Sexual assault of any kind is never easy to deal with or come to terms with. This is something that almost every woman, in every corner of the world, has faced and has been traumatised with. In most of the cases recorded, the perpetrators are not random unknown people.
In fact, in more than 90% of the reported cases, the perpetrator was somebody known to the survivor/victim. What makes the cases of sexual abuse more threatening is the fact that one can be assaulted by somebody they know very well and trust. There is no escape from the grip of a scheming offender, who preys on people from closer quarters.
Moreover, there is the question of protest and the demand for justice. Many a time, the survivors of assault are faced with the dilemma of ‘rightful reporting’ of such crimes and protecting their own lives. Some of the most common statements that the survivors of sexual assault encounter are:
- “Why did you not protest?”
- “Why are you coming up with that incident after all these years?”
- “Because women do not speak up, these things happen.”
- “If you do not lodge a police complaint, what is the use of whining about it?”
- “If you do not speak up at the right time, how will people believe you?”
One of the most common characteristics of the perpetrators is to silence their survivor/victim, through any means possible. This is also one of the numerous reasons due to which the death penalty is not an acceptable solution.
Over the recent years, India witnessed a rise in the number of cases being reported. However, this occurrence has also led to an increase in the number of survivors being mercilessly attacked. Over the past decade, some of the most gruesome incidents that garnered national as well as international attention are the New Delhi gang rape (popularly known as the Nirbhaya case), Unnao gang rape, Kathua gang rape, Park Street gang rape, Shakti Mills gang rape, Kamduni gang rape, and Madhyamgram gang rape, among many others.
The state is not entitled to take a life, but it is entitled to serve its people through the judiciary.
In most of these incidents, it was seen that on account of being booked under the law, the perpetrators made active and frequent attempts to attack and silence the survivors or the victims’ supporters and defenders. The recent Unnao and Kathua gang rape cases, which were widely covered by the media, brought to our notice the intensity of such incidents and how speaking up or demanding justice can result in a further threat to innocent lives. In Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, a girl was raped by the son of a member of the state’s legislative assembly.
The survivor’s father was also attacked, as he chose to stand by his daughter. The survivor’s family was constantly subjected to numerous threats. Furthermore, as a shocking blow to the survivor, the perpetrator silenced several members of her family, for having registered formal police complaints and for having demanded justice. This is the price that the victims or survivors have to pay, for demanding justice!
In Kathua, in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, an eight-year-old girl was gang-raped inside a temple, which, ironically, is a place for worship and goodwill. The lawyer who filed a court plea received numerous death threats from the perpetrators and political organisations. The victim’s father was also harassed by the influential members of the society, in order to persuade him to call off his demand for justice.
In 2013, a girl was gang-raped and tortured in Madhyamgram, West Bengal. The reports and evidence revealed that she was raped twice within a span of just two days. After being abducted and subjected to sexual assault, the girl lodged a police complaint. While returning from the police station, she was abducted and sexually assaulted again, before being set ablaze. This incident clearly portrays the threats to one’s life, if they speak up against the abusers.
In the majority of cases, the perpetrators are known to the survivor/victims, most often within the family.
Over the years, such incidents have resulted in a sense of fear among us. Survivors of assault constantly fear for their lives, as the perpetrators can go to any extent in order to conceal their felony. However, the strangest thing about human nature is that the fear of the law and judiciary never stops criminals from performing heinous acts. This is one of the major reasons due to which most countries across the world have deemed capital punishment as illegal. The state is not entitled to take a life, but it is entitled to serve its people through the judiciary.
Several reports and studies have also claimed that capital punishment can, in fact, increase crime rates. This element of the law is vital to understand sexual assault. Since in the majority of cases, the perpetrators are known to the survivor/victims, most often within the family, the former tries to escape the tentacles of the law by stifling the voice of the latter. This mostly results in more than one crime. Apart from that, it becomes more difficult for the survivors to speak up, especially children who are assaulted, because they fear that they might be responsible for family conflict.
Due to several factors, like victim-blaming, not believing the survivors, improper law enforcement, and wrongful utilisation of the law – the survivors of sexual assault are constantly degraded by the larger society. While power and organised politics play major roles in threatening the survivors to submit to the existing order, the society is also at fault because of its constant patriarchal reinforcements. Moreover, the state needs to ensure the protection of its citizens, so that people who demand justice do not lose hope and do not fear to speak out.
The real onus lies on us, to change the ways in which we think about women and girls, and to make sure that justice is served to everybody.
Featured image used for representative purpose only. Image source: Sky News