I feel anything but calm today. I am filled with pain.
Brock Turner a former Stanford student, registered as a sex offender, was sentenced to only 6 months of jail for – the judge felt a harsher punishment would have a severe impact on him. Four brave women – survivors of sexual assaults have reacted to Brock Turner’s release. They talk about the impact of the assault on them.
I read about the harrowing experience in an abortion clinic of Heena Khan, the 16 year old, pregnant after being raped twice by her neighbour. Beaten up and threatened to stay silent. I ask – did no one see her bruised face and soul?
I am filled with anger when I think about the13 year old I met last month – she had just delivered a baby boy. The father of the baby was her own father. She cried silently, night after night, in her father’s bed. Did you not hear her screams or sense her fear, I ask her mother who slept in the next room.
I shout – is anyone listening? Does anyone even care?
Yippee! No rapes reported in today’s paper, someone exults. I ask – does reading about the rapes make you uncomfortable?
Last week, in a training program which I facilitated, we asked the participants to conduct a safety assessment of different urban spaces, which included a hospital and several other “esteemed institutions”. Women who live, study and work in the area said they did not feel safe at all. Men said that women have nothing to fear – this is a safe space. Why? Because they are there till late, every night, and besides there were several PCR vans on patrol.
As if to test this theory, that same day, as I left office with my colleagues at 8:00 at night, we were followed by boys on motor cycles who silently circled us as we walked. There were no street lights – we walked with the light of our mobile phones. But as we rounded the corner, we saw 4 PCR vans.
4 PCR VANS! Pot of gold at the end of a rainbow! We imagined a slow blaze-of-glory style run to the PCR vans and a victorious take down of the miscreants.
We told the policemen what had happened and requested them to drive around the block. At this, one portly constable got down from the van and explained, in what he might have felt was his ‘fatherly voice’, about how angry he gets when he sees such behaviour and he is known to give sound beatings to such boys. But, he went on, there were several complaints against him because of this behaviour. And if he goes now, he will repeat the same. So, as much as he would like to, he cannot go and take a round of the block. Aghast, we ask him what we should do then? His answer – call up 100.
Slowly the rainbow disappeared.
Today I think about the little girl in Delhi, hardly a year old – kidnapped and raped for 2 hours by her 36-year-old neighbour. It was incredulous that the rape happened on the premises of a police station and no one heard her screams.
I wonder and I ask – do we really not hear or did we choose not to hear?