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In our field notes from our original research (1959-60, 1961-63) I found no reference to any behavior that could be classed as rape or intercourse achieved by physical force. In the summer of 1986 we returned to the Rungus and found that major sociocultural changes had taken place. One informant reported an instance of sexual assault that occurred during our absence in which a Bugis man, notable for their aggression, killed a Rungus woman. My informant surmised that the Bugis tried to have intercourse with her, but she did not want to, and therefore he killed her. This story is labeled in my fields notes under the Rungus term manabpo', which means "to seize", "to catch", or "to constrain". It is the active focus of the stem -tabpo-'.

Thus the Rungus are aware that sexual assault can occur, the men more so than the women. There are the stories told about the orang-utan. And there are stories told by men about Pinonguvakan, the name of a bathing pool in a stream.

The Bathing Pool Called Pinonguvakan

We first discovered this story in 1987 from an informant who had been my assistant in 1959-60 and 1961-63. At that time I worked for two years with two village headmen on Rungus customary law, and my assistant had sat in on all these sessions during which I collected numerous cases on marriage, fornication and adultery, assault, and verbal aggression. In no instance did I elicit any cases involving sexual aggression. However, in 1987 he told me the story of Pinonguvakan, in fact two versions of it.

In the first version a woman is killed at a bathing pool called Pinonguvakan, allegedly named after an aspect of this event. All bathing pools in rivers are named, usually after a natural feature. The name of the pool called Pinonguvakan can be translated as "the place where (her legs) were pulled apart", as one would pull apart a forked stick. This lexeme focuses on the action of pulling something apart, and does not specify what is being subjected to this. In the case of the bathing pool my informant stated that a man had done this to a woman because she did not agree to have intercourse, and she died. Both were Rungus, but my informant did not know their names or the name of the village where this happened.

In the second version, given by my informant seven months later, the woman survives, and she and the young man are put to marriage by the headman. The man wanted the woman, wanted to have intercourse, but the woman did not agree. He apparently violently spread her legs apart, dislocating her hips. She could not walk. And he was afraid she would die. So he carried her back to the longhouse on his back and got someone to put the joints back into place. They were then put to marriage.

In the first version this account was referred to as a tuturan or "story", that is an account of an actual happening. In the second version it was referred to both as a tangon, a "myth", and a tuturan, "story". And the act was referred to as mangagai, "to bring about sexual intercourse", "to make a woman". These terms are used in everyday language with no connotation of violence. My informant later on remembered the name of the village where the bathing pool is located, near to the village in which we did our research.

During field work in 1990 we systematically followed up on this story and tried to determine its distribution and the variation in themes. All subsequent versions of the story, with but one exception, refer to a bathing hole located not in a distant village but in the village where we resided for field work.

The exception involves a Pinonguvakan in a neighboring village where a head was discovered floating in the river with its jaw pulled open so that its mouth was split. My informant for this story also opined that there must be Pinonguvakan water holes in almost every village, as it can refer to a split branch of a tree, a common occurrence along rivers, as well as other similar happenings.

To return to variations on this story of forced sexual intercourse, several male informants have never heard of the story or the water hole. But another informant said he had heard the story from his father, an elderly man in 1959. The story is essentially the same, but they were not made to marry. This informant used the term mizut for the sexual attack, which means "to fuck each other", although in the story he told it was clear that it was against the wishes of the female. A term such as mongizut, "to lay the woman", "to get the woman to fuck", would have more been more appropriate, even though the violence indicated in this story goes beyond the usual sense of the term.

Another version told by one of the old and knowledgeable informants in the village involved two young men who were suitors for the same maiden. They each grabbed a leg to take her away and as a result split her apart so that she died. The two young men then killed each other. This occurred by a bathing pool in our village but far upstream... However, he did not know the names of any of the participants...

A former headman gave roughly the same story as the second version I had elicited from my first informant, except that the water hole was in our village of research. A young man wanted to have intercourse with a maiden at the water hole. She refused. He tried to argue her into it. She still refused. He grabbed her legs; she held them together. They were dislocated at the hips. The young man then carried her back to the longhouse. The headman put them to marriage, as no one else would marry a maiden who could not walk. Some medicine was applied, which alleviated the dislocation enough for her to walk about but with a limp. The young man's family had to give a water buffalo to the maiden's family, and provide a large bride-price as well.

This informant, younger than my elderly informant whose version of the story involved two young men, also maintained that he did not know the names of the participants in this story, but he did know their descendants. However, he could not give us their names. They had moved to another part of the Rungus territory. But a headman in another village, now long dead, had lived in that longhouse with the girl, he stated.

