Theater of Cruelty

Fear and disgust

On Women's Day, Norwegian women are advised to stay indoors with the door locked.


[2. March 2007] The many assaults in Oslo last summer, in the New Year weekend and now last weekend in February have made women afraid and the good advice many. We know a lot about what ravages victims of rape in the years after the assault. We know that the biggest trauma for the victims is the feeling of guilt and shame, the judgments that go on whether they drank too much, were too light-skinned or too blurred. We also know that the rape affects all women. There is not that woman who is not impressed when she was little that she has to look after herself for scary men and for deserted streets. Oslo's parks and streets are not characterized by lightly clothed, lonely, drunken women at night. The women themselves restrict their freedom of movement, for fear of what may happen.

We know little about the perpetrators. Anyone who commits a rape in Norway has only a 0,5 percent chance of being convicted of the abuse. Research, rehabilitation and attitude work are needed to gain the knowledge needed to prevent rape. Thorough police work is needed to secure the rigorous evidence needed for a conviction. Norwegian women have a minimum ten percent chance of being raped. It's not the women who stand on it. They are the well-meaning helpers.

In the Aftenposten this summer, commentator Jan E. Hansen justified the ongoing wave of assault rapes with the heat wave. Hansen felt that it was no wonder that there were more rapists in the heat. Surely there are men who should be most offended to be made into wild animals without restraint. But it's the women the article is styled for. The Oslo women should not see it as any obvious right, to "go lightly dressed when the ice cream melts", to bare their navel or walk the breeze home alone on a hot summer night. It is allowed to use hat. So does the evening's editor Hilde Haugsgjerd, who a few weeks ago gave the same type of advice. She stated that "Women even have the most effective methods of preventing assault rape", under the title "Women's own responsibility". The well-meaning advice is characteristic of the newspaper's coverage of the field: February 26 and 27, large reports about the rape attempts were accompanied by the "Police Advice", among other things that women in Oslo should consider buying pepper spray.

It is not wrong to give friendly advice to those you love. But it is wrong to let the focus of the rape debate revolve around what girls should do to avoid being assaulted. The problem is not that not all women can do karate and walk with the pepper spray ready on their way from the taxi and up the stairs. The problem is that there are rapists. We know too little about them. In the meantime, the well-meaning councils are spreading both fear and disgust in Oslo.

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