To me it’s one of those rare cases where newsmakers making the news actually adds value to a conversation. Read more on the Solomon/Bullard rape debate here.
Does anyone else get the feeling that it seems like Bullard’s real issue with Solomon is that she’s made a ‘career’ out of her experience as a rape survivor? He doesn’t like that. He thinks that if she was a ‘genuine’ rape victim, she would have had her rapist arrested and wouldn’t be talking so much about it now, so many years later.
Firstly, even if Solomon’s thought path to becoming an anti-rape and women’s rights activist was the implausable “I’m going to leverage my rape experience to make money”, it’s not exactly uncommon for people to build careers influenced by their personal experiences – see motivational speakers of all breed and grass root community leaders. They know what they’re talking about because they’ve lived it, and they want to make change.
Secondly, who in their right mind would be jealous of someone whose public persona cannot be untangled from such an experience as rape – not that Solomon has anything to be ashamed of, but that’s the type of immature reaction you’d expect from the kind of person who is clueless as to how this rape thing actually works (see Lena Dunham’s recent tweets on the Dylan Farrow/Woody Allen case for succinct enlightenment). Clue: it’s not “I’ll talk about my rape and they’ll shower me with money and awards”.
Third, if Bullard finds it at the very least unappealing or ‘exploitative’ that a woman speaks out about her rape experience and encourages other rape victims to do so, to the point that he will accuse her of being a ‘false’ victim, then all he has done is expose in a frighteningly ironic manner, a clear cut example of one of the prevailing attitudes about rape and rape victims – and women who are strong and speak out – that we need to counter and dispel. We need to break the silence, to talk about our experiences in order to free others from their prisons and be heard. This is exactly what people like Michelle Solomon are doing when they speak out.
About Solomon’s objective in threatening to out her rapist (who was never charged with the crime) on social media, as I understand it was said in a moment of angry weakness and it might do some good to note that she has not actually gone through with the ‘outing’. While we can question and challenge our justice system both in the ways it treats rape cases and rape victims, even the ugliest amongst us are granted the due process of law. We don’t claim rights by removing another’s. With Solomon’s status, if she wants her rapist’s identity to become public knowledge, the right way to do this would be to follow the law and have him charged with the crime – lest it become an encouragement of vigilante justice which does those fighting against violence and for women’s security more harm than good.
Again, here Bullard’s implications (shared by so many other South Africans) that her failure to formally charge her rapist is an admission of ‘guilt’ – that she is lying about the rape or fudging details of the encounter to make it appear more than it was – is a self-serving example of just how incredibly naïve so many of our country people are when it comes to understanding the real issues surrounding bringing a rapist to justice in our country. Solomon is not exempt from the challenges that rape survivors face when they are forced to confront their rapists and answer to a justice system in a culture still proving it’s inability to grasp simple truths about rape and it’s social and individual impacts.
In fact, if there’s anything that Bullard’s ‘arguments’ prove, it’s that whether or not you like Solomon, agree with all her viewpoints and the manner in which she expresses them (yes, shock, horror, feminists disagree! And so sorry about not being sweet and meek when we’re talking about brutal injustices!) – we in fact badly need more people like her. More Solomons speaking out and providing a platform for other women to speak about their experiences until the sound of our collective voices swell to a roar and we can no longer be ignored.
So my opinion is, let the Bullards speak – they hang themselves and keep the conversation going.