The aftermath…

Sexual assault destroys lives, both directly as well as indirectly. Sexual harassment as a crime can show its ugly head anywhere. It’s a crime which spans age, religion and even cultural backgrounds. A report published earlier this year shed light on the horrifying fact that nearly 80% ( i.e. 4 in every 5 women) have faced harassment of some form or the other in the public.

Sexual assault is one of those heinous crimes that are seen and experienced everyday and yet crimes as heinous as these manage to escape our eyes quite easily. It is perhaps because of the fact that a vast majority of victims believe that reporting sexual abuse would bring a bad name to the family. The trauma of isolation and the consequent decline in the degree of self-esteem the victim experiences also makes the entire process of reporting sexual abuse quite difficult.

Let us take fictitious example: Suppose in a country if 100 cases of rape and sexual assault occur. Only 30 out of those 100 would possibly be reported. Out of those 30, only five or seven out of those 30 would possibly lead to an arrest and out of those seven only 2 of the culprits would possibly be convicted.

Let us take a look at why do a majority of rape cases go unnoticed? It is the intense pain and the aftermath of the trauma which leads victims to refrain themselves from reporting sexual abuse. There are numerous after-affects of facing sexual assault. Stress, eating disorder, self-injury, declining confidence etc etc. These may continue years and years after the incident has occurred. Quite often, it has been observed that survivors feel the pressure to ‘come out’ of the ordeal.

The society needs to shift its perception of sexual assault survivors. The trauma is not only within the experience, but also within the entire length and breadth of the stigma and isolation a survivor goes through. So, instead of looking at behaviours that might come out as ‘pathological’ or rather demoralizing, we must encourage and appreciate the coping mechanisms the survivors have managed to scrape together.

Furthermore, victim blaming is still a harsh reality our society refuses to accept.Victim blaming still exists because it’s easier if rape were actually the victim’s fault. The bystanders and people in the vicinity would remain ‘innocent’ bystanders, rid themselves of the feeling of guilt and sorrow. Blaming the victim also ends up impacting our willingness to help.

A part of effectively addressing the problem is to ‘accept’ the victims as a part of our society. Acceptance holds the key here. Tell the victims they aren’t alone in this fight. Remaining silent and not supporting the victims is, as they say, a conspiracy of silence.

A survivor of sexual violence and assault experiences an array of strange feelings, right from anxiety to depression to shame. According to statistics, every 15 minutes, a woman is raped in India. The fact that, in some cases, victims are forced to drop the charges against the rapist  and in turn marry him also throws light on the sorry state of affairs when it comes to reporting the cases related to rape and assault. And above all, the low status of women in our society also adds up quite significantly to the entire problem. Daughters are considered a burden because of the need to pay a marriage dowry. Throughout their upbringing, sons are believed to be fed better than their sisters, are more likely to be sent to schools and have brighter career prospects.

To conclude, it’s really shocking to see women facing such problems that too, in a country where mothers form the heart of a family.

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