Let us take the lead: Don’t Blame the Victim
Intro: Law alone cannot safeguard the security of India’s women. At some point, society has to take greater responsibility for reforming itself. A society that attaches the ‘shame’ of rape on the victim herself, only manages to encourage perverted men to violate someone again.
Right from childhood, we are taught how to cross the road ‘safely’. Yet, almost daily pedestrians get hurt on the roads. The public sympathizes with the injured, regardless of whose fault it was, takes him/her for medical treatment, and then the family steps in to take care. It’s because the victim did not ask to be hit. It is basic human civility to give support to the wounded.
No one asks to be an accident victim. No one asks to be robbed. Similarly, no one asks to be raped.
Why is it, then, that rape victims have to suffer the ‘blame’ of being assaulted? Rape is an appalling crime and has a devastating effect on the victim. She is wounded in body, mind and spirit. But instead of supporting her with counseling and legal justice, the society puts her on trial. Her character and actions are questioned. If nothing else, the social stigma stays with her forever. Because, she is the one who is seen as ‘stained’!
Here’s how every man can be a hero:
The rapist may or may not be punished, but the woman is punished throughout her life. As with rape, so it is with victims of molestation and human trafficking.
How can we allow something so blatantly unfair to persist?
If a man gets mugged on the street at night, it is a crime. If a woman gets sexually assaulted, she is told she ‘asked for it’. Even the former chief minister of Delhi, a woman herself, went to the extent of saying women shouldn’t venture out in the darkness! Unfortunately, she failed to explain how working women can afford to be inside their houses before the sun sets.
Sexual assault can be prevented by staying alert to possible dangers. Yet, it does not mean that women are totally responsible for protecting themselves, failing which they have to be punished. No one can be blamed for their own violation. If even a month-old child can be raped, then we must understand that the crux of the problem is not women but the mentality of some men.
And, let us not forget that sexual assault happens to boys and men too. Statistics reveal that child sex abuse is at least 10 per cent more among boys than girls. The cases are just not reported. After an incident in Bangalore last year, a senior police officer was quoted as saying “boys aged 8 to 12 years are the most vulnerable to sexual abuse and parents should watch out”.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development undertook a study on child abuse in 2007, across 13 states. Of the 12,447 child respondents, 53.22 per cent reported facing one or more forms of sexual abuse. Of these, 52.94 per cent were boys and 47.06 per cent girls!
“Contrary to general perception, the overall percentage of boy victims was much higher that girls. Of the 13 states that were surveyed, nine states reported higher percentage of sexual abuse among boys compared to girls,” said the report, that surveyed children aged between 5 and 18 years.
Adult men are also victims of such sexual violence. Jails, for example, are notorious for such acts.
So, let us acknowledge it logically. Violating someone’s body is a heinous crime. The offender needs to be punished, and severely at that. And the victim needs to heal, with our support and justice.
We have to stop looking for excuses to blame the victim. Instead, let us punish the perverts who think they have the right to force themselves on others. Let us punish them so hard that no one dares do it again,
Come, let us change the warped mindset that castigates the injured party and encourages the violator. A progressive society gives equal rights and responsibilities to both sexes. Boys and men also need to be given a healthy dose of values. Let’s teach our boys and men that it is manlier to protect than to harass.
Abha Khanna Gupta (The writer is a senior Journalist and Social worker)