<link rel="stylesheet" href="//fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Open+Sans%3A400italic%2C700italic%2C400%2C700">Effects and aftermath of rape Archives « Aam JanataSkip to content

"Why don't you get a job?" she asked.

"Well my child is severely disabled and needs care." I replied.

A simple reply changed the direction of the conversation. "You really shouldn't call him disabled. He is special needs." She informed me, as though it was possible for the mother of a five year old disabled child to never have heard the cosmetic term "special needs". I've heard them all, I think - special needs, differently abled, physically challenged, learning delayed, developmentally delayed.... there is an endless list as feel-gooders go on an orgy of finding names that won't hurt.

A post about "chinkies" - street term used for people with slanted eyes right from the Chinese and Japanese to Manipuris and Ladakhis - caused outrage. It may have spoken about hate attacks against them and apathy in the eyes of India, but hey, I should have used a better term.

The last straw (well one of them) was when the Delhi Gang Rape victim who died of her injuries was called a rape survivor - hello! She DIED!!! How does that make her a survivor? Well she reached hospital, so survived her rape, I guess. Perhaps we shouldn't prosecute the rapists for murder along with the rape.

I have a problem with sterile descriptors - particularly ones that are inaccurate. A rape victim is NOT a survivor. "Survivor" implies that every rape is as good as death - which is the plain fucking patriarchal view, only recycled by feminists (yeah, our feminists often end up convenient to women owners). The other problem with survivor being used as a default description is of course the sad reality that sometimes they don't survive. They die of injuries or commit suicide or get murdered for silencing or honor. The third problem of course is the sheer inaccuracy of it. Even if we were to understand "survival" as recovery from trauma (as opposed to risk of death), many victims remain traumatized and brutalized by their experiences and don't begin recovery as urgently as mass media would prefer.

Similarly, calling disabled people who travel in compartments for handicapped people "special needs" is a cosmetic makeover that makes no difference to the reality. The same people suffering the same disadvantages travel in the same compartment. And if you tell me there exists a single child in the world whose needs are not special, perhaps you need to respect children more.

There are several things these cosmetic makeovers achieve. The first and biggest is that they give us the power to play God. Here is a problem, you rename it and the problem is gone. Its new name is not a problem.

The other thing is our own lazy insensitivity. If there is no problem, we don't need to go out of our way to do anything for them, right? If she's a survivor, triumphant and all, it doesn't remind us that she may be fragile and need a lot more assistance than is apparent.

But, the hiding of devastating disadvantages can put help out of reach for those affected. Getting out of your seat for a cripple, handicapped, lame, blind person would be manners. For someone with special needs? Nah, sit.  Just attention seeking. They need more than normal. But you are tired too.

I'd rather my child be known as a disabled child than people to think that he just has some special requirements - which someone (the state? - standard fallback) must be providing. Nothing to worry ourselves about in special needs. Besides, what do we know about providing special care?

It is a dehumanized, impersonal way that serves those without disadvantages by removing the obligation to assist the needy that is hardwired into any responsible mind. It is an attempt to sweep ugliness out of sight, even if that whitewash means more difficulties in receiving aid, because the need is rendered invisible.

We pretend that being unable to sit, stand, talk, walk - difficult challenges to overcome - aren't the problem, but the problem is the label - which can be changed easily - that keeps the problems visible and hurting sensibilities.

Those who prefer such euphemisms claim that the dehumanized euphemisms empower the disadvantaged. "A rape victim keeps getting reminded of her trauma" are the actual words by an activist I raised this issue with. Well, a rape survivor also keeps getting reminded of her trauma. The issue isn't with the word victim, but the rape itself - which will take as much time and healing as it does before it stops hurting. If we see the hurt, we can offer solidarity, compassion, our hurt in empathy.

The problem is not with words. Words are mere descriptors. A cripple or a victim or something else. That is the reality of what they go through. The hurt is in the suffering. In discrimination, in lack of respect. Until we learn to love and respect people and be compassionate, we will keep changing labels as older ones become symbolic of our insensitivity and we need newer, kinder ones that further pretend nothing is wrong.

Maybe if we tell ourselves enough, we can just label away all the problems in the world.

Here's George Carlin on a similar subject.

1

News Laundry published an aggressive, confrontational letter to the woman allegedly assaulted by Tarun Tejpal. Pandemonium ensued. Having written extensively about the other side of media reporting on the Tejpal case, I want to put my views on record, mostly to prevent defending them over and over in 140 letter tweets.

