Rashômon: Rape or Guilt?

         Whether from the victim, the accused attacker, or witnesses, parties involved in rapes will have varying accounts of the events that occurred. With this being the circumstance it is often very hard to distinguish the truth from falsehoods.

         In many well-publicized rape cases, versions do not only change from person to person, but a person often changes his or her own point of view of what has occurred. The woodcutter in Rashômon, directed in 1950 by Akira Kurosawa, changes his story about what he witnessed out in the woods the day the so-called rape occurred. The woodcutter had told the court that the husband of the victim was stabbed with a sword and then later tells a friend that the man had been killed with a pearl handled dagger, which had not been found at the crime scene. As in many court cases, the man had lied to benefit himself since he had stole the dagger to help feed his large family. In the Duke Lacrosse rape case, the woman who was claiming to have been raped kept altering her story as well. The foremost difference in this case and the Rashômon case is that the woman who was claiming to have been raped would not have benefited from this financially in the same manner that the woodcutter would have.

         One aspect of the film that makes viewers wonder is if she had really been raped at all is that she was so willing to run off with the bandit and leave her new husband behind in the forest. Not to say it cannot take place, but it would be a very rare occurrence for a woman to go away with her attacker if she had really been raped. Even in the stories where she initially wants to return to her husband, she returns to the bandit. In many cases that go to court, the ones in charge find that the sufferer had consented to the encounter but felt guilty afterward and so claimed to have been raped, and this could have been the situation in the Rashômon case. A very well-known and more modern version of this happening is the Kobe Bryant rape case, in which a woman said that he had raped her, but he claimed that she had consented and it concluded that he never had raped her.

         In the Rashômon rape case, like many others, there is no real way to know who is lying and who is telling the truth, if anybody. When varying accounts occur, it is best to take the known facts and try to match them with what in reality occurred; but, however, this can be very hard. When one is watching a film such as Rashômon, it is understandable, especially with very little physical evidence, why rape is so hard to prove or disprove.

Ashley Wilson

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