Cathy Winkler, an anthropologist by profession, turned writer when subjected to rape by a drunken man in September 1987. An activist even prior to her torment, she refused to be one of the many victims of the rape that suffer in silence. She fought for her right to bring the offender to justice; her efforts bore fruit after 10 years when the rapist was sentenced to a lifelong indictment. “One night: Realities of rape” is story of her anguish brought upon her as a result of her physical assault and as part of her struggle to find justice.
Winkler, in her book, focused not only on the assault committed against her, but also showcased how the different institutions of society – the legal system, media, kith n kin and education – played a role in her crusade against the rapist. The book explores not only the physical exploitation of “rape” but explorers it in the wider context and illustrates how the life of an ordinary person changes after becoming a rape victim due to the way rape victims are treated by the society. The book also highlights how the same powers that symbolize justice stood in the way of it when the victim tried to get her plea heard and answered. While exposing the criminal role played by the influential, it also reveals the “weaker sex” is continuously undermined by the patriarchal society.Book review:One night: Realities of rape is an articulate measure of the trauma inflicted on the rape victim, not only by the assault- but the legal system, the media and the social circle of friends. The book is not a piece of fictional melodrama, but explores the sufferings and struggle of Cathy Winkler, in trying to bring the rapist to justice.She has defied the orthodox views the society holds of the rape survivor being an epitome of sentiments. Rather, along with outlining the trauma that engulfed her mind, she also focuses on the struggle of the conscience; to escape the attack during the rape, and then to make the offender pay by getting him indicted.
This projects a very strong ideal of the author- woman emancipation: The fragility of the weaker sex in terms of physical power is undermined by their strong will power, as mirrored by the decade long struggle of Cathy Winkler against the rapist, Kenneth Redding. However, her crusade is not only against the rapist, but also against the society and the legal system. Hence, the book is divided in to three parts: Physical Rape, Social Rape, and Legal Rape.
In the first part, Physical Rape, the ordeal of the rape has been highlighted – not as an overflow of emotions; but as a subjective account of the tragedy and its after effects. It portrays the inner struggle the author undergoes during the rape; her presence of mind, yet her inability to protect herself as she was outwitted by the physical force of the rapist. The author’s presence of mind is symbolic of the mental trauma all rape victims experience at the time of the assault. It is not their fault that the rapist is inflicting torture them; guilt is not to be a part of their conscience. The society holds the rape victim responsible for the atrocity by outlining futile arguments; however they fail to comprehend that being forced to be a part of such a monstrous act is no one’s idyllic dream.
The inspirational component of the book is the author’s thirst for justice: justice not only for herself but for the lives of those innocent women the rapist had destroyed and the further harm he could inflict on to other women. Winkler’s attempt at highlighting her rape case in front of the jurisdiction and fighting for it till the very end portends hope for justification to other rape victims-that all is not yet lost. The scars might never disappear but the message Winkler gives out is to bring the offender to justice and not to let him roam free to protect other women from the same harm; to work for the collective good of the society.Winkler has also satirized the behavior of the world’s urbanized regions towards such incidents, primarily when she provides the comparison with her research work in Mexico, entitled “Women in Authority in a Rural Artisan Mexican Town”.
The ironic comparison of America and Mexico points out to how the rural society upholds the status of women by trusting their words on such cases, yet the urban world defies a woman’s pleas; rather holds her responsible. Man has alienated himself to such an extent that he supports the evils prevailing now.The second part of the book focuses on the society- Raped twice, Social Rape. The title of the book explains it all as it is very clear. The negative response of friends, co-workers and counselors towards Winkler’s open declaration and condemnation of the rape imposed an impact may be same in magnitude, if not greater, to the rape. It is human nature to look up to your friends and colleagues for condolence and support in times of distress; however the rejection of these people to an act of such monstrosity is synonymous to blaming the victim for the assault; Rejection in the form of isolation to undermining the efforts of Winkler to outright denial of her basic rights as an individual, if not a rape survivor. Winkler’s struggle was constantly diluted by subjecting her to be referred to as “obsessive for stopping a rapist” or a mere “victim” (Winkler, 2002, p.
