Living as a rape victim is more tragic than rape itself. That’s the reality most sexual violence survivors face in India.
After all, a criminal justice system that bends over backwards to silence victims can only be as good as a democracy that empowers rapists to contest polls. Indeed, there’s a sizeable number of men accused of rape sitting in our Parliament and assemblies but not one woman who has been raped.
Then again, joining politics may be a little too ambitious for someone who’s been denied the basic access to justice, the first step for which is to be able to tell your story freely and fearlessly to be able to file an FIR.
In Dehradun, at one of the few rape crisis intervention centres run by the NGO Samadhan, women who have survived rapes and been assaulted by their relatives, husbands and strangers are having a tougher time getting the police to act.
As we express our outrage over the three-year jail term being awarded to the juvenile accused in the Delhi gang rape, it may be instructive to look at these cases where the victims rebuild their lives against all odds even as the perpetrators roam free.
In her first year of college in Dehradun, she was raped by a senior who was involved in student politics. He helped her fill forms on the first day of college, and, under the pretext of taking her to a job interview, raped her in his car and made a video clip of it to silence her.
She didn’t tell anyone for a month, until he tried to rape her again. This time, she escaped and went to the police. No FIR was filed. Instead, Neha claims, she was asked to make a compromise with the accused.
After two months, she was able to file her FIR to an investigating officer who asked her to use the word “chhed chhaad” instead of “balatkaar”. Neha, whose mother is a domestic help and father an unemployed drunk, soon found out that it was not just the police, even her family wanted her to trivialise what happened.
She was pressured by her parents to take back the FIR. “No one will marry you, they told me,” she said. Her brother-in-law had plans to traffick her. She escaped from her home and went to Samadhan. She’s in her fifth semester of LLB and now has complete knowledge about how the police botched up her case.
“There should have been a woman officer when I filed my FIR. Also, despite my statement being recorded in front of the magistrate under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) section 164, the police filed a closure report instead of filing a charge,” she said.
Clearly, Neha’s economic disadvantage came in the way of her getting justice, something she hopes to balance out with her degree in law.
Asha is a second-generation victim of rape. Her mother, too, was subjected to it till she accepted her fate and submitted to her brother-in-law.
Often, in such cases, the victim can hope for little support from family, in this case Asha’s mother, as rape becomes routine and nothing to revolt against.
There’s no form of abuse Asha has not suffered at the hands of her husband, a retired inspector, who foiled her repeated attempts at filing an FIR. She had been branded, raped, sodomised and beaten in front of her colleagues till he left her to die.
She was found by a local grazer in Mussoorie and handed over to Samadhan by the police. The local police, influenced by her husband, refuses to investigate the case. Despite enough evidence and her statement, her husband has managed to secure a stay order from the Delhi high court on any proceedings on her case.
(Names of victims changed to protect identities)