On May 17th, 26 year-old Zhou Qin (周琴), a teacher at Guizhou province’s Bijiea City Middle School (毕节阿市中学), was at a banquet for government officials where her school principal ordered her to carry out toasts to the official guests, reportedly consuming up to 15 or 16 glasses of 80-proof baiju in the process. Afterwards, Wang Zhonggui (王忠贵, a city rural land resources manager who’d been at the banquet), insisted on giving her a ride home. After she stepped into the car, he drove her to his office where he proceeded to lock the door, molest, and eventually rape her.
Zhou reports that while she was reporting the crime the next day, she was told at the police station that the offense didn’t count as a rape if Wang was wearing a condom. “This is all something you did to yourself, and you don’t want to make it public now,” she was told at the station. “Think of your reputation. I will keep it secret for you.”
After her ordeal at the police station, Zhou decided to post her horrifying experience on Weibo. Her post was a cry for justice, a plea for a real investigation, and an attempt to clear her name. Over the past two months, the netizenry of China has rallied behind Zhou with support, calling attention to an incident that could have easily been forgotten.
Though the authorities did investigate the crime in May, they said the physical evidence found in the backyard (a used condom, toilet paper, and bed sheets) warranted that they stop “the investigation on the grounds of lack of evidence.”
However, the netizenry refused to let the issue go. Zhou’s Weibo post caught fire, attracting thousands of comments about the inequity of the police investigation and demanding to discover the truth of what happened that day. The discussion escalated to the point that the term 教师被强奸 (Teacher getting raped) was censored from Weibo, leaving some articles only accessible with a VPN.
After two months, the government was forced to act. The Global Times reports that yesterday Wang was arrested on the charges of rape.
This is one of those stories that makes you shake your head and think, “still?” Rape, in China and many parts of the world, is still a crime not taken seriously. There are some mind-boggling excuses that people have used to negate the act of rape, especially to protect high profile reputations—“he used a condom” is just one of them (see the Italian rapist that almost got off the hook because his victim wore jeans).
The other classic excuse is giving blame to the victim, by accusing her or him of all the things that could or should have been done in self-defense. This makes it easier to deny the actual crime in question: the act of forced sexual interaction.
But when someone is a victim of robbery, do the police let the thief go free because the victim did not have a better lock on their door? If a person is beaten or killed, does the assailant get a weaker sentence because the victim did not defend himself well enough? The trends in news media shows us that alleged thieves, assailants, and murderers are processed by authorities and punished more efficiently than rapists.
Maybe this is because no one has an official, updated definition of rape written down, but it’s time to start doing something about this medieval crime and taking some action. China is a country of new beginnings: booming economy, rising standards of living, and increasing gender equality. Why not choose to make society safer for everyone by taking sexual assault and rape seriously?
By Fotini Gan