A YOUNG girl. An abandoned drug haunt. And over 30 ill-intentioned men.Try as you may to imagine otherwise, the combination above ends badly in every timeline.
And on May 20, it culminated in one of the worst cases of sexual assault - involving a minor and the most number of men - in the nation’s history.
When reports of the brutal gang-rape inflicted on a 15-year-old girl in Ketereh, Kelantan surfaced, it sent shockwaves through the nation.
And rightly so.
However, the extent of public outrage seemed to pale in comparison to considerable concern over the possibly discovery of porcine content in certain chocolates.
So far, the latter case has spurred many into action to determine if the product can be rid of reasonable doubt, but the former has not received the scrutiny and widespread discussion it deserves.
I wonder: are acts of violence against women so normalized in the public psyche, that we have become numb to such transgressions against their person?
So far, this case has shown little evidence of victim blaming. For one, what the teenager was wearing at the time of the attack has yet to be brought into question.
Time will tell if the lack of attack against her person has more to do with actual empathy for her situation, or the dearth of details available to the public due to her status as a minor.
In the course of the investigation, her 17-year-old female friend was also questioned over why she did not lodge a police report over the incident.
While it’s understood that the police must get the necessary information, it must be considered that whether she was in cahoots with those responsible or otherwise, witnessing such an act upon another girl about her age may have terrified the teenager into silence.
The police have remanded over a dozen suspects, some of which are related to one another.
Whatever the outcome of their questioning, there is little doubt that the attack was planned in advance.
It’s frightening to think about - over thirty people agreed to turn up at the same place, in the same time frame, for a single heinous purpose. Is this sort of efficiency only evident when there is something to gain at someone’s expense?
We are far and away from receiving any answers, though I fear that some may be watching this case closely to determine if they could get away with such an act in the future.
Hence, there is need for greater outcry and actual action against those responsible for these acts - the rapists themselves.
It saddened me to read that the Form 3 pupil was afraid her parents would learn about the incident, causing her to delay seeking treatment and lodging a police report until May 25.
Had there been greater support systems in place, the young girl might have assigned blame to her abusers with greater immediacy.
In the time that passed between the attack and the authorities being made aware of the incident, some suspects might have skipped town, and the subsequent loss of leads and evidence might have cost the investigation dearly.
Her fear to tell even her loved ones about the abuse she underwent is telling of the stigma that rape victims are made to suffer, whether by second-hand shaming - “Who told her to go out so late?” - or the way rape themes are addressed in our popular culture.
We need to turn the tables and vilify the act of raping itself in the clearest of terms, so no person could ever imagine inflicting it upon another.
We must make it so that even the thought of forcing someone into non-consensual sex is unthinkable, whether it be in an abandoned house or in the marital bed.
We cannot shy away from looking at this ugly act full in the face and finding out where we went wrong, especially in the messaging that rape is “okay” if someone acts or dresses a certain way.
Rape - and the many shades of sexual abuse - is never okay.
And if we don’t start now, there’s no telling what new records of abuse our country make the headlines for.
A small step you can take - one oft ignored - is the need to stress how rape jokes are not funny.
Joking about rape only serves to trivialize a great act of violence, and alienates any victim who finds his or her traumatic experience treated as a laughing stock among others.
Even less funny is the chilling possibility of an abuser in the crowd, soaking in the laughter and thinking: “If it’s funny to them, how bad could it be?
Unfortunately, many encourage laughs of this sort and reward it with either silent assent or a hearty laugh.
Take a stand and call out this brand of humour for its inappropriateness and severe lack of consideration for victims of sexual assault - you just might save a life.