It is important to note here that the explanation advanced for the events in the Bugis case and in the various versions of the Rungus case is that the woman refused to have coitus. As we shall discuss shortly, Rungus cultural expectations are that women have the right to refuse intercourse at any time, extramaritally or within marriage. Thus, there are several questions that remain unanswered in the accounts recorded. Why was the woman alone at a bathing pool? To avoid charges of being improper, Rungus women do not generally go unaccompanied to bathing pools. Was she encouraging the man? Was the dislocated hip the result of a passionate mating, or was it the result of forced intercourse? We are not clear on this as there were no witnesses to this event. If there are no witnesses to illicit sexual intercourse but the couple are found out, it is expected that the woman will claim that she was induced to have coitus, that she was not actively inviting sexual relations, and this claim will be accepted. So we do not know whether the reportage of the event is accurate or not. What is more, we don't even know whether this story reflects an actual event or whether it is constructed to justify the unusual name of a bathing pool so that it is only a projection of feelings of sexual aggression. What we do know is that after almost four years of research we have only one verbal report of a possible case of physically forced intercourse, not a pattern of sexual aggression.

While this case illustrates that it is possible to talk about physically forced intercourse, although there is no word to differentiate it specifically as such, discussions of it are in fact extraordinarily rare. And women are not familiar with stories about the Pinonguvakan, not even the wives of the men who related the story to me.

Two Accounts of Maidens Having Hands Laid On Them

There is a line between being grabbed hold of by a man, being constrained by a man, and being induced to have intercourse, although at times when women are accustomed to following the wishes of men this may be a fine line. And the Rungus use the same term to refer to both actions. This is based on the root -tabpo'- and appears in various forms, manabpo', tabpa'an, etc. In 1990 I recorded the following two accounts.

In the first account it is questionable whether it is an account of an actual happening or a cautionary tale told by a father to his son, my informant. In attempting to ascertain whether it represented an actual legal case, I found that my informant referred to it at different times as both being a myth or legend (tangon) and a story (tuturan).

There was a young man who had been catching hold of girls to get them to have intercourse with him. (In the story the verb manabpo' is used for what he did.) The maidens told the headman, but the young man maintained he was being falsely accused. This happened three times. Then the headman told the maidens not to admonish the offender when he grabbed them, but to take his headcloth and run. There was a maiden who decided to entice the young man to catch her (mokitabpo'). When they had had intercourse and she was leaving the scene, she said that she would not tell the people in the longhouse, and maybe they could meet again. Then she asked where he got his headcloth from. He replied it was his own. She asked to see it, and then asked the young man if she could take it home so that she could learn the weaving pattern. He agreed.

On returning to the longhouse she went immediately and told the headman. And he recognized who the young man was by the headcloth. There was a village moot and the young man had to give as compensation a large gong to the parents of the maiden. The other girls who had been taken earlier (tinabpo') received nothing. (This seems anomalous, given the following story.)

I asked my informant why the maiden didn't just take the headcloth and run. He replied that she was afraid that the young man would outrun her and perhaps kill her to prevent her reporting the incident to the headman.

The second account deals with an alleged actual case that occurred before the British arrived. There was a young man who chased maidens when they went to get water at the river and caught hold of them (manabpo'). Some maidens agreed to have intercourse. But some didn't and were left alone. These latter maidens reported to the headman what had happened. But the youth denied the accusations.

The headman suggested to the maidens that they get together and beat the young man. A strong maiden said, "Wait I minute. I will go for water by myself."

So she went, and as she bent over to fill her bamboo water tubes, she was caught hold of (tabpa'an) by the man. She told him to wait until she was finished filling her water tubes to have intercourse. In the meantime she told him to hold on tight to her back. When she finished filling the tubes she took hold of the youth around his legs. She then took him piggyback to the longhouse. The youth did not want to go, and his trousers fell off as she carried him up.

Then the headman said that the reports really were true. The maidens who told the headman about being accosted were not lying as the youth had claimed. The youth could no longer deny what he had been doing. The headman at the moot said that the big strong maiden should get a large gong from the youth. And the others who reported his behavior to the headman got two small gongs each. The youth stopped this behavior as he was afraid of being caught again.

One informant present while this story was collected said that among the Rungus if a man tried to force a woman into intercourse and she refused, he would stop. And if a woman is propositioned, she can tell the headman and ask for a fine. It is notable that in these two stories women got their own back at the men who had taken advantage of them.

Finally, it is important to note that the root -tabpo'- is used in two senses in these stories: "to grab hold of a woman" and euphemistically "to make a woman".

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