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All rape is a torture. All torture is rape

Four avenues for reflection from anthropology, by Véronique Nahour-Grappe

All rape is a torture. All torture is rape

Firstly, it must be stated that all rape is torture, and all torture is rape.

Martyring the body aims to destroy the victim's moral identity through the humiliation of pain.

Sexual violence is 'torture' and, as such, one of the easiest means of political domination.


Secondly, rape is a crime of desecration, the trauma of which is compounded by the shame borne by the victims themselves.

This is the major difference with other forms of physical violence, where scars can be displayed as signs of courage. A woman who has been raped, on the other hand, continues to suffer the stain.


"Sorry, I just cannot talk about this. I can't recount it. It was terrifying" - Photo extracted from the documentary Viols en Ukraine: documenter l'horreur © France 24 -

Thirdly, rape is a crime whose destructive effects extend over time: a crime that can be said to be 'continuous'.

First, there is the immediate physical shame resulting from the staining. Then, there is the risk of pregnancy for women. The weeks and months following a rape become a nightmare, because if the survivor is pregnant, it is from the enemy that she is carrying the child in her womb. It is of the enemy that she unwillingly ensures the continuation. The hatred she feels for the rapist then turns against the enemy's child carried in her womb, and therefore against her own body. Unless she manages to disassociate the identity of the unborn child from that of the physical genitor.


Finally, rape is a 'continuing crime' when it destroys (sometimes permanently) the victim's social value in the eyes of her own community. This is the case when the survivor is part of a historical and cultural context (often religious) that criminalises 'illegitimate' female sexuality and makes the virginity of daughters and the fidelity of wives a taboo and sacred talisman for the honour of the men in the family. Exclusion, confinement, ostracism, punishment and sometimes even the murder of women who have been raped by members of their community (sometimes their family) are recurrent practices.


"Had I been younger, I might have got over it in the end" - Photo extracted from the documentary Viols en Ukraine: documenter l'horreur © France 24

Fourthly, rape used as a 'weapon of war' sheds a particular light on the society that deploys it, as shown by the systematic raping of women during the 1990s war in the former Yugoslavia. The rape of women takes on a particular political meaning in the context of a culture of virility which attributes sole responsibility for the transmission of identity to the man: through his sperm, the man transmits "his blood", his name, his culture, his religion, etc.; women are merely vessels of this transmission.

The rape of women, like the desecration of graves, is therefore aimed at the presence, through time, of the community whose space has been invaded and which the perpetrator claims to "possess" definitively, "for ever".


In this first half of the 21st century, the massive and systematic use by the Russian army of torture, invariably sexual, and rape reveals the extent to which contemporary Russian society is in the grip of an archaic "masculinist" culture.


The crimes of the Russian aggressor are a sign of his ideological choices:

- political domination through violence against the human body,

- the valorisation of cruelty as proof of virility and political purity,

- the promotion of a sadistic virility as a positive performance by the combatant.



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