What can my friend do about an expat rapist in China?
October 10, 2010 12:42 PM   Subscribe

My friend (American) is in Changsha, China, and will be for about a year. She found out that a male expat in the city recently raped a Chinese woman. What can she do? She really needs some China-specific advice.

There are a few problems. She doesn't know who the Chinese woman is, and she doesn't know who the man is, although she knows that he is one of three men. It's possible but not certain that she could figure out which one it was.

Here is her quick summary and her questions, written from her POV:
I am trying to figure out how to react to the news that one of the expats here raped somebody. The source is quite credible: apparently, one of his friends admitted it, using the word "rape." Presumably the young Chinese woman in question is not prosecuting, otherwise I guess I would have heard of that.

1) Can she [the Chinese woman] prosecute? That is, does she have sufficient evidence, and/or is it socially possible for her to prosecute without losing her job, her reputation, etc.?
2) What other means of retribution are possible? If someone could convince his employers, would he lose his job? If I could make that happen, should I? Could I just spread the news throughout the expat community here and see what happens?
3) Would it compromise the woman's reputation somehow to have it spread that this guy raped someone? (I.e., would it have obviously been her, and how much stigma would she suffer if it were spread around?)
4) What am I morally obligated to do? I think the answer is: something. But I don't know what. I'm not God, and I'm not going to show up with a steakknife (or rusty spoon) at this guy's door, however much I may want to. And I can't just call the police and go "One of these three guys raped a Chinese girl whose name and appearance I don't know." I also don't speak Chinese, and can't just ask around and see if anybody knows anything. I may be able to work through expats, and/or a couple friends.
If anyone can provide any information on the Chinese legal system, and/or on the cultural forces in China that would affect what action she should take, it would be greatly appreciated.

I can provide answers to follow-up questions, though they might take a while, since I'm in America and my friend's in China.
posted by mandanza to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Your friend doesn't know the victim or the perpetrator. She doesn't know anything about the victim's life or needs. She should stay out of it. If she ever confirms the identity of the perpetrator, she should feel free to avoid him and not be his friend. But this is none of her business, and her moral obligation here is to let the victim deal with it in the way that she chooses.
posted by decathecting at 12:46 PM on October 10, 2010 [21 favorites]

I agree with decathecting, and would like to add that anything your friend does, would be done from a 'western' perspective and could very well make the situation worse for the woman. Unless your friend knew the woman and was responding to a direct appeal for help (with guidance on what kind of help was needed) there is a very strong likelihood that she would act in a way partially or totally inappropriate. The nuances of culture around this issue are complex in any society, and your friend needs to realize this.

Her "moral obligation" is to respect the woman enough to let her deal with it in the way that she needs to.
posted by scrute at 1:03 PM on October 10, 2010

I sent you a more detailed response via MeMail, but I want to second decathecting very loudly. To insert herself in this situation would be an extraordinarily arrogant act that would serve only to further violate the (unknown) woman in question. Your friend needs to stay out of it.

Also? The source is quite credible: apparently, one of his friends admitted it, using the word "rape." Gossip is not a credible source, EVER.
posted by amelioration at 1:05 PM on October 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

Your friend is not Encyclopedia Brown. It's condescending and totally inappropriate for her to appoint herself to "handle" the rape of someone she doesn't know that she has only heard about (it sounds like) third-hand and that she is completely uninvolved in.
posted by enn at 1:06 PM on October 10, 2010 [7 favorites]

What am I morally obligated to do?

Morally, you are obligated to never trust rumor and never push your presence into people's lives -- especially in such matters -- without having facts in hand.
posted by griphus at 1:22 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

2nding what everyone else said, your friend does not know anything.
posted by LudgerLassen at 2:22 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your friend is actually considering destroying someone's life based on a rumour? When she doesn't even know for sure which one of three possible people it was, that is, if the rape allegation is even true?

This is pretty messed up. Basically, it comes down to the fact that someone she doesn't know may or may not have been raped by another person she doesn't know.

The moral responsibility here is to stay the hell out of it and to not consider actions based on unfounded rumours - particularly when lives may be wrongly ruined as a result. Your friend's situation really has nothing to do with ex-pats or Chinese nationals per se . . . it comes across more like a manifestation of a particularly noxious sense of (presumably American) superiority. Victims, whoever and wherever they are, deserve the right to handle things lawfully according to their own wishes. Assuming, of course, that there really is a victim at all.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:30 PM on October 10, 2010

Best answer: If your friend needs to do "something", let that thing be more of a "pay it forward" act rather than trying to help in this specific situation. Something like donating time/money to a charity or support group, or plant a garden in honor of all victims of abuse, or something like that.
posted by CathyG at 3:14 PM on October 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers. You guys have provided a lot of good and important perspective.
posted by mandanza at 6:37 PM on October 10, 2010

While this news, such as it is, may indeed be based in reality, it kind of bears the distinct whiff of a good, old-fashioned CCP whisper campaign. I'd just take it with a grain of salt.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:05 PM on October 10, 2010

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