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I just want to sleep. A coma would be nice. Or amnesia. Anything, just to get rid of this, these thoughts, whispers in my mind. Did he rape my head, too?” 
― Laurie Halse AndersonSpeak

Aamir Khan’s much awaited season two of  Satyamev Jayate( Truth Alone Triumphs) was telecast last Sunday ( March 2nd , 2014).  The issue under discussion was  “Rape”. Testimonies over testimonies were shown of women who were subjected to this heinous crime . What surprised me was not the fact that the medico- legal and political systems were callously apathetic towards what these women had undergone, but the attitude of family members.

 It is one thing to be an outcast from  society but to be alienated  from one’s own family is the cruellest  blow one can receive.  Aren’t families supposed to be the primary social support for an individual?  They are the cushions , the safety net for one’s mental and psychological wellbeing.  What happens when the safety net is not there and when the cushion becomes the stone that is hurled at her by her own people at the most unsuspected of times! The entire being of a woman bleeds due to the betrayal of her trust and faith. The bleeding is such that it takes weeks, months and years to heal till the stone is hurled at her once again and the  healing process begins afresh.

 Rape is not merely about invading a woman’s body or her personhood.  It is not just a forceful entry of a penis into her vagina, it is so much more. Rape is all about control and aggression, the classic manifestations of the political economy of a man woman relationship in a patriarchal set up. A rape victim/survivor’s life is out for public consumption the moment rape is committed.  From her dress to her habits of frequenting places  considered as “inviting” rape ( discos, night clubs, etc.) are all questioned. She is blamed for as if she is an accomplice and not a victim.  Society cannot get past the incident and she becomes “ that woman who was raped” for the rest of her life.  

Under such circumstances when a woman is made to think that her” honour” is tied to her minor and major labia and that she is a walking corpse, the only people  she can turn to is her family. When she does not get the support from the very people she holds the dearest, it becomes a very painful process to pick up the broken pieces of her identity and move on.

Rape is the most heinous crime but  there are varied manifestations.  Sexual assault, molestation and sexual harassment are all forms of the regressive mentality that treat woman as sexual objects on which men can lay their claim any time they feel like. An incident anywhere from this spectrum   has an indelible adverse impact on a woman’s psyche.

I had always thought that I am surrounded by women whose families are loving, trusting and moreover do not subscribe to the age old belief where a woman is blamed for what is not her doing. I was happy with this though, till I met Raksha,

Raksha and I had met on Facebook a few years back and became internet friends. We haven’t met more than twice over the last six years because of living in two different cities  ( I live and work in Delhi and she in Ahmadabad in Gujarat). Raksha is a 42 year old well educated,  independent woman, both financially and very much in her thinking as well. She stays with her family after her divorce a decade back. I got a call from Raksha a few days back. She was in Delhi and wanted to meet me. We met after work on Monday and the discussion veered  towards Satyamev Jayate’s first episode. As we progressed with the discussion, the confident and strong Raksha that I knew became an emotionally vulnerable person. There were tears in her eyes which I attribute to her passion  and belief in women’s rights. I was only partially right. In an attempt to show solidarity I had put my hand over hers. It was as if something was  waiting inside her to be free.  The tears started flowing more freely and the speech a little incoherent due to her sobs. 

In the year 2004, Raksha was alone in her house for a few days as her parents were away in another city for a family function. She could not accompany them due to work commitments. The only other  person in the house was the 17 year old domestic helper. On one such night, the domestic help in his inebriated state tried to sexually molest her while she was sleeping after a hard day’s work. Raksha screamed and forcefully attacked the domestic help. The drunk 17 yearr old was no match for  the strength Raksha exhibited. He was dismissed from his services and she later heard that he was mercilessly beaten up by his father on several occasions. However no police complaint was made even when she suggested it once to her parents. “ He has been dismissed and beaten up, that is enough” said her mother.

Years went by and Raksha moved on and the incident was  forgotten, It was never discussed again as if it did not happen. She saw the former domestic help on a few occasions at her grandparents place ( He had started working there. Naturally her grandparents were kept in the dark about the incident).  She would fill with rage and extreme loathing at his mere sight but was strong enough not to let him affect her.

 The family continued to be the way they were, Loving and  supporting Raksha in  all her endeavours  Everyone was enveloped in a cocoon of happiness. But it is the nature of a cocoon to break open and so did this one.  Raksha and her parents were watching a television programme  that highlighted the 1 billion rising camping ( Campaign for “Violence against Women” ).  All that Raksha said in the middle of the programme was “ You should have let me complain” .  Her father who was till then engrossed in watching the programme and thought himself to be a great believer of women’s empowerment, looked at her and said in a very loud voice “ Why should we have complained, it was you who should have”. “ I was dissuaded by mother”, said Rakha. The great believer of  women’s empowerment then accused  her of being in a habit of levelling false allegations on people. All Raksha could say was “ Thank you dad”. 

Things have become normal again; Raksha’sparents have become loving and supportive. Raskha moves around with a mask on her face. A mask of a happy woman who loves her life but  something inside her had snapped. She no longer idolizes her father like she used to. The mask slips off gradually as  she enters  the confines of her room. The pillow is soaked with her tears every night.  She dies a little every time she looks at her father, the man who is her own flesh and blood.  She knows she would be happy again and would be able to put  the incident behind her. But right now, happiness eludes her. 


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