Posts Tagged trial

Rape IS a hate crime

Yesterday I read and left a comment to a post on Facebook about a woman being assaulted (touched without consent) in the Romanian subway and nobody intervening, but an old lady. Everybody else watched and did nothing. Today, I am reading an excellent opinion article on the same kind of topic: how rape is a hate crime against women.

VictimShutterstock

(photo: Shutterstock, via http://www.rawstory.com/)
Over the last month or so the Romanian Facebook caught on fire with #violulecrima, a hashtag initiated after a central newspaper uncovered and thoroughly reported on a case of rape by seven young men in a Romanian Eastern village (Valeni), against a High School girl (18 years old). They raped her for three hours, on a field, last November. They walked out of court first, and were only sentenced to “house arrest”, a joke, not a real consequence for sexual assault. The seven perpetrators’ families are well off, and the boys themselves are quite popular amongst the locals (four of them are football players in the village team). But all these do not explain or serve as excuses for the heavy support they got from the locals, who considered them victims and the girl just a slutty young female.

 
Apparently, as the case was uncovered and gained increasingly more media coverage, as well as wide support for the girl and more and more voices in society asking for the rapists to be sent to prison, the sympathy the seven of them gained became increasingly embarrassing. For the perpetrators, for their village, for that part of society which still cannot see the harm in such abuse against women.

According to reports in Adevarul newspaper and Realitatea TV, villagers in Valeni were saying things like:

– “Why should they go to prison for 5 years, for only 5 minutes of pleasure? This girl is ruining seven good families in our village, good people”

– “She did it on herself. She had it coming, why did she get in the car with seven young men? Had she been a good girl, nothing would have happened to her.”
She didn’t, according to media reports, she was picked up from the bus stop in the nearby city by one of the boys, whom she knew and who offered to give her a lift. On the way, he said he needed to pick up another friend. And then she was taken to this field, where others were waiting, was raped for three hours, sprinkled with alcohol when she fainted and threatened she’d be badly beaten up if she faked it again.

– The girl was not raped, but treated to a session of “surprise sex”.

After one month of Romania media roaring with information on this rape case, and after even the Romanian Prime Minister asked the Supreme Court to treat it with extreme seriousness, this Monday, the 17th of August, the seven young men, aged between 18 and 24, were finally sentenced to good years in prison, from 5 years and 5 month the shortest sentence, to 8 years the longest. They also have to pay the victim the equivalent of about £10000 moral damages, in Romanian currency.

On the day of the final trail session, expecting for the judge to reach the verdict, about 300 people gathered in front of the Court House in the city of Vaslui. Also, more than 400000 people have signed an online petition over the last month which asked for the seven to be re-trailed and condemned.
However, the court decision in not final this time either. The young men can still appeal for the case to be brought again to court. The first two judges decided, earlier this year, that, as the perpetrators partly admitted to the assault, they could be left to walk away and be “arrested” at home (meaning they could not freely walk around, but who would inforce this in a village with so many supporting them?).

As previously mentioned, the parents of these boys are mostly well off. The mother of one of them has, apparently, told other locals she had spent a lot of money to keep the boy out of prison. Probably, due to the media coverage being so high that the Prime Minister (himself actually on trial, but this is of no importance to the subject) felt he had to take action over the case, no matter what money their families would want to push as a bribe from now, it won’t work.

This outrageous story, with many dirty hands involved in it, reminds in a way of the Indian girl killed after being gruesomely attacked in 2012, in a bus, after going to an evening screening of Life of Pi. Similarities? The perpetrators “excuses”: a good girl would not be in that situation, and she should cooperate, not “ruin” the aggressors’ lives. To be honest, I clinched my fist after typing this.
Both stories got wide media coverage, as well as becoming the source of social protests. I must admit, however, that while the Romanian case was unfolding, I started to feel more outraged of the lack of serious civil action other than furious posting on Facebook. I sighed in relief when the petition and a few protests were announced. There are still so many cases of rape and women being abused in Romania that more civil action, ranging from peaceful protests to sustained long-term campaigns, are needed in order to start to make a difference.