287). The society tried it’s best to discourage Winkler, but why?The society is aware of its norms and values; it condemns the act yet fails to support the victim when she tries to seek justice! Ultimately, it tries to inflict guilt up on the victim and survivor of rape, one who has had her life tarnished for the remaining breaths she is fated to take.Is this why the rape victims choose silence as an abode rather than standing up for their rights? Why does the society, abstain from discussing such a vital issue? These are pointers that are brought in to the forefront in the second part of the book Raped twice, Social Rape. As Winkler stated in her book:“While these second assault comments do not INDUVIDUALLY match the horror and trauma of the rape, the accumulative effect of prejudicial and antagonistic statements towards the survivor do have a compounding effect that is more cruel than the rape attack itself.” (Winkler, 2002, p.87)Winkler has outlined the pivotal role of education, for it serves as a plausible tool in making the masses aware of the different social problems. It is important that every person in the society knows of his rights and fathoms his contribution to the society.
It is vital that the society does not turn its eyes away from such an important issue, for that is not the cure to any social evil. Furthermore, speaking up about the violent incident aids in shedding off the sense of guilt and denial that rape victims impose on themselves.The legal system has been scrutinized in the third part of the book, Raped thrice, Legal Rape.
For formal sanctions to be imposed against any wrong-doer, one turns to the law with immense faith. Yet, throughout the third phase of the novel, Winkler has repeatedly pointed out how the legal system worked in favor of the rapist and did not let go of any instance to hush her up. This makes one ponder, is the projected legal rights and legal protection only for the opposition? Does the defendant have no right to protection? In this case, does a rape victim – having been subjected to utter torture and living with a living horror of being tortured again by the offender- necessitate no legal protection? Not just that, is it mandatory to silence her outrage at the atrocity? Is this the justified world we live in? The fact that the case was delayed for 7 years, with changing attitudes of the attorneys, the DNA test lab scientists, the DA’s is proof of the indifference of the law towards a rape case. As she mentions in the book:“Law is a status game, a game that deletes justice. DA’s, defense attorneys, judges and scientists work to maintain their privileged positions. What do these men have to worry about! Rapists rape women, not make DA’s, not male scientists, not male judges.” (Winkler, 2002, p.
165)As an anthropologist, Winkler had provided great insight to the vital organs of society. The one that helped keep the case going and supported her in her struggle was “media”. People talk what the media highlights, and in the case of Cathy Winkler’s this is what urged the court to make wise decisions and continue with the case, rather than adjourn it, as at many instances that seemed bound to happen. However, the author has also highlighted how the elite of the society tried to use the same media to prove her wrong by manipulating her words and bruising her self-esteem. Power, it seems can make it or break it; thus the bourgeois would never act till his power, authority and social status are challenged.
This is how, through the support of the journalists and interviews, she was able to secure a valid position in the eyes of the court; ironically as a threat to their status rather than the rape survivor.Conclusion:Winkler, throughout her book has portrayed a subjective analysis of the rape and its aftermath. It is neither a daunting piece of facts and figures, nor a histrionic epic, which is why the book appears to be a good read. Another very important aspect of this piece of work is that it along with acquainting the layman also provides food for thought for anthropologists. Winkler, has not only focused on the shortcomings of society on such a vital issue, but has provided psychological analysis to validate their path of thinking. The outrage of the author at the unjust and biased male chauvinist society leaves a cathartic effect on the reader, leaving him not only with emotions of pity and anger, but also nourishes the intellect regarding the world order of the urbanized regions.References:Winkler, Cathy. (2002) One Night: Realities of Rape.
NY: Altamira Press. ISBN: 0-7591-0121-3. Pp. 87, 165 and 287.