Friday, November 5, 2010

Angelina Jolie Turns Rape Into A Love Story

Trigger warning for discussions of sexual violence. 

During the Bosnian War, rape was used as a weapon to terrorize and demoralize.  It was an attack aimed specifically at women.  In most cases women were subject to multiple rapes by various men. The following is just a small sample of a U.N. Report regarding the mass rapes.
Brcko was reportedly invaded by Serbian forces in April and May 1992. A camp was set up in a port facility on the Sava river, near the Ina-Luka gas station. The camp housed Bosnian Croat and Bosnian Muslim males and females, there was no effort made to separate the sexes. People were reportedly collected from the surrounding areas, segregated according to ethnic and religious affiliation, and then deported to Luka camp. One hundred to 150 Serbs from Belgrade reportedly worked in shifts of 50 inside the camp. They wore green camouflage and green berets with two eagles on them. These were the only Serbs allowed in the camp. They reportedly carried out interrogations, torture, rape and killings in small offices inside the two warehouses. At the corner of one warehouse was a room called the «rape room» which measured about 2.5 by 3 metres. This room was reportedly where women were taken and raped. Prisoners were taken in and out of the camp every day, and civilian officials visited for a few hours every day. 
 
The victim selection was reportedly well organized at Luka camp. Several reports suggest that young Serbian woman was responsible for its administration. Reportedly, she brought a nurse to Luka to «prepare the girls and make them calm». According to the nurse's report, she watched as the Serbian administratrix stabbed a girl in the breast and vagina with a broken bottle for resisting instructions. The girl subsequently bled to death. Instructions to the young victims included submitting to sexual exploitation. The process commenced with the camp commander selecting a girl whom he reportedly took to a private location, and then in groups of three or four, the camp guards selected and shared one girl between them. 


The techniques of mistreatment, while similar to those reported in other sections, also included incidents of gang raping. It was also alleged, that on a daily basis, young girls were picked and taken to a canteen where they were raped.  Sometimes the girls would disappear.  One report states that Serbs at Luka castrated 15 young men. One perpetrator confessed that in one day he was allegedly forced to rape 12 women.  According to two reports, Bosnian Serb paramilitaries alleged that they were forced to rape women and kill men to prove their loyalty to the Serbian state.


Additional sources report the existence of a «Rape/Death» camp in Brezovo Polje,  also noted for its organized rape activity. Several sources testified to the sexual violence and humiliation suffered by women, usually Muslims, at this site. Brezovo Polje is also the site where Serb soldiers allegedly rounded up Muslim women and girls and transported them to the Osnovo furniture warehouse in Caparde, Zvornik County. The girls were allegedly raped repeatedly there.


Two sources report on the atrocities allegedly committed at the «Laser Company» restaurant in Brcko.  Several other facilities were reported as sites of mass rape and sexual abuse, including: Hotel Elvis, Hotel Galeb, Restaurant Vestfalija,  Hotel Galija,  Interpler factory, camp at Borovo Polje, camp at Loncari,  bordellos,  Serbian lines, and the Serbian military hospital. Another report suggests that there were about 3,000 ex- detainees in the free territory of Brcko, 1,000 of whom were women. The reporter noted that approximately 500 of these women have been victims of rape.  In addition, a number of girls between ages 15 and 17 were allegedly held by Serb soldiers in three other locations for sexual purposes. They include a coffee house called Westphalia near Stolina, a coffee house near Skijana, and a private house in Grcica. Grcica is in the city of Brcko, while the other two locations are in the suburbs, in the direction of Bijeljina. 


       Most of the reported incidents occurred between April and July 1992.
The horrors that these women survived have been well documented and I suppose this is what inspired Angelina Jolie to believe that she had the right to make a movie detailing what occurred.  Apparently, Jolie has turned this absolute horror into a love story with a plot involving a rape victim falling in love with her rapist.  Naturally, this has caused a great uproar from the survivors.
For Bakira Hasecic, the 55-year-old head of the Women Victims of War (WVW) association, there is no way anyone can turn the trauma of Bosniak women into film.

"What we have gone through cannot be filmed," says Ms Hasecic in Sarajevo. Originally from Visegrad in Bosnia, she is also victim of repeated rape and has dedicated her life to finding the perpetrators and bringing them to justice. "I'm doing all this to prevent our ordeal from ever happening again... but revenge leads nowhere", she told The Independent.
It is disgusting to suggest that a woman could come to love her rapist. I am further troubled that Jolie would continue with this project after the victims themselves raised an objection.  She does not have the right to dramatize their stories for profit.  Even if she feels that the story must be told, or she desires to bring attention to rape as a crime of war (I am being generous here, because I believe her motive is financial profit), such a project should only be undertaken with the support of the survivors.  Furthermore, this story is not Jolie's to tell.  This story belongs to the survivors and if it is to be told, it should begin and end with them.  So much has already been taken from them and Jolie should respect the agency that they have.

The fact that Jolie is a woman does not make the appropriation any easier to stand and in fact it helps to break down necessary solidarity between women, which aids in fighting the sexism that we all face.  Perhaps Jolie felt that this would not be problematic because it occurs nearly five nights a week on television.  How many episodes of CSI, and Law Order have chosen to portray stories ripped out of the headlines.  They always include sensationalism and a slight change to deny the appropriation of these stories.  This is not just a crime being documented; this is direct appropriation of what is most likely the most horrific even of these women's lives.  No thought is given to how triggering this could be to the survivor watching her experience dramatized or women who have also been raped.  The point of this is not raising awareness about the sexual violence women face, but profit. Women are continually being re-victimized. The fact that this is not noticed or acknowledged is a sign of the patriarchal world that we live in.