To get back to where I started, today I come across that excellent piece of journalism exposing evidence from well-known cases, as well as personal experience of how women are still abused even as they are the victims or just rejecting men hitting on them. With all the social progress and the laws set to protect and deter perpetrators, this world still does not seem, many times, as a very happy place for women to be in.
Some women though find their way out of abuse and set an example  even in remote and economically disadvantaged places. A touching and motivating example, the story of the ladies living in the village of Umoja, Kenya, where men are banned, shines through all the grim pieces of news which can overwhelm you. These African women have all escaped either forced marriage, abuse in mariage or being raped by British soldiers and then beaten up by their own husbands, who considered them to blame. The village came to exist about 25 years ago, and the women here still meet men, have children (there are about 200 kids around), but live in an exclusive female community. They say they could never share their life again with a man. They support and empower each other, and life in Umoja can be easily described in a few sentences:
Mary shows me a handful of dried beans that she will be cooking soon for dinner. “We don’t have much, but in Umoja I have everything I need.”

So is women empowerment and independence, as well as good education all we need to change the most rotten strains of this society we live in? Does it all start with raising awareness?
I personally believe so, as I believe in what media can do in this respect. Looking at the Valeni rape case in Romania, as well as the Indian girl killed three years ago, I can say media reports played an important role. The facts could not be buried, there was no excuse for the rapists, for the criminals. And there is still a lot to know, to bring to attention, to act upon, until more people acknowledge that yes, rape is a hate crime.

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Why I left Romania

If anybody asks me why I have left my country, Romania, I think the best answer I could give is by showing them the following video. It all happened in Bucharest just a couple of weeks ago, on the 10th of August, and if you are not a Romanian you won’t, of course, understand what they say. Be patient enough and watch it through, pay attention at what age group the people in this video are, the aggressors especially, and you might get a good impression on what I am also going to tell you.

The video is filmed at the so-called “Sunday walk” initiated by the most popular journalists (they do not really deserve to be called such, but never mind) of the television channel Antena 3. They had been broadcasting like mad hours and hours of a talk show after the owner of the media trust had been found guilty of fraud and prosecuted to go to jail, on the 8th of August 2014. They were inciting people to go out in the streets and protest because their beloved mogul is being condemned on political reasons and without real grounds, of course while being clean as a new born baby’s mind. They were clearly stating that this was all the work of the Romanian President, that the court was acting as a puppet and there was no justice in what they ruled.
In other words, one of the major television channels in Romania was making serious accusations regarding the Romanian President and the Romanian court. I wonder if any of them made a formal complaint to any superior forums, such as the European Court of Human Rights. If not, I wonder why.

The news about this Romanian mogul has made it even into British media, as far as I know in one newspaper I would not like to link to. His name is Dan Voiculescu, his wealth rising to approximately 350 million euros, and he is now in jail for the fraudulent purchase of the Romanian Institute for Food Research. He was prosecuted to 10 years in jail, for money laundering and buying the institute for 60 million euros under its worth, by fraudulent side agreement and paperwork, thus causing the Romanian state to lose these money.

Now let me tell you a few things about this “charming” pensioner, a media mogul with such an impressive fortune, and the founding president of the Conservative Party, who twice initiated the procedure for the dismissal of the Romanian President. Both attempts failed, as not enough Romanians came to vote. Anyhow, I am not a supporter of any of the current political parties in Romania and I am certainly not a supporter of any particular politician there. The only thing I can say in this matter is that, while they have tried twice to cause the dismissal of Traian Basescu, the still acting President, they have failed.
Also, Voiculescu is not the first wealthy Romanian politician to go to jail during the President’s mandate. A prominent figure in the Social-Democratic Party (the old Communist Party with a new name, a political group which has ruined Romania after the hasted execution of the former dictator), the named Adrian Nastase had been jailed for the first time in 2012, as being found guilty of acts of corruption while being the Prime Minister. He got out of jail under parole just a year later.
Then, at the beginning of this year, according to the Romanian media, another case was built against him, regarding bribery, usage of fake documents with the Romanian Border Agency and blackmailing. He got another 2 years in jail, but funny enough, got out of jail again just last Thursday, on the 22nd of August, as he had served a third of his sentence.

The good part is that these people have been jailed. The bad part is they are getting out of jail so soon. It really enrages me to know that a friend of mine, from my parents village, has spent about 2-3 years in jail (if I remember correctly) for helping some of his mates transport and sell big bags of flour they had stolen from their work place. The story is that these boys, all in their late teenage years or early twenties, were working at a food depot. Their employer was exploiting them, failing on a continuous basis to pay them their salary. Meanwhile, they were struggling back home, as they all came from families facing financial difficulties. The employer and owner of the depot kept saying that they will get their money next week, when next week came he never paid them their whole salary, so the boys decided to take their part by stealing and selling some flour bags.
While I do not commend what they have done, I do understand the circumstances. I had visited this friend when he was in jail and after he got out I understand he did well. Now we are not in touch anymore, he started working as a lorry driver and I think currently lives in Italy. I knew this boy and he is not your common thief. He came from a family struggling, with a drunkard father whom his mother finally divorced, had to pay him his part of the flat so that she can still live there with the two boys, and then lost her job due to the factory she worked in not doing so well.
To see that the wealthy and corrupted people in Romania, leading figures in politics, get out of prison in no time while young boys from struggling families get to spend years as inmates does enrage me.

