PODCAST: Jean Friedman-Rudovsky on the 'ghost rapes' of Bolivia

People living in a small Mennonite colony in Manitoba, Bolivia were frightened and confused when women began waking up in the morning in their beds, with evidence of sexual assault, but no memory of the rapes that occurred. When the community eventually discovered that a group of men had been drugging entire families in the night in order to enter their homes and rape women and girls in their beds, for years, journalist, Jean Friedman-Rudovsky covered the trial for Time magazine.

A group of nine Manitoba men, ages 19 to 43, as well as the veterinarian who had created the spray (adapted from a chemical used to anesthetize cows) used to drug the victims, went to trial. The veterinarian was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and the rapists were each sentenced to 25 years.

Friedman-Rudovsky went back to the community recently to learn how survivors and their families were coping with the trauma. Her article and corresponding documentary film, directed and shot by her brother, Noah Friedman-Rodovsky, called “The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia,” can be found at Vice.com. I spoke with her from her current home in Vietnam.

Listen to that interview below.

**Apologies — there is some static throughout this interview, due to the connection, which impacts audio quality.



Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • lizor

    Thanks for this interview. I’m really glad that Friedman-Rudovsky shed more light on this horrible story.

    One thing that occurred to me – I think it’s a bit misleading to use gender-neutral language when describing the abuse that goes on in “closed communities” like the U.S. Military. I agree that there is a valid point to be made regarding problems of self-policing, however, each of the examples she gives are highly patriarchal communities.
    Perhaps this is less a symptom of “closed communities” where “people abuse the system by abusing other people” and more a microcosm of how patriarchy systematically enables men to rape women and, further, how that occurrence reiterates a gendered power structure.

    The context of isolated community allows us to look more directly at how this process reproduces exploitation and abuse through the everyday terrorism that is rape.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I agree with you around gender-neutral language. There were rumours that some men and/or boys were assaulted as well, though none came forward and, either way, it was men who were doing the raping and the victims were mostly (or all) women and girls.

      • lizor

        Yes, I guess in patriarchy, men will rape whomever they presume they can get away with raping. And in all of the comparative examples she cites; Military, sporting leagues, etc, there is little if any consequence for inflicting profound injury on a person in service to some twisted idea of “manhood”.

        After listening I found myself thinking about the movie Hard Candy.

        • marv

          Unquestionably so. Rape outside of or within marriage seems to always stem from the manufacturing of gender. Without gender in its conservative and liberal modes or a combination of them we wouldn’t have this omnipresent incessant catastrophic historical and contemporary emergency.

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