Book Review: What We Talk About When We Talk about Rape by Sohaila Abdulali

Sohaila wants to shed some light on rape.

She herself is a rape survivor. Been volunteering and fighting for the protection of and support for rape victims ever since. Now married and have her own children, and working as a journalist, Sohaila still worries about the stigmas and dilemmas about rape.

So she wants to tell people how we should talk about and what we should talk about rape, so we could together make a better judgment, provide better support, and strive for a better world for every one of us.

IMO, the book is a bit one-sided and biased at times, but it truly opens my mind about rape. Not just about the fact that boys could suffer from the awful thing too, also, that sweet granny from your nearest assisted-living dormitory–she’s not immune from it too. But also about the dilemmas about rape victim and rapist that’s been discussed on countless trials, between therapist and their patient, through the suicide hotline.

Should we dehumanize rapists? Could we say that the rape victims do this to themselves? – are two of several of the questions highlighted in the book.

Should We Dehumanize Rapist?

I, personally, can’t stop thinking about that idea: should we or shouldn’t we dehumanize rapists? Some people said that rapists shouldn’t be seen as human (metaphorically), because they did something unthinkable, something not human, that’s why (in several parts of the world) they were condemned to be severely punished, to be banished.

I never really think about that before, but this book told me about how we may have to really accept that we humans are capable of both evil and good, both perverse and purity, because choosing to close our eyes on one the unlikable parts of ourselves could be a backfall to all of us one day. A person with perverse interest might conceal his/her intention instead of being honest and looking for help and find way to control the urges. A close family of the perpetrator might choose to stay silent and ignore the early signs due to protect their family’s dignity, just because they do not wish their family to be called inhuman, satanic, bad blood, etc.

I have read an article about rape that said about how we all have been focusing ourselves to educate and protect the victims: how to self-defense, how to keep ourselves and people around us safe, how to prevent the thing from happening, how to survive, how to ask for help — but only a few of us really pay attention to how to educate and heal the perpetrators.

We all have been focusing ourselves to heal and protect the rape victims, but only a few of us really pay attention to how to educate and help the perpetrators.

Because the perpetrators, most likely, were victims of something unthinkable too: toxic masculinity/benevolent sexism, broken home, dysfunctional family, drug abuse, depression, and maybe mild emotional or sexual abuse that develops into something much bigger and fatal. Building a safe and open environment where they could share and listen about what has been happening to people around them (and themselves), without fearing that they might be suffering from some negative stigmas, could be a key to prevent unwanted things from happening.

But first, we must all really accept that we humans are capable of doing something deemed as good and bad.

The Verdict

It’s not easy to talk about rape, but keeping your eyes and ears closed against it won’t help too. Despite the heart-wrecking details of the case and story depicted in the book, I think this book is a brave and hopeful read. I give Sohaila applause for this one. What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by Sohaila Abdulali is such a great nonfiction book, I hope more people are reading it, and I hope we could all contribute in building a better place for us all, safer, and free from negative stigmas.

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