Who is to blame?

By Jyotika Mansata

In a world where rape features in the headlines of newspapers almost every day, one clings to the hope that there are still a few  havens left where women can feel safe not only from would-be attackers, but also from the leering eyes of society. But the illusion of these “safe places” is eventually always destroyed.

In a recent case in Bangalore, a six year old from Vibgyor High School was sexually assaulted on school premises. The roller-skating instructor, who also happened to keep video of children being raped on his laptop, was arrested. But in a recent turn of events, police arrested two gymnastics instructors for the alleged gangrape of the girl, ruling out direct involvement of the roller-skating instructor.  The scene of the crime was not a dark alley or an abandoned area, but a school. The villain did not enter the scene twirling his moustache in a sinister fashion, but in the guise of a teacher. While the roller-skating instructor might not have been guilty in this case, he is by no means innocent. Despite being fired in 2011 from another school for touching girls inappropriately, no charges were brought against him because of lack of sufficient evidence, leaving him free to commit even more crimes.

The depravity of the crime hits you with full force, not only because of the circumstances it took place in, but because it involved the gangrape of a little girl. What’s even more disturbing is that crimes like this are actually quite common. However, we don’t hear about them because in most cases the school, or even the parents, try to keep it quiet; either to protect their image or to avoid the inevitable social stigma. In these cases, it’s only when the media gets involved, do the school or parents step up and report the incident.

The heinousness of this crime can also be deduced from society’s reaction to it. Normally, at this point, after reading about a rape case, I would prepare myself to hear insensitive remarks from politicians, policemen, and the like, with regard to how the victim herself was to blame for her own rape. ‘Her clothes were too revealing’ say some. Others will accuse the victim of either going out late at night with boys, or going out at night without boys, depending on their mood. Apparently, both those situations pose a threat to our safety, and will inevitably lead to us being raped. I then reflect on their comments with incredulity, and decide that these people are entirely devoid of sensitivity, and ignorant to the concept of feminism. However, in the case of the six year old, what obtuse comments could society possibly make? What way was there to place the blame on the child herself? They couldn’t fault her clothes, her companions (or lack thereof), or accuse her of roaming around late at night. They couldn’t say that ‘she was asking for it’. Here was an incident where the seriousness of rape was evident to everyone. Despite this, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah still managed to squeeze in one insensitive statement. When asked by a reporter to comment on the case, he snapped, “Is this the only news? Is there no other news?”

It’s not like we, as women, are ignorant of the risks we face every time we leave our homes. We hear about women being molested and raped almost every day, and it sickens us. We are stared at on the streets, regardless of what we wear, and we know, realistically, that going out alone at night is not the safest thing. But the whole point is, we shouldn’t have to be afraid of these things. We should be able to go out when we want, and wear what we want without having to face various accusations, or endure snide comments from people who do not know the slightest thing about us.

Blaming the victim is never the answer, and it is sad indeed that it takes the rape of a six year old child for us to realize that.



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