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Yes, Rape is Violent.

Moving protest of violence against women and girls in Ukraine reminds world of the reality of rape

Donna M Hughes
Donna M Hughes

On Wednesday in Tallinn, twenty Estonian feminists organized a brilliant protest in front of the Russian Embassy against the rape of Ukrainian women and girls.

The women stood silently with black bags over their heads, their hands tied behind their backs, their legs bare, and most dramatically, blood-stained their underwear and ran down their legs.

They were protesting the many reports of the Russian rapes of Ukrainian women and girls, even a baby, as part of their war on Ukraine. Accounts emerge as Russians withdraw from previously occupied towns.

What is rape?

I thought everyone knew, but comments and questions appeared on Twitter in response to photographs of the protest that indicated they don’t know.

Why are they bleeding?”

“I still don’t get it.”

I’m still trying to understand.”

Finally, one woman explained: Red paint as blood is smeared between their legs.”

The women protestors graphically reminded viewers what rape is. It is violence…cruel, misogynistic violence…intended to damage and destroy women and girls. It is not gentle intercourse or “love-making.”

Women are raped in their vaginas and anuses, on their breasts, and in their mouths. Men’s penises become weapons; objects that cut, bruise, tear, and puncture are used. Rapists use whatever is available: sticks, guns, broom handles, objects that are long or short, thin or broad, sharp or dull, clean or filthy. Frequently multiple men take turns. Rapes can go on for hours, days, or weeks.

Women bleed.

In rapes during wars, the victims often don’t survive. Their bodies and minds are tortured, then they are killed.

In Bucha, twenty-five women and girls, at least one only 14 years old, were held “systematically raped” by Russian troops in a basement. Now, nine are pregnant.

Although we read the word “rape” in news reports all the time, clearly, some people don’t know what is done to a woman in a rape, and that she often bleeds as a result.

One Canadian-Ukrainian woman apologized for posting a photo… of the protest. Maybe the fake red blood splotches and streaks down the women’s legs were too real.

Although I’ve researched and worked against sexual violence and exploitation since the early 1980s, I am reminded that we have forgotten to explain rape and talk about the brutal, dehumanizing, soul-killing violence that it is.

Thank you to the Estonian feminists for the protest, for demonstrating to the Russian diplomats in the embassy what they were doing in Ukraine, and finally, thank you for educating the world about what rape is.


Cover photo via Priit Mürk/ERR.

Read more from Donna Hughes in Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence.

OpinionRussiaUkrainewarMale Violencerapemale sexual violenceprotestfeminist

Donna M Hughes

Editor-in-Chief, Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence