By Mitan Sidhu
HOUSTON: The death of the 23-year-old Delhi gangrape victim has benumbed us all. Rape is one of the worst atrocities one human can inflict upon another. That one invasive, aggressive act demeans, humiliates, terrorizes, traumatizes and rips apart the victim not just once, but repeatedly. It has a ripple effect. It not only rips apart a person physically, but also emotionally and psychologically, for years to come, if not for life. It violates the very essence of one’s being.
Very few ever recover from that barbaric, heinous crime. Not many crimes are able to impact the victim multiple times the way rape can. Yet the perpetrators get away scot free or with a mere slap on the wrist at the most.
The young girl, who lost her life as a result of the brutal attack, has finally brought the severity of this existing problem to the limelight. This social blight has managed to escape detection or acknowledgement, as it is often swept under the wrap of so-called respectability, to avoid causing discomfort to those posing as the ‘moral police’ – at the expense of the victims.
This very avoidance of acknowledgement, and attitude of pretending that the problem does not exist, provides prime conditions for more rapes to take place. This year alone, there were over 635 reported cases of rape in Delhi alone. Keep in mind that the majority of rapes go unreported. Why? Reporting rape subjects the victim to an additional round of ridicule, humiliation, shame and guilt. As it is, they feel enough shame and guilt, along with feeling traumatized, humiliated, fear and a gamut of other such emotions. Most of all, they lose trust and are usually let down by the people they trusted the most. They are robbed of their trust in mankind, often spending their lives as prisoners behind bars, emotionally and psychologically.
Society as a whole tends to lay the blame for rape at the victim’s feet, not the perpetrators’. The victim is often blamed as being the lure, temptress, seductress, vile, dirty and evil one, while the rapist is welcomed back into the family and society with open arms, as though he was victimized.
Playing the blame game, be it blaming the government, authorities or lack of security is not going to change anything. What will make a difference is providing assistance and counseling to victims and their families to help them cope with the trauma, and educating people on the impact of rape and how to cope with the aftermath.
Most rape takes place at the hands of trusted relatives and family friends. Many husbands too rape their wives, though that is not thought of as rape, but rape it is. Rape is abuse of the worst kind.
The media could play a big role here – is the media interested in making a difference? Short messages flashed across TV screens, urging people to support and love the victims to rebuild their lives will make a difference. Why isn’t anyone asking that of the media? It’s one thing to protest, post comments on Facebook and Twitter, but to bring about change, each one of us has to take responsibility in how we interact with those around us. How much support do we show towards victims of abuse, and yes, almost each one of us has interacted with someone’s who is being abused, be that person male or female.
I recall that when I was in college (Delhi University), a girl from my hostel had gone out on a date. They were returning to the university by bus. A group of fellows started grabbing her. Her boyfriend tried to protect her, so they beat him. Their comment was that just because he showed up with a girl didn’t mean they couldn’t touch her. Her clothes were ripped off in the process. The two got off at the first stop they could. Thankfully, she didn’t get raped. She arrived in tears, wearing his jacket.
A few weeks later there was an incident near the university that involved a girl jumping off a moving bus to escape groping. I don’t recall whether she died or not. Anyhow, I was among those spearheading a protest march in the university. We were tear-gassed (which is a horrible feeling….being unable to breathe and tears rolling down one’s cheeks….everything feels on fire). Our protest did get cops ‘installed’ on buses….at least those heading to and from the university.
As for me, I rarely took a bus, preferring to hitch-hike around Delhi….a lot safer and cleaner in my opinion.
But whenever I travelled in Delhi local buses (on those rare occasions), I found the common little safety pin to be a very handy and effective weapon. It’s easy to carry around very discreetly and renders quite a painful prick to the ‘enemy’….and yes, I’ve used it on more than one occasion. The offenders weren’t happy.