CHALLENGE ONE : THE AFTERLIFE OF A RAPE VICTIM
Last week, I started a new concept on my blog… that of accepting topics to write upon from my readers – “Challenge Accepted“.
My first challenge came from a fellow blogger, Subhrashis, and the topic I am given, is the afterlife of a rape victim.
Here I am, writing on this, and hoping that I do justice to such a sensitive and grave topic.
As my challenger rightly pointed out, a lot has been said about the act of rape and the consequences per say. But how many of us, have actually thought of the life of the victim from the social angle.
We very easily pity that the victim goes into depression, does not have the courage to ‘face the world’ for no fault of her’s, et all… Anyone can tell this after watching a few movies. But all this is very easy to see on television sets and movies. Yes, I am calling it easy. Why? Because, now think, that when you and I flinch seeing this when we know it to be unreal, can we even start to think of the mental state of the victim, who has not to just go through the act itself, but also speak of it repeatedly, in court and to everyone.
I am in no way claiming to know everything or even anything of the life of a victim after the incident. The best I could do is to do some research and interview one such victim (over the phone).
For obvious reasons, the name is not being disclosed.
Note – Parts of the conversation which included overlapping talk or broken statements (like in any normal conversation) have either been removed or edited (with no change to the matter) to make the interview easily readable.
“Me : Before I even start on this, let me tell you, that you have the complete freedom to tell me to stop even before I start or anytime during this conversation. Making you uncomfortable is the last thing on my mind.
Victim: Yes, I understand this, and I am happy you are giving me this option as I hardly had any option in any such conversation before this.
Me : I will not bother you by asking you to relive the whole experience of the incident but will focus on the life after that. Is that fine with you?
Victim: Here is where it starts, you along with everyone else, ask me not to recount the incident but it has to be understood that by even the mention of the incident, it is recounted to me myself and after that, speaking it out loud or not hardly makes a difference.
Me: I am so sorry.
Victim: But it’s not your fault (she said this only because I was sounding very guilty at this moment).
Moving on to the question, you might be surprised to know that the act in itself is hardly physically painful. The pain is psychological during the act, and many times over after that particular ordeal is over. (The explanation of this sentence came later, when she told me that a woman who has had a sexual relation in her life at any point would most probably not be physically pained by the act, but the pain would be of the intention of the rapist to have an non – consented physical relation)
Me : You reported the case to the police. What happened there?
Victim: A few hours after the act, my husband returned home and I told him the whole incident. I did not recognize the rapist, but I told my husband that I would do my best to describe him to the police. When we went to the police station to lodge a complaint, the person in charge there was extremely casual. He asked me to recount the whole incident. I broke down several times while doing so, and all that I received from the inspector during such breakdowns was “जल्दी करिए मैडम, और भी cases देखने हैं (Hurry up madam, we have more cases to deal with)”. It left me and my husband shocked. And this is how it went at every step up to the court.
Me: Was the situation any better in court? ( foolish question)
Victim: In court, it was as if hell had broken loose. The prosecution council was a sensible enough man to try and make me comfortable but the defense counsel, in doing his job, made me describe the incident part by part (here she meant her body parts and not parts of the incident). It was horrifying. I thankfully had my husband by me, to support me.
Me : I do not wish to take you through this incident again, though by now I know that my saying or not saying this is not going to stop the nightmares coming back to you at this moment. Let me jump to the judgement and the life after that.
Victim: The judgement was in our favour and the man was punished. (The man was behind bars for a week before he was let off due to political influence.. but that’s not what I am dealing with today). The day the case ended, our lawyer came and told us that the nightmares were over and that I could now live in peace. How I wish he would have been right.
Me: Was life after the case tough? (another silly question)
Victim: By this time, most of my relatives and my entire neighbourhood knew of the incident. When I thought I could finally rest in my house, I was constantly answering phone calls and visits of ‘well wishers’ to know how I was. Not just this, walking out on my street became a fresh nightmare as everyone would whisper seeing me. I heard statements like, “Don’t interact with her. She’s a rape victim.” I was wishing to ask this particular lady if being a rape victim was a contagious disease, that she so shunned me, but I knew making it an issue was hardly the answer. What surprised me most is the fact that I lived in an ‘educated society’.
Me : So, did this go on for a long time?
Victim: It went on for a year, after which, being unable to take anymore, my husband and I shifted to another city where, thankfully, no one knew of the incident. We had a much more peaceful life then, except for the occasional relative who would ‘feel so sorry’ for me that (s)he would nearly announce his/her grief throughout my new neighbourhood. After six months, my new neighbourhood became the same as my old one, only the degree and frequency of the whispers were less. This forced us to shift again, and I had braced myself for such a lifestyle for the rest of my life. It is here when my husband took a bold decision to cut off from relatives so as the incident to not repeat itself. We told no-one of our new whereabouts and since then life has been better, much better.
Me : Is there anything you would want to say to the public at large?
Victim: Nothing. Someone saying something is not going to change the minds of the people. All people, especially the ‘educated ones’ need to realize that me and other women like me can be helped not by feeling sorry for us but by making us a part of society again. We are no different than you.
But in a country where untouchability was the law and where till date discrimination is considered higher than equality, maybe me and others like me are expecting too much.”
This interview left me with a lot to think about. I will leave my readers with the harsh but true words of the victim. It is upto us, and each and every one of us to realize that making them feel special, and extra cared for etc is not what they need. (In the words of my challenger), ” the society has to mature to make the victim feel comfortable….treat the victim normally just like anyone else…the victims should not feel like they are different…they have the right to live a normal life…”.
P.S. The Victim was lucky enough to have such a nice man as her husband who stood by and supported her through all this. Are we all ready to be such people as the husband? Or are we the ‘well wishers’ of the victim…. think about it.
P.P.S. A fellow blogger of mine (see here) is a survivor (or as I have wrongly called such ladies, a’victim’) of this wrong. It is heartening to see her fight back for her normal life. Do drop by and hear her out.