Mary Hawkins' Rape On 'Outlander' Shows That The Stigma Of Sexual Assault Has A Long History

While Jamie works to overcome his post-traumatic stress after being raped by Black Jack Randall in Season 1 of Outlander, another character is now dealing with her own sexual assault. The young Mary Hawkins was raped on Outlander during the April 30 episode "La Dame Blanche." Outlander has been fearless in its portrayal of sexual violence and though Mary's rape by an unknown man wasn't given the same weight as Jamie's male-on-male rape, the series still showed how rape has been perceived as shameful for centuries.

Season 2 of Outlander has moved from the Scottish Highlands to 18th century France. Mary, a young British woman, is staying in France since her uncle has arranged her marriage to an elderly and wealthy French widower. But, Claire and Mary have more connections than just being English ladies in France. If history is not changed by Claire's presence, Mary will actually marry Jack Randall (despite her romantic interest in his younger brother Alex) and birth the direct ancestor of Claire's husband in the 1940s, Frank Randall.

As if being married to Jack Randall isn't terrifying enough, Mary has now also suffered this trauma. After helping Claire at the charity hospital, she was forced to walk to Claire and Jamie's French home with Claire and Murtagh due to a broken carriage wheel. On the walk, the trio was attacked by masked strangers and Mary was raped after her attacker exclaimed that she was a virgin.

The attackers fled when they saw Claire's face and cried out that she was "la Dame Blanche" and Claire and Murtagh successfully got the passed out Mary to safety at Claire and Jamie's home. Unfortunately, Claire was a bit preoccupied by hers and Jamie's manipulative dinner party plans to give Mary the attention she deserved after the attack. Claire's more modern sensibilities did take a hold of her, though, when she told Jamie that they must alert the authorities about Mary's rape so that she could receive a doctor's care.

Jamie was surprisingly unsympathetic toward this fellow rape survivor. He denied Claire's request to contact the authorities since Mary's uncle and fiancé were at his home and her reputation would be ruined if they knew about the rape. "If we let it be known she's a maiden no more, no man will ever take her," Jamie said. "She'll be a spinster 'til the end of her days."

Not only were Jamie's words particularly disappointing coming from him, they were also upsetting since Jamie is an 18th century men representing the sentiments of the time. Rather than feeling safe to report a rape, a woman was supposed to be ashamed that she was the victim of a sexual assault and keep it quiet so men would still consider her "pure" and want to marry her.

To help understand the mindset toward rape and sexual assault in the 1700s, I recommend reading this article about Samuel Farr's Elements of Medical Jurisprudence from the late 1700s. Although I am citing only one chapter from this one book of the time, it is a horrifying look at how rape was perceived. Farr did not even believe the raping of a woman by a man could actually take place, writing, "For a woman always possesses sufficient power, by the drawing back of her limbs, and the force of her hands, to prevent the insertion of the penis into her body."

If that's not bad enough, Farr also considered that women who became pregnant as a consequence of rape must have been excited sexually by the forced sexual act — otherwise a pregnancy would not have occurred. Think it can't get much worse? Farr then details how to examine the vagina to tell if a rape really happened or if a woman was lying. Because apparently if her vagina shows signs of having had too much sex, then she couldn't have possibly been raped.

This is the disturbing atmosphere Jamie is used to, and unfortunately, while female sexual assault victims don't necessarily need to be concerned about ending up as "spinsters" in 2016, the stigma surrounding rape is still prevalent in our modern culture. According to the Justice Department and as noted by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. This number goes up when dealing with rapes occurring on college campuses, which TIME explains is due to factors like victims being ashamed, victims being unsure if the assault constituted as rape, or victims fearing the police won't believe them.

Additionally, consider Todd Akin's claim that "legitimate" rape doesn't end in pregnancy where he said, "First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare ... if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Sounds a lot like that article from the 1700s, right? Only it's a statement from 2012 that he later apologized for only to then take that apology back two years later.

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While I love Jamie as a character, there are times when his upsetting comments remind me that he is a man of the 18th century and has all of the biases that come with that setting. Even as a survivor of rape himself, he let the social constructs of the time dictate how Mary should be treated after being raped. Clearly, letting her rest after the traumatic experience wasn't enough treatment since when she awoke and saw her love Alex Randall by her bed, it triggered the recent abuse for her and she fled the bedroom. As Alex tried to calm her down, it only exacerbated the problem as a man being physically dominant over her likely brought back the horrors of the assault.

I anticipate that the aftermath of Mary's rape will not get as much screen time as Jamie's and, though that might make sense since Jamie is a main character, it's also upsetting, because Mary's story of recovery should be told too. Whether it's in the world of Outlander or in the world we live in today, rape against any gender is not acceptable and never the victim's fault. And we must continue to make it clear that victims of sexual assault should never be ashamed about what happened to them — no matter what time period the assault happened in.

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