But now let’s get back to Dan Voiculescu.
I am blessed to have amazing friends back in Romania, whom I miss, but whom I am also very glad to know. Nowadays Facebook and blogging helps us keep in touch and, while we are miles apart, I can still appreciate their friendship, all that I learn from them and all that we share. One of them is Mugur Grosu, an amazing artist and Romanian journalist (a species in peril) who has worked, with a whole team, on investigating what happened to Ceausescu’s money. While it was known that the dictator had an impressive fortune for himself and his wife, it has never been truly found and claimed back by the Romanian government. That money should have come back to the people, as they have been gathered through the people’s work and misery.
Guess what: as evidence suggests, evidence investigated by my good friend and amazing journalist and artist Mugur Grosu and the team he worked with, Ceausescu’s money has never been deposited in personal accounts with foreign banks. The accounts were opened under the name of the trusted Securitate officers (political police) or other high ranked officials working under the command of the dictator. One of the most trusted and most successful ones was Dan Voiculescu. He led the operations of the Romanian company “Crescent”, which was responsible for massive exports for the construction industry, and apparently made a profit of 1.5 billion dollars.

Now it really becomes clear why Ceausescu was shot after a very rushed trial. He had to be put down before he could talk about the money. His trusted directors, such as Dan Voiculescu, had to be able to keep the fortune and live happily ever after, as successful businessmen in a country where people like me could not work as journalists anymore. A country where the elderly go to protest in the streets against the “unjust” prosecution of the media mogul, and they attack the young journalists from other television channels. What the young lady in the above video asked the pensioners was why they protest against the prosecution of a person found to have stolen from the Romanian state. Have they been with him when he did it? Have they shared his fraudulent profit with him? And then a disgustingly coward man with grey hair kicks the journalist from behind. And later in the video we see an old man lifting his clutch as if to hit the cameraman with it.

Yes, Romania is unfortunately a very young country with no real set of values at the moment. The older generation either regrets Ceausescu’s time, or support today’s big thieves, successful businessman who have profited from the money they got into accounts for the old Communist regime. These are the people who vote massively and whose vote can be bought with a bag of flour and couple of bottles of oil. These are the people who have voted for the former President Iliescu, after he summoned the miners from Jiu Valley to come and restore order in the capital, where young people, mainly students and intellectuals, where PEACEFULLY protesting in the University Square against the government composed mainly of ex-communists. They voted for Iliescu again after people were killed in the streets by these miners, after the opposition parties head offices had been raided and destroyed by these brutes, some of which were suspected not to be real working class after all. And the older generations still voted for him.

And, after all, they are the generation who brought up many people my age, who have learnt the same lesson: know your place and, if you have the opportunity, go on and make your fortune with monkey business. Everybody does the same anyway. What, do you think these journalists and intellectuals are not being paid to claim they mean what they say? Come on, don’t be a fool, they are paid and they just do what they are told to.

Yes, my generation and the younger ones had their own University Square protests, against the government austerity measures and against mining with cyanides for big foreign profit in the Western Carpathian Mountains. They have won, so far, but who knows for how long? Meanwhile, people like me are not needed, after all, how many young intellectuals who don’t like or practice monkey business can one corrupt country accommodate? And not to forget that you might get attacked by enraged 50+ men if you dare do your job and report on how people ask for one of the wealthiest man in the country, with communist money, to be released from prison. Or for part of his wealth not to be confiscated, so that their beloved television channel can still broadcast and fill their empty lives with filthy circus.

I think this kind of sums it all up why I am no longer in Romania, but trying to live a peaceful life while earning a decent salary, travelling, doing my writing and getting ready to help my parents when they have to retire on pitiful pensions. However, I intend to write more about the matter and even, in a future article, explain the cultural and historical differences between the provinces, which make the whole country not to stick well together. These days I have read a very good material about how Transylvania, where I come from, was brought down and has not benefited at all from being part of Romania, and, in a way, my feelings agree with it.

 

 

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