in my late forties when a close relative arrived at the house past two in the morning and complained about a taxi driver. She was on her way home from work when she fell asleep next to the driver’s seat. When she woke up, she felt the hands of the driver all over her breasts, finding their way inside her blouse, while the car was parked at a curb.
Good thing she had the mind to push him back, leave the taxi, and run to the nearest convenience store. For how long the molestation happened, she had no idea.
I was so furious I wanted to hunt the man down and make him pay dearly for what he did. But she begged that I do nothing of the sort, as it might jeopardize her work. I barely slept that night.
Rape and abuse of women are real. Close to half a million women were raped and sexually assaulted in 2019 worldwide, and that’s but a fraction of unreported cases.
Disturbing is the fact that these crimes are perpetrated by ordinary people, oftentimes men who enjoy a level of personal acquaintance with the women—colleagues, family, friends, the boss—not those ugly, cigarette-puffing stereotypes one sees in the movies. No. Many rapists and predators may even seem respectable.
Rape, in sum, is not just a crime, nor is it merely a violation. True, they are both.
But more than these, rape is an invasion not only of the human body but of the human psyche, the violent overthrow of all that is human in the victim.
It is dignity ripped apart and left to putrefy in the victim’s memory, that is, if the latter is left alive to suffer the brutality of it. The torment doesn’t stop after the rape. It gets only worse.
I am relating all this in connection with the case of Philippine Airlines flight attendant Christine Angelica Dacera whom the Philippine National Police claimed on Jan. 4 as having been “raped” and “killed”.
Based on reports, Dacera was found unconscious in a bathtub at the City Garden Hotel in Makati after a New Year’s Eve party. Even in the absence of an official autopsy report, Police Chief Debold Sinas, in a PNP social media post, recounted to Department of Interior chief Eduardo Año that the case was “solved with the arrest and indictment of three suspects”.
Problem with the statement is that it’s now being contested by a supposed “medico legal” report circulating on social media. It said that Dacera died of “ruptured aortic aneurysm”.
If true, Dacera was neither raped nor murdered. Makati police chief Col. Harold Depositar, however, said that the aforementioned medico legal report was not for “public consumption”. I guess it is safe to assume that, for now, Dacera’s case has yet to find closure.
This initial statement made by PNP Chief Sinas triggered another lengthy and heated online discussion on rape and the absurdity of victim-blaming. This column wishes to continue the discussion even as we all wait for further details on the Dacera case.
Not the least, authorities should look into why the hotel management allowed a gathering of several partygoers in the said venue, what with all the quarantine protocols the national and local government have set in place. There ought to be an investigation as regards this clear breach of health protocols.
To men everywhere, please allow me to set things straight: women are human beings. They ought to be treated with all the rights and dignity accorded to human beings. They are not commodities, properties, wares or toys to be owned and discarded when they don’t suit you.
Women have the right to dress as they please, live as they please, be happy as they please, even drink and party as they please without these being mistaken as invitations to sexual abuse. If anything, women should enjoy sex just as everyone does, for pleasure or intimacy makes no difference. It’s their choice to make because consent, in sex, is paramount.
Rape is perpetrated by rapists: that’s a fact. Rape is not triggered by women’s clothes, not even their chosen lifestyle.
Victim-blaming has no place in today’s world, nor should women adjust their lives to the world of rapists. Everyone, more so women, should be able to walk safely and peaceably anytime of the day or at night without being threatened or forced against their will. Blaming the rape victim is simply revealing how much of an imbecile some people are.
As men—and truth to tell, it should begin with us—how do we stop rape culture? First, by giving women the respect they deserve, handing over the life they alone can live.
Respect is the key. And we don’t need to look to tomorrow to do this. Right this very hour is as good a time as any to begin.
Joel Pablo Salud is an editor, journalist and the author of several books of fiction and political nonfiction. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of LiCAS.news.