Sexual assault destroys lives, both directly as well as indirectly. Sexual harassment as a crime can rear its ugly head anywhere. It’s a crime which cuts through age, religion and cultural backgrounds. A report published in 2016 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 public.
Sexual assault is one of those heinous crimes that are seen and experienced every day and yet crimes as heinous as this manage to escape our eyes quite easily. It is perhaps because a vast majority of survivors 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 survivor experiences also makes the entire process of reporting sexual abuse quite difficult.
As per data from the NCRB, more than 30,000 rape cases were reported in India in 2015-16 (till Aug 2016). Madhya Pradesh reported the maximum cases of rape and sexual assault (states) whereas Delhi had the maximum number of rape cases being reported in the list of Union territories.
Let us take a look at why a majority of rape cases go unreported. It is the intense pain, and the aftermath of the trauma leads survivors to refrain themselves from reporting sexual abuse. There are numerous difficulties that a survivor experiences after sexual assault. Stress, eating disorders, self-injury, declining confidence, etc. are some of the many highlighted by studies. These may continue 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 isn’t only from the experience but also because of the stigma and isolation a survivor is subjected to. 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 survivor’s fault. The bystanders and people in the vicinity would remain ‘innocent’ bystanders, rid themselves of the feeling of guilt and sorrow. Blaming the survivor also ends up impacting our willingness to help.
A part of effectively addressing the problem is to accept the survivors as a part of our society. Acceptance holds the key here. Tell the survivors they aren’t alone in this fight. Remaining silent and not supporting the survivors is, as they say, a conspiracy of silence.
According to statistics, every 15 minutes, a woman is raped in India. The fact that, in some cases, survivors 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 of rape and assault.
And above all, the status of women in our society also adds up quite significantly to the entire problem. Daughters are considered a burden because of the ‘societal’ requirement of paying dowry. Throughout their upbringing, sons are believed to be fed better than their sisters, and 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.