“I'd still thought that everything I thought about that night-the shame, the fear-would fade in time. But that hadn't happened. Instead, the things that I remembered, these little details, seemed to grow stronger, to the point where I could feel their weight in my chest. Nothing, however stuck with me more than the memory of stepping into that dark room and what I found there, and how the light then took that nightmare and made it real.”
― Sarah Dessen, Just Listen
― Sarah Dessen, Just Listen
Haunting memories…that is what the rape victims are left with. Memories which refuse to fade, wounds which refuse to heal and a broken heart which refuses to mend. Contrary to popular expectation, this post is not primarily about the causes of rape. It is that aspect of the crime which has been the focus of the media, courts and general public for years. What was the motive? Did she provoke him in any way? Whose fault was it? Just think…can a woman ever ask to be raped? If she asks for it, will it not just be consensual sex?
Different people have differing opinions there. To quote a male friend talking about rape:
“I think it is the most horrendous crime that can be committed. It is more brutal and torturous than murder. I don’t know how a girl feels when she is being raped, what happens to her belief in good things, trust, God, people, guys. Although there cannot be a legitimate reason for rape but the girl always needs to be careful.”
She needs to be careful while she is out clubbing with friends or decides to go to an isolated place with a man, known or unknown to her. True. I couldn’t agree more. Yet, when I ask my female friends for their views they talk of equal rights, responsibility of the police, rotten mindset…
This is a long-drawn debate. Both the sexes have strong and stubborn views. None will budge. But are the girls’ demands seriously unreasonable? Can we never have a city where girls can move about without fear of being violated? It is for you to decide.
The aspect which I really want to discuss here is the post-rape scenario i.e. the victim’s re-integration into the society.
It seems that the world unanimously condemns all the victims. The stigma and shame associated with rape seems universal. It breaks all barriers. World over, women refuse to speak up about it. They do not share their ordeal with others. They fear the society’s reaction. It is almost as if they have done the crime. Day and night they live in perpetual fear. Rare is the woman who speaks out. Rarer is the case where justice is administered. What makes it so difficult for the women to open up?
Secondary Victimization: In a country like India, they keep mum thinking “log kya kahenge?”(what will the people say?). Society puts such pressure on these women. If the rapist did it once, the system does it over and over again. Her humiliation starts right form the time she goes to file a complaint. The word spreads like wildfire. In some cases people look at her with pitiful eyes while in others she is looked upon as something dirty, something impure. Yes, I used ‘something’ consciously. After all, that is what a woman is treated as. Can we not understand that she needs neither our pity, nor those looks? She needs our support so that she can fight the long and hard battle to win back her honour. She needs a system which functions efficiently, which doesn’t require her to testify against her violator publically, which doesn’t make her relive the ordeal in courtrooms (i.e. if she makes it there).
But she gets no help. She breathes but doesn’t live her life. It loses its charm.
Fear: This is another major reason. Though related to the first, it is of a different nature. It is the fear of being harmed again if she opens her mouth. She has no doubts that if she can be victimized once, it can be repeated. She lives in a constant state of fear. She broods so much that the details become even clearer in her mind. Thus, amplifying her self-hate, shame and fear. How can such a woman ever embrace the society again?
Trust: She does not and cannot trust anyone, anymore. Even the friendliest of touch can make her paranoid. Suspicion takes such deep roots in her mind that her every act is dictated by it. Every waking moment shaped by it. She loses that ability to love and be loved because love needs trust. If she feels so un-loved and so unwelcome, how can she ever make herself trust us?
Confidence: can you even begin to imagine the havoc rape plays with a woman’s confidence? It shatters her inside. She begins to falter at every step. The slightest disturbance throws her off-balance. The confident woman who was raped just does not survive. If she does, it takes her months, years to come back. She is dead to the world…and a dead woman has neither the will nor the power to come back to this world.
PTSD: PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms of PTSD include recurrent memories or flashbacks of the trauma, nightmares, insomnia and/or lack of interest in family, friends or hobbies. They may suffer from depression. They may also suffer from survivor guilt, have overwhelming emotions, and be irritable or jumpy. The victim needs proper therapy to get on with her normal life. Her recovery depends on a variety of factors like family support, economic situation and prior history of abuse. My fellow Indians suffer from an acute lack of knowledge when it comes to these issues. How can they give her what she needs when they are clueless about it?
Medical problems: Forced sex leads to a number of problems like unwanted pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. They not only ruin her life but also serve as constant reminders of the event. Day in and day out she relives the rape. Such flashbacks often result in depression, low self-esteem and lost self-confidence. she might even attempt suicide (higher probability seen in adolescent victims).
How would you feel if your loved one was made to suffer in such a manner? Surely you will not abandon her…then why do we not look after the other victims? Why do we make their life a living hell? Why do we not understand the problems they face? Can we not stop adding on to their burden?
The reason I wrote such a lengthy post is that I want you to know that rape doesn’t end with the act. It stays with the victim forever. It marks her life, scars it for all her years. A part of her dies when she is violated- the part which taught her how to love and how to live.
As a society we need to support her emotionally, socially and economically. She doesn’t deserve to be looked down upon. She needs a warm embrace…