TW: abuse, rape
Warning: spoilers ahead
The hit TV show Jane the Virgin aired from 2014 to 2019. It was critically acclaimed for its writing. The show is centered around Jane, who vows to save herself until marriage. But, her vow gets broken when she is accidentally artificially inseminated with a man’s sperm during her checkup. From there, the show spirals into mystery, murder, romance, slice-of-life ups and downs and a lot more. Additionally, it actively challenges and questions almost every aspect of our daily lives. From abortion rights to impulsive marriage proposals to racism and to sexuality and sex-positivity, it’s a must watch for everyone.
However, there is a particular scene that didn’t sit quite right with me. In one of the episodes in season 1, a character named Petra falsely accuses her husband of hitting her. In reality, it was Petra’s mother who hit her for Petra to gain some leverage in their soon-to-happen divorce. Rafael, her husband and Jane’s friend, talks to Jane about this. He says that he would never hit her and Jane believes him, without any hesitation.
- The show so-far portrayed Petra as the villain. Please do note that the following examples are not my personal opinions regarding the character. They are what the show considered as “evil” and wanted to convey the same to the audience. Having said that, examples of Petra being “evil” include marrying Rafael for the money, having an affair with Rafael’s friend, falsely accusing Rafael of abuse for leverage, lying about her past and a few more (context needed).
- Rafael has shown to be a kind and understanding person. Though his past self was quite the opposite, he later became the owner of his father’s hotel and hence, “matured.” He started falling for Jane when he learned about Petra’s affair and her intentions for marriage. Hence, the two started to bond and got to know each other a little better. Safe to say, Jane thought she knew Rafael well enough to know that he would never hit Petra.
I say “thought” here because they only knew what the other person wanted them to know. The scene took place in the first 10 episodes of S1 of S5. That should tell you that the story was only beginning to unfold. Additionally, Jane and Rafael had only talked about a few things, namely the baby, parenting, Petra and dating. And, in true TV fashion, the two thought they should date after sharing “an electrifying kiss.”
But, but, but…
Even if two people know each other quite well, they should never take abuse cases of any nature lightly, especially when it is said to be against women or any other minority. People are malleable, they are ever-changing and no matter how well you know someone, there is always a possibility of them taking advantage of the existing power dynamics in their relationship and resorting to heinous acts like abuse. Additionally, history has taught us that often it is men close to us, rather than strangers, who would turn out to be the criminal.
Speaking of history
Several studies and cases have highlighted the fact that abuse against minorities is far more prevalent. Not to mention people unnecessarily and very harshly criticize survivors of said abuse. This abuse is also multi-layered. For example, people and the law look at and take abuse against privileged women and white gay people more seriously. Whereas, abuse against underprivileged women and Black gay people (or Black people in general) is not. Courts have also acquitted rapists and molesters in many instances. These same courts and people also blame and shame survivors or, in some countries like India, ask them to marry their abuser.
Even after being jailed, perpetrators continue to ruin lives. Yes, there have also been instances of false rape accusations. But, that does not mean a shift in our perspective regarding survivors and actual rape cases. We must always give the benefit of the doubt to the survivor. Rape kits sometimes do fail and survivors do speak out after days, weeks or even years. Regardless, conversations should always highlight the perpetrator a.k.a name and shame and never criticize or blame the survivor. And no, the devil does not need an advocate.
P.S. This is not to say that we must not believe or listen to the other side of the story. Research and hearing out both sides is essential. However, we must always give the benefit of the doubt to the survivor, for the aforementioned reasons.
Abuse against men
To satiate the “but what about men” people, let’s talk about abuse and rape against men. Yes, it does happen. Men also don’t find it easy to report or talk about it due to the fear that people would question their masculinity and/or sexuality. It is also particularly important to note here that any evident neurological reactions (having a boner) that take place during sexual coercion does not imply that the person is “asking for it.” One cannot control these reactions and so, it does not mean that they are aroused. It is this gaslighting and survivor blaming that makes reporting or discussing it extremely painful for survivors.
Not to mention, the toxic masculinity culture created and endorsed by men that further makes life difficult for themselves. We need to start supporting male survivors. To do that, the first step must be to get rid of said culture. This would also create a positive shift in perspective regarding sexuality and masculinity.
Jane should not have outright believed Rafael and instead, should have talked to Petra first. She then should have asked Rafael relevant questions, looking at the case from an empathetic perspective. We all should always look at cases of abuse and rape against minorities from an empathetic lens. Our own research regarding the matter is essential. We should also never articulate our conversations in a manner that triggers or criticizes the survivor. Reading more about historical oppression, power dynamics and books from feminist and other leftist authors would help a lot in understanding the different layers of minority subjugation.
As for the show, I do not dislike Jane The Virgin. In fact I learnt quite a lot from it and enjoyed it thoroughly. However, as consumers, I do believe that it is our responsibility to criticize whenever something is wrong or we believe that it is wrong. Having said that, I still do recommend watching the show. It’s a fun ride full of laughter, intense thrill and romance, something perfect after a stressful day or to just binge-watch.