Is it right to question a rape victim?

In this case, yes, I think. If the victim has chosen the court of public opinion, then the court of public opinion must question her to form an informed opinion. I think it is morally wrong and a misuse of protections provided to rape victims if the anonymity required for a rape victim, and a default of believing her word (which, to the best of my knowledge is a requirement from the judge, not the common man) is misused by a person to provide one sided accusations against a named person who cannot respond to them. Particularly when she did not file a case at all and simply did an anonymous attack. Of course if there are questions about her narrative, they must be asked before the slander is allowed to proceed. Not even a court of law, which in theory believes the victim, would issue a sentence without clearing doubts raised.

Is it right to accuse the victim?

No. Not unless the accuser can prove they know what really happened and that it was a false accusation. Raising doubt is one thing, but to proclaim that the victim is somehow pretending or deliberately slandering Tarun Tejpal is about as substantiated or ethical as the media accusations war against Tarun Tejpal - in other words, not.

Raising doubts is one matter, but because doubts raised have no answer in the public domain is not good enough reasons to issue conclusions unilaterally.

Why did you not.....?

Blame or guilt for doing or responding in a certain way or not is a very judgmental way of engaging with an issue as sensitive as this. People are different. There is no telling who will do what and why or what other factors weighed on their mind. There are many kinds of rape that leave the victim confused whether they were violated or not, till they can process their experience and find the clarity and courage to identify what their wish was and whether it was respected in the moment. So entering a lift second time with rapist can have all kinds of reasons ranging from "consensual" to factors influencing the victim's mind in that moment beyond those described n the email days later.

Transferrence of blame

The writer  of the letter appears to hold the victim responsible for the actions of a hell of a lot of people. And we are including heads of media organizations, journalists, social media influencers and more whom she probably never even heard of.

Anyone can release a story to media. Many have enough connections to have the story spread among journalists. A woman who feels wronged may adopt any means she feels may get her revenge. For the record, I totally support women who go after those who abuse them and nail them by all means at their disposal. If I cheered rape victims bobbitizing their rapists, this one is a no-brainer. If victim had the reach to destroy her rapist, her trying is totally legit in my eyes.

But should it have succeeded? The part of me that cheers for a woman going at her abuser says "at least some". But the complete abdication of responsibility toward neutral reporting by media? That going away makes this issue far more serious than an individual crime. Media is the eyes and ears of the nation, and this was organized schizophrenia.

The bottom line is that media and jornalists had formal jobs to do, which included verifying, having a neutral perspective, and so on, which for reasons unexplained, media chose to completely abandon and take her every word and magnify it and project it to the whole country as a fact so grave, any questions raised about it were an assault on womankind. It was unprofessional. It was irresponsible, and it was something the victim could not bring about unless all these people were sending her their monthly salary and so on.

In conclusion

Individuals will do what they will. Be it right or wrong. Main thing is for our processes to be robust enough to allow each person access to justice. Victim and accused included. Read again. Access to justice. Not "total sanction to do whatever you want", as knee jerk media IQ is likely to take it.

I do understand the anger driving that letter. I feel that too. Though I blame the media and not the victim. I feel angry that in a country where horrendous crimes against women require the creation of such unequal protections, they are so frivolously exploited by those with the power to spin pretty words and spout theories, but feminism never said that women are always right and men are always wrong and women never lie and to question a woman means misogyny. To me feminism is about fairness. In this case, it was trampled by the side running a slander campaign in the name of justice. I am angry because I care about women's rights and the conditions they face, not just whatever the hot rape of the moment is.

I also understand that every human on the planet suffers violation at some point or the other. Be it physical, sexual, financial, political, whatever. When we speak of rights movements, we are talking about injustices unfairly stacked against the victims creating an all pervading handicap, not choosing our favorite victims and going guns blazing at every single wrong against them. It is about inequalities, not individuals. Or at least that is how I understand it.

It is also high time that people with ethics in media professions started balancing out rogue "human rights" exploitation campaigns of hot subjects or agendas that do more harm to human rights movements than good.

1

As the dialogue on gender inequality gets more strident and less nuanced, there are many holy cows and dirty pigs, where communication happens as though through a word parsing software. What is abuse and what isn't abused gets declared by the presence or absence of certain words and whether they are on the green list or red list.

This, in my view is a very primitive and undifferentiated judgment and any issues related with vulnerable people become tombs of conversation where cracking a joke is like Sushma Swaraj dancing at Raj Ghat. Insulting because it breaks a certain code, rather than offends.

