Let Us Talk About Rape

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Rape is not just sex. It’s about control and power. Payal takes a hard look rape, its survivors and suggests viable solutions to this problem, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

Nobody does. To those of us who are lucky enough, it is something that we discuss in hushed voices, with pity or commiseration. Those who have been raped, are unable to talk without getting choked up. Rape is sexual in nature, of course, it is, the mechanism of it is, but its intent is fear and subjugation. It’s about control and power.

Opportunistic rapes are cases where the rapists are primarily sex seeking and either do not have the ability or knowledge of seeking consent or have no qualms about taking advantage of a situation. Sadistic rapists use sex for control and power.

 Survivor X

Age: 60 years

Location: Inside her home

Rapist: 35 years, unknown to survivor

A 60-year-old woman raped in Mehrauli. Delhi Police said that 35-year-old Sanjay was allegedly drunk when he entered the victim’s house and sexually assaulted her. The woman, who was asleep when the accused entered, had reportedly left the door open for her son. The accused threatened to kill her if she raised an alarm, police said. Her husband passed away a few years ago. She told the police later that she decided to visit her daughter nearby when she could not deal with the trauma. It was only when her daughter insisted that she broke down and told her about the assault. The daughter informed her husband and the couple brought the woman to the police station.

Survivor Y

Age: 37 years

Location: Inside a moving vehicle

Rapists: 27-34, casual acquaintance and his friends.

On the night of 5th Feb 2012, a 37-year-old Suzette went to meet few of her friends for a drink, in one of Kolkata’s most popular nightclubs in Park Street. When she returned home, she accepted the offer of a lift from a man she had got talking to inside the club. In the car, she was surprised to find four other men from his group, suddenly enter. By the time she realised something was wrong, the doors were auto-locked and the car was moving. She was beaten, gang-raped and thrown out of the car onto the street, her clothes torn and tattered.

Survivor Z

Age: 19 years

Location: Neighbour’s home

Rapist: 37 years, known and trusted

Anita went to her friend’s house to return a book. They were classmates, and neighbours. The friend’s older brother-in-law was the only one at home, someone she had met with several times. He said that everyone had gone for a movie and would she like to come inside and borrow another book. Anita walked in feeling very comfortable. She chose another book from their bookshelf, agreed to have a cup of tea, and felt confident and comfortable enough to sit and chat with him in the family living room. She had chatted with him many times before in the presence of his family, and he had always seemed avuncular and affectionate. A nice man. As they talked books, she felt there was a real bonding, and she thought nothing of it when he perched on the arm of her chair to show her a particular passage from a book. The next thing she knew he was kissing her. She was unable to shout or resist, she felt totally frozen with fear. He partially undressed her while she kept on pleading and raped her, there on the carpet, in a room where she had been a billion times.

She was afraid of being blamed for not having turned around and walked away.

She was afraid of being blamed for not only accepting the offer of tea but accompanying him to the kitchen while he made it.

She was afraid of being blamed for not having screamed or struggled ‘enough’. She never told her parents, the police or anyone. But she blamed herself for being both stupid and irresponsible.

 Victim A

Age: 2 years 7 months

Location: Railway tracks

Rapist: 23 years, known

Deepa was lured away by the unknown man with a handful of sweets. He tied her hands and stuffed her torn clothes in her mouth and raped her for three hours. Deepa did not survive. He stuffed her body in a sack and threw it on the rail tracks hoping that she would be crushed beyond recognition. On investigation, he said he was angry with her parents because they turned him out of the room he was renting from them.

The truth is that as a society we tend to blame the rape survivor rather than the rapist. In fact, we continue to monitor her clothes behaviour and attitude and would rather see her as a victim than a survivor..

While I say ‘her’, all rape survivors are not all women. Patriarchy creates a situation where it becomes almost impossible for a male to speak up if he has been sexually abused. Survivors are dismissed with the belief ‘…he must have enjoyed it.’ Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code does not include males under ‘rape victims’. The only route for a male victim to find justice is through Section 377, India’s anti-sodomy law if he is assaulted by a male attacker. Sodomy, however, is not considered actual rape. How can a man have been ‘unmanly’ enough to be raped?

We have to understand these facts clearly:

1.      The clothes we wear are not responsible for rape: And yet, everybody still talks as if the clothes we wear will either provoke or protect. So tell me, do women in Burqas never get raped? What about women in pants? Or sarees? What about little girls in salwar kameez or old women? So let us at least accept that then, that rape is nothing to do with clothes. Not with the way you dress or your makeup or the colour of your lipstick.

2.      The way we behave is not responsible for rape: Alcohol, talking to boys or flirting does not mean a woman is asking to be raped. No, rape does not depend on behavior. Laughing too loud, being with a boy, going to a bar none of these justify rape.

3.      You are not stupid or irresponsible because you were raped: A woman is often blamed and treated as if it were her fault that she got raped. In hindsight, everyone has wisdom. It is the inherent nature of human beings to trust others. Children are taught to be respectful and polite and to obey elders even at the cost of mistrusting their own instinct. 

4.      Does rape not happen because you were at the wrong place: What is the right place for a woman? Enough rapes occur in the safety of the home or workplace, at school, even in temples to dispute this. Is a public place a ‘wrong’ place for someone to be? 

5.      Where is a woman to feel safe? The moment we ask this question, we immediately understand the context – she is safe only in the space men have designated for her. This is all the proof we need to understand that rape is about keeping a woman ‘in her place’ and anytime she does something to challenge that she is in the ‘wrong’ place.

6.      Stay away from strangers: Rape has nothing to do with how well the person knows the assailant. It’s not uncommon for a person to be raped by someone he or she has been dating for a long time, or by a former lover, or by a spouse, or a relative or known person.

We need to change our thinking and shift the onus of responsibility to the perpetrator of this crime – the Rapist.

To truly make a change

  • Accept male violence and victim blaming in society and work to change it
  • Change the laws, police work and investigation to disallow questions like ‘what were you wearing’? Enable women to feel empowered to wear what they want
  • Ban the ‘two-finger’ test
  • Empower the judicial system with better laws against sexual abuse and rape
  • Provide infrastructures like streetlights, public toilets, and police booths
  • Support girls in claiming their share of public spaces[i]
  • Talk to your children about consent.[ii] Talk about rape to your children and work with school and community on strategising to keep them safe
  • Talk about responsibility, behavior and accepting ‘NO’ to boys
  • Lobby for safer cities, male your local politician listen

[ii] http://www.teachconsent.org/

©Payal Talreja

Photos sourced by the author and from Net.

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Businesswoman, curator of handlooms, poet, writer, and erstwhile doctor. Payal Talreja practices everything except her involuntary ‘profession’. She claims that words chose her and are now her weapon of choice because an activist born will stay silent for no man. A wanderer, a voyager, she’s happy to slum it or luxuriate in any life experience. She crafts poems and fiercely feminist essays and will assume her ‘Chandi’ avatar to ‘write’ any wrong.