Thursday, March 5, 2009

Through a New Looking Glass: Criminal Intent

This post talks about rape, specifically the rape of girls in Darfur, and more specifically a point of view that will probably get me attacked and piss you the reader off. I won't be mad if you decide to leave.

Yesterday's perception is not limited to yesterday's events. Sometimes I find myself wondering how my yesterday self would perceive current event compared to my today self. A few days ago at work I came across this article.

The article is of an interview with a man named "Adam" (not his real name), one of many men who have engaged in the violence in Darfur. He tells of how he was among those that attacked destroyed villages, killed men and boys, raped women and girls, and ruined lives. During his service he was sent into villages to kill and rape not just any people but his very own.

Yesterday's perception: A while back I would have written this guy off as a murderer and rapist that should burn in the lowest levels of hell and not give a damn about why he did the things he did. And I probably would have wondered why anyone would even bother with listening to his story.

Today's perception: In recent years I have begun to try to look at more than the what, who, when, and where of a situation and start to pay attention to the why as well. And paying attention to the why behind Adam's actions do offer insight.

Yes he was given arms and sent to kill people and destroy their villages but there is a reason why. First off he was deceived into thinking that he was being drafted into the military. Being forced to serve warlords, rebel armies, and even local governments is a harsh reality for many men and boys in that region of the world.

Some may wonder, "So why didn't he escape?"
From the interview:
"The order is that the soldiers at the front, and there are some people who are watching you from behind, if you try to escape or do anything you will get shot."

That's why.

Even under such threat he did attempt to escape. Unfortunately he was caught and tortured by being tied up under a tree where his torturers set a tire on fire above him so that the melting rubber would drip onto him. It's real easy to condemn a person that commits horrible acts but what about a person who does so under threat of torture and death?

Then there is the rape. Don't get me wrong a rapist is one of the lowest forms of life there is and I have to admit that I'm not too sorry that child rapists are the bottom of the food chain in prison (well in men's prisons anyway). But this caught my eye:
"Well it didn't feel like raping, I was feeling very bad but as I was ordered, I had to do something. What I did was take off my trousers and lay myself on top of the girl but I didn't feel like raping, so I lay there for about 15 minutes."

I want to be sure I understand him. "So you didn't actually penetrate the girls?" I ask. No, he says, "because I had no feeling for it, my penis didn't actually wake up, so there was no actual penetration," he replied.

I would imagine that in the middle of the chaos and violence going on around them a child would be horrified at the thought of being grabbed by an adult they don't know. More than likely the girls he did this too were terrified at having a man grab them, take off his own clothes, rip hers off, and only lay on top of her without actually having sex with her. But there are two things to consider.

1. He was under threat of torture and death to do those things. And even so he did not commit the acts that were expected of him. He only did just enough to stay alive. It would have been real easy for him to just simply obey the orders and actually do those horrible things.

2. By not actually raping those girls they did not experience the full terror that many, many others did. Even if for only a single moment they were spared a portion of the violence.

Now bear in mind I am not trying to excuse or explain away the things that he did but trying to get an idea of his motivation. And it seems to me that his motivation was survival.

After actually taking the time to read about Adam I'm am more confused than before. He took part in those raids and terrorized children (even if he didn't rape them) but at the same time he was under threat of death/torture and the girls he grabbed would have surely met a worse fate at the hands of some of the other soldiers (like all the girls who were grabbed by those other soldiers).

It would seem that one's perception can change significantly when you take the time to look at the why of a situation and not just the who, what, where, and when. My only problem now is that my perception of this man is now clouded.

It would seem that this new looking glass will not always give me a clear vision.