So, for example you can speak of politicians raping India's forests. and compare it with the injustice of a rape, but god forbid if you crack a joke that humiliates a rape. The non-nuanced measures bring us to a point where feminists object to rape being ridiculed - not rape victim, note.

A good example is what a few people brought up on Twitter today as an example of trivializing rape. The "samudahik balatkaar" scene in 3 idiots, where a college prank sees some words change in a speech learned by rote and leads to hilarious insults. Some of them implying that the college students instead of going out in the world and performing miracles (chamatkar) will be famous for rapes (balaatkaar). The joke is on traditional methods of learning that stress memorization over meaning and sees a "bright" student insulting his college principal (and doting mentor) by unknowingly saying his students will make his college famous for rape instead of miracles. Rape is clearly used as a metaphor for inferior action. Is this offensive? Why? Rape should not have been spoken of with such rudeness? Rape deserves better respect? Not really. It just triggered the alarm in the word parser. If the word rape occurred followed by people laughing, it is somehow demeaning to women.

The film goes on to a scene where the protagonists are laughing at the stupidity of the supposed students and use the term "samudahik balaatkar" - communal rape (oh dear, another trigger word for the outrage ready, this "communal"). But the sentence is talking of that boy devastated by the humiliation of the whole community in splits with his offensive memorized speech he didn't know the meaning of. It expresses the character's trauma, but while it depicts a juvenile college mentality, it speaks of a "threat" passed - the person is not actually at risk of a community rape.

This goes for a lot of uses of the word "rape" like the insulting invented term "Great Indian Rape Trick" that was used by many on Twitter in the aftermath of the Delhi Gang Rape to express frustration with the unchanging scenario on preventing rape, regardless of outrage - almost like it is our identifier. Another one is "don't rape my mind" - which is again used in the metaphorical sense of violation - like for the forests.

In each of the "jokes", there is no rape victim whose trauma gets ridiculed. The metaphorical uses express the exploitation and harm implied by rape. It is the act of rape that is being spoken of with disrespect. In my view, this is great. There is nothing like ridicule to advertize disapproval and given the abundance of rape apologists in the country, I do think jokes that manage to humiliate rape and rapists are important. I also think the more the word rape gets used to describe harm and exploitation - whether someone's minds or forests - the more the colloquial use of the word "rape" as "cool" will die out, because of the larger meaning attached to it being completely uncool. I'd take a "dimaag rape mat kar yaar" any day over a "She's such a snob, I totally want to rape her." because the second uses the word "rape" as a justified and "cool" action, while the first uses it to express violation, even if exaggerated.

But how to know which usage does not humiliate the victims of rape, and which does?

For this, we need to think about laughter. What does your body feel when you laugh? Why is laughter a stress buster? Laughter is a sudden release of tension. Something that would be a threat if it really happened, however mild or ridiculous or improbable, that gets defeated or otherwise escaped. Laughter is also an expression of victory or surviving that threat. Which is why laughing at people offends, because it expresses their defeat at your hands. It puts the laugher above the laughee, so to say. It is also why laughing at self is seen as the mark of a self-secure and sporting person. These are subtle perceptions, which you can verify with a lot of observation of self and others, or I can write a separate post - it is a huge subject - for now, leaving it at this.

This works brilliantly against real threats and powerful targets that won't come to any real harm from the laughs. As an article I once read spoke of it, humor is like a sword. The pointy end must go in the bad guy. Killing the good guys or those who were wronged or those deserving sympathy will not be funny.

So, jokes about Kejriwal spending a night on the street will be funny, but not jokes about the homeless on the street, because for them, the "threat" is too real to laugh about. Jokes about an irritating person raping people's ears will be funny, because it is physically not possible, but an irritating person raping an actual woman will not. For the laugh to happen, the threat must END at the punch line.

This is how the rape of forets by politicians and corporations can be an outrage, but never a joke, because there is no punch line after which the rape ends. This is also why Palash Sen's humor about the lack of beautiful women in IIT made so many angry, because the stereotyping of women as eye candy for men is not something that ended with the humor.

This thinking takes nuance. A sensitivity that refuses to laugh at the plight of someone, but is fine laughing at a target that can take it. It is not about what words are used. It is about who the pointy end of that humor sword skewers. This is why there are so many people thrilled when news of rape victims bobbitizing their rapists happen. I'd heard one that went something like (I forget the exact words) "He went to put his dick in her. He couldn't put it in her, but she kept it with her - without him." As a joke goes, it wasn't a Taj Mahal of humor, but it wasn't offensive, because the underdog triumphed.

