A lot of us talk about how one should ‘deal’ with rape. That it’s traumatizing and one requires courage, strength, some sort of a headlong response and the ability to not give up and make sure justice is sought. What we don’t realize is how easy it is to only say all this. What a rape victim goes through, we don’t and can probably never understand.
Then there is the entire idea of calling her a ‘victim’. The strong feminists among us will argue that we really are nobody to comment on how she has woefully lost her izzat. Kaun kehta hai uski zindagi barbaad ho gayi and so on. But it’s time we realized this has nothing to do with our limitless rational sensibilities. The woman need not feel ‘sorry’ for herself. She doesn’t need to, in the most ideal circumstances, look around for support. She might even be strong enough to fight back and move on in life but there’s no doubt that a lot of those around her make sure it’s more of an uphill struggle than ever.
The immediate, most basic step of going up and reporting the crime is itself traumatic enough. The police are often not the most sensitive people we might come across. Let’s not stereotype them as a community, but let’s just say they can be incredibly boorish, unprofessional and insensitive. And since, it’s a rape case we’re talking of, their attitudes aggravate the situation. The female is asked for gory details, often by a male inspector in the most inappropriate circumstances possible. She will be asked to recount the trauma in detail. So painful is this entire experience that a lot of women do not muster the courage to venture out and report the crime at all.
In the National Law School rape case, for instance, details about the girl’s identity and morality were speculated and tossed around like rag dolls. There were aspersions cast by the police, which no self respecting woman would even like to mention Further, in the most absurdly regressive of arguments possible, Delhi police had gone on record last year to say that women often bring this upon themselves. Building on every myth there is, they forget that rapes happen both in broad daylight and to women in saris, burqas and jeans alike. You can’t monitor our job timings or when we’d like to go out and with whom, just because you’ve unbuttoned the fancy khaki uniform for the day. You also forget that rapes happen within homes, and in kindergarten schools. For the simple reason that there isn’t enough fear of punishment. And a lot of them go unreported for the simple reason that you don’t have a reputation for helping people out, or making them comfortable.
Then there is the media. Taking lip smacking relish out of all this. A rape story is immediately seen as prime time material. The visuals, background music and graphics are conjured up with professional precision. The horrid tale is narrated with childlike glee and TRPs garnered with even more joy. Till date, I’ve never watched a sensible, genuinely remorseful news update on a rape incident. Then there are those debates of course, where the idea is to scream the loudest and make sure you’re seen as the hugest crusader of women empowerment there ever was.
Where does that leave the girl? Scarred and scared for life. Scared of probably every means there is to voice herself. In a democracy that boasts of giving every individual the power to rise and raise his voice, isn’t this an ingenuously maneuvered constraint on the right to both expression and free living? Time to give a thought perhaps to everything we’re so proud of.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lata Jha is currently a student of journalism at Columbia University. She has written for numerous web platforms on a wide range of issues as both volunteer and intern. She aspires to pursue a career primarily in film journalism, though she is equally vocal about issues in other spheres of life that she may feel strongly for.