Last Saturday, an American woman and her French male companion were trapped on a public van in Rio de Janiero by three men. For six hours, they beat both and raped the woman as the suspects took turns driving the van. Finally, the couple was taken to an ATM at the outskirts of town to withdraw money before being dumped at a bus station. Awful.
The woman was treated at two hospitals before leaving the country, and her traveling companion remains behind to help with the investigation.
Two men were arrested, and one has already has confessed. The police are seeking a third man in connection with the crime. Even worse, apparently this isn't the first attack from these men.
After news of the arrests was broadcast Sunday night on Fantástico, a widely viewed news program on the Globo television network, other people here came forward to tell the police that they recognized the assailants in connection with other crimes, largely robberies, aboard what appeared to be the same transport van. One 21-year-old Brazilian student said she had similarly been held for an hour and raped by the same men on March 23, after boarding the van.
The revelation of that previous episode seemed to have shaken the public security forces here. The victim had quickly registered the case with the police, but the authorities were said to have slowly investigated the claim. Two police officials in charge of investigating the March 23 case were abruptly removed from their posts on Monday.
I guess we should be shocked at this egregious mishandling of a sensitive case, and yet, it's hard to believe this is anything but business as usual.
According to the Huffington Post, more than 5,300 cases of sexual assault were reported between January and June 2012 in Brazil. As Rio prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, this isn't the type of attention the country wants. Well, too bad?
Commanding officer Alexandre Braga, the person who handles the Rio police's crime against tourists division, said the suspects wanted to have a "party of evil," and that their principal motive "appears to have been the satisfaction of their lust."
Perhaps the Rio PD needs some training courses in what rape is about — and it's definitely not lust. It's a very damaging assumption that these men had an uncontrollable sexual urge that needed to be satisfied, and that's why the rape happened. No, rape is a war on a person — it's about power, dominance, and destruction. If the police department hopes to properly address such crimes, they need to at least talk honestly about what it is.
UPDATE: Third suspect was arrested.