Here is a Sardarji joke I love:

Every few months, a sardarji used to cross over from India to Pakistan on a motorcycle with rocks loaded on it. The guys checking for smuggled goods and such were very suspicious about him. He just lit their buttons honed from years of experience, but no matter how much they inspected his luggage, they never found anything. One day, the sardarji was traveling back from Pakistan to India by bus, and he went to meet them saying this was his last trip, and to say "bye". They were straight with him. "We know you were smuggling something, but we never could find it. Can you tell us at least, what you were smuggling? We promise not to prosecute you." The Sardarji answered "motorcycles".

This joke is a counter-joke, where the sardarji - typically the butt of jokes portraying him as stupid triumphs. For those who respect sardarjis and are angry over their humiliation as stupid, this joke will get the laugh.

And so on.

There is a need to see that abuse or ridicule doesn't reside in the words, but in the intent. An inarticulate victim may be reduced to horrendous abuse in the face of overwhelming frustration, but is not necessarily the "abuser". Similarly, it is possible to be devastatingly humiliating without using a single bad word.

There is a need for us to refine our public outrages so that they target the wrong, rather than simply censor some words out of our vocabularies for some kinds of use.

It was alarming to hear the calls for hanging the rapists in the Delhi Gang Rape, even as it was heartening to hear violence against women take center stage for once. A year later, the alarm remains, while the hope is increasingly jaded.

There is a strange kind of feminism in the air. One that picks specific victims to hurtle into a media spotlight and hunts down those they accuse recklessly and with scant respect for women's rights as a whole. Glaring inconsistencies in our response, in my view do more harm than good. The practice of isolating women for justice is anti-feminist in my view, even if the leading culprits in India happen to be feminists.

The need is for rights to improve for all women, not just one or few we find grabbing our attention. Nor is the problem with women's rights merely sexual. I dare say that in India, domestic violence and economic exploitation are among the key areas of enslavement of women. This narrow vision and hyperbole laden public discourse is doing more harm than good by cherry picking cases with already easy access to media or enough dramatic value, while ignoring the more dreary and difficult to defeat realities.

It hardy takes a brain to say that a gang rape is evil. It does not take too much intelligence to whip up a "campaign" by forcing people to answer a question of which there really is only one answer other than claiming complete inhumanity. And the anger takes on a life of its own.

My vocal objections to media's role in the Tehelka Rape Case was born of alarm that elite feminism (and I'm using the term really loosely) seems to bypass courts of law altogether. While many criticized me for their imagined belief that I was defending Tarun Tejpal, my posts can be refered to even now. My problem was with media abandoning even a pretense of neutrality. Before the Tejpal case got heard by courts, we had Tarun Tejpal and Shoma Chaudhary - among those targeted - resigned. We had the victim, her witnesses and several other journalists resigning in protest. We had about 34 staff members fired. And the case had not even been heard in a court of law, let alone judged.

The question no longer remains one of "do you think taking advantage of a girl is right?", it becomes one of "What is a suitable punishment for what degree of crime, and who determines this after determining if the crime happened?".

The case of Khursheed Anwar highlights this question even more. Accused of drugging and brutally raping and sodomizing a woman activist he invited to stay overnight, he became another overnight social media villain. Unable to bear the humiliation (presumably) he committed suicide before his reputation could even grow into full blown villain potential.

As though his suicide somehow was proof of his innocence (or perhaps the scale of social media justice meter showed "overcompensation" forcing the return of some humiliation or something), several people immediately proceeded to accuse Madhu Kishwar of provoking his suicide (she had videotaped the testimony of the rape victim - with disclosure and consent - but not released it). Some outraged people went as far to accuse her of trying to provoke the suicides of two other women whose names had been withheld by revealing their identities, while a few articles went ahead to make allegations forcing her to issue a clarification that while she was approached for help and she recorded the victim's narrative, she did nothing with it, including taking further action or discussing with colleagues, and she named more people who circulated the footage (a copy was provided to victim).

In other news, Nitish Rane has been desperately trying to utilize this high potential formula by taunting Nikhil Wagle with allegations of his misconduct with another woman, an ex-employee at IBN Lokmat. Nikhil Wagle (and the rest of the world) have ignored these allegations - for now. I suspect the lack of media interest may also be related with the main ingredient of these TRP festivals missing - a helpless woman supported by more women talking about the helplessness of this woman or women at large and so on. Perhaps he will get it right. Perhaps we will find someone else to lynch.

