10 THINGS WE MUST STOP SAYING TO RAPE SURVIVORS
Recently, Suzette Jordan, a survivor of rape was denied entry to the restaurant 'Ginger'. She was told by the manager that they cannot allow her because she is a "rape victim".
Often, a rape survivor is subject to humiliation, shame and ostracisation in our society. Post the Nirbhaya incident in 2012, many brave survivors like Suzette have come out in the open to fight for a long-drawn justice.
While many of us condemn rape, often we make statements that prove we are conditioned by a deep-rooted rape culture that is evident all around us. Go through the list to ensure we are not a part of the problem – the mindset that is causing rape and other forms of violence against women in India. Let's make sure we are instead, a part of the solution to end rape and abuse.
"It's your fault…"
"You shouldn't wear such clothes. You shouldn't have been out at that time. You shouldn't have been out alone. You should have been more careful. You shouldn't have provoked him. You asked for it."
The last thing to do is to place the blame on the survivor. Only a patriarchal and insensitive culture points fingers at women, shaming her for inviting the abuse. Women know the preventive measures and are on their watch instinctively at all times, yet women get raped. Why don’t we ask the rapist what gives him the right to make such excuses? Why do we back him instead of standing by the survivor?
The fault is 100% of the rapist, and not of the survivor. She didn't choose to be raped. He chose to rape.
"Are you making this up?"
No survivor of rape in her right mind, is going to fake an assault on her, and fake the humiliation and trauma that comes with rape. It is only our misogyny because of which we do not trust survivors. Let’s instead believe in the survivors and stand by them.
"Stop complaining if you enjoyed it…"
Such kind of perversion is nothing short of cheap. You have to put a woman in your family - your daughter, mother, or sister in the shoes of a rape survivor and ask her if she will enjoy a forced sexual assault on her. Our society has a narrow view on rape and sex because they do not recognize the meaning or the value of the word ‘consent’. A ‘no’ is a strict NO. Rape needs to be condemned and it needs to stop now.
"Are you sure you said no to him?"
A woman knows when she's been raped. Asking her for confirmation is asking her to prove that she's not lying. A woman who has survived rape is already going through an emotional turmoil. Most rape survivors suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSDs) and it takes a long time for them to recover. We need to believe them so we can support and heal them, instead of doubting them and defending the rapist.
"If we had a boy, this wouldn't have happened…"
According to a recent Government study in 2007, about 52% boys and 47% girls were raped. This means more boys were raped than girls. Boys are often raped by men. Rape isn't always about sex, but about power.
Besides, this claim perpetuates the stigma of a girl being a "burden" on the family. It's time we let go of regressive attitudes that say girls are unwanted. This kind of attitude is responsible for female foeticide and infanticide. Girls are and should be pride of the family. We have to learn to respect her, no matter what.
"Tumne hamari izzat mitti mein mila di! (You have ruined our family name!)…"
Our patriarchal society places a woman's virginity on the pedestal. Her "value" is determined by her virginity. Such value is not placed on a man's virginity. Blaming her for losing her virginity to rape is sadly very common in India. A marriage should happen based on love, mutual respect and understanding of two people, and not based on a woman's virginity. A family's "name" shouldn't be shamed based on the crime committed on a woman. Brave rape survivors like Suzette Jordan and Harish Iyer have openly spoken of sexual abuse, with their families standing by their side.
"How come you didn't tell me then?"
Harish Iyer, noted LGBT activist and survivor of child sexual abuse himself says, "Rape leaves a lot of blind spots in memory. It could be traumatic to remember everything at one go, so as a defence mechanism the mind shuts some parts and on trigger, makes you aware of certain parts of abuse. It is rare that a survivor will remember everything that happened at once, and be comfortable in sharing it with others. Healing is a cathartic process, that begins with becoming aware of what's happening."
"We have given you too much freedom…"
Right. Because caging a woman will prevent her from rape. Did it ever occur to anyone that perhaps we have given too much freedom to rapists?
"Don't think about it too much…"
Rape survivors often go through acute trauma, and start reliving the incidents. They consciously want to move on and not be trapped in this situation. We have to be empathetic and give them time. With support, understanding, trust they can move on and emerge stronger than before. We have to give them space instead of letting them bottle up emotions.
"But you look fine…"
Just because she doesn't look unkempt or physically hurt doesn't mean she isn't hurting inside. By telling her that, we're implying that we do not believe her. We have to have empathy and respect for survivors of rape, and give them the courage they need to move past this horrifying violation on them and their bodies.
"You don't have the right to live a normal life anymore…"
Survivors of rape and other forms of violence are not untouchables. They have the right to a "normal life" even more so than others. Many rape survivors in India are shamed to the point where they commit suicide. With proper counselling, support and understanding, survivors of rape can move on and be liberated of their scars, to live life just like everyone else does.
"Don't talk to anyone about it…"
By saying that, we're telling them they will be ostracized and shunned from society if they open up. Choosing to come out in the open is their choice alone, and it's not for others to decide that. Many brave survivors of not only rape, but domestic abuse, acid attacks and other stories of violence have come out in the open and have encouraged thousands in India by proving that they are not alone. Instead of hiding their faces, they bravely tell the world that they have been a victim of violence and have survived despite it, and are not ashamed to tell the world about it.
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