The main thing here is that in all these three incidents, the victim herself has not filed a police complaint, and the method of seeking justice appears to be disclosure of ordeal in social media, making it viral, counting on insecure authorities to blink first in the face of all the noise and take notice, while the publicity machine delivers its own brutal "tabadtob insaaf". At best, it is forcing the government to take sides in a case that will be tried in a court of law through sheer media manipulation, thus rendering the person to lose the media war completely delegitimized with the government itself opposing them.

This is worrisome. Not just because of the possibility that guilt or innocence cannot be decided by who can raise the loudest mob, but also because of its impact on the rights of women outside the spotlight.

More importantly it is worrisome because the courts seem to have been bypassed almost entirely as a method of justice and have been converted into a kind of additional, official punishment, that could result in another bonus punishment in jail. The primary punishment happens in destroyed careers the minute you convince media that justice must be in your favor.

And this, as we see is a game of perceptions. For example, our diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who spoke up for women's rights, but went through considerable effort to pay her babysitter a fraction of the legal minimum wage that she undertook in writing to pay. Media currently sees her as the victim, and the maid who got paid at best a third of a due, and possibly even less than that, if her working hours were more is actually seen as the person harming this innocent diplomat who has won the perception war.

If social media manipulations to influence opinions for political reasons are big business now, I guarantee that within a year or two, high profile lawyers will be engaging social media teams to get their cases tried outside courts.

10

Yesterday, Zee TV interviewed the victim of the assault, in which his friend was gang raped. The interview itself contained nothing new, except putting a face to the tragedy. The information was already public apart from the personal expression from the victim's mouth itself.

Many imagine that the wrong was disclosing the identity of the victim. This wasn't done, actually. Nor were the details of the rape talked about. What the victim of the assault (friend of the victim of the gang rape and assault) described was everything else. He spoke of how they got on the bus, how the altercation happened, how he got hit, described his injuries, skipped the rape, described how they were dumped on the road, abandoned without help by the citizens and police who arrived late spent time arguing about jurisdiction and the hospital not attending promptly or even giving him something to cover himself. All this is public news, but as the story is now devoid of new masala, the emotion arousing face of a man who actually saw it first hand is a fresh breath of TRPs, to put it very cynically.

It is not about revealing victim identities per se. Many times victims have given media interviews with faces blurred, their family members have spoken to media.

I dislike this practice of milking a story by repeating information in various ways, through what is best described as putting human suffering on exhibition for voyeurs. However, that too is a media reality. My problem is the whole interview itself.

The chargesheet had been filed when the interview happened. The fast track case has its first hearing today. Police have asked for death sentence for the rapists based on the death of the victim. This is what most people want, however India does not have the death sentence for rape yet. It is her death being attributed to the assault that has enabled the police to ask for it within the parameters of the law of the land. The system indeed will face a huge backlash if the rapists don't get a death sentence.

At the same time, it will be a perversion of our legal system itself to judge a crime by inventing a law that did not exist when it was committed. That is not how the legal system is supposed to work. It sets up a dangerous precedent for the possibility of hyping up a crime enough to rig the punishment criminals get. The police are trying to frame charges as per existing laws, and the charge of murder hinges on the death of the gang rape victim being due to the assault and gang rape.

On the day before the trial begins, you have Zee TV putting what they call the "only witness" on air, talking about everything except the brutality of the rape (thankfully). Instead, he describes the plight of the victim on the road, not helped by citizens. The time wasted by police, the lack of any help offered by them, the callousness of the hospital (the biggest problem the victim fought was infection). He speaks of how the victim should have been taken to a better hospital like Apollo or Fortis instead of one like Safdarjung where facilities may not be adequate (remember, police admit casualties daily - who pays?). In other words, he detailed the role of everyone except the rapists in her death in a most convincing and emotion evoking manner. It clearly blames a lot of people for what the victim (and he) went through - except the rapists - who were outside the scope of the interview.

The trial begins today, where the court is asked to hang rapists for murder. What exactly is Zee TV trying to do here? Of course police are furious! Where are they supposed to ask the much demanded death penalty if channels run media courts condemning their role the day before trial begins? Particularly when the information is already known as well as endless opportunity to air any time later. What does it mean to arouse anger about everyone except the rapists the day before they are on trial for murder?

Sure, many issues need to be addressed. But for me, when I read/see anything in media, I definitely use a filter of "why this, why now".