Take the shame out of rape

Angry protesters are storming the streets of Delhi demanding not only better laws and implementation for the safety of women but also long term measures to change misogynistic attitudes. Apart from the focus on preventing rape and punishing rapists, it is just as important to address concerns about what happens to victims after rape. As things are, the interrogation, the medical exam, the humiliating details recounted to strangers, and the intense media glare can be almost as violating as the rape. But to silence a rape victim, or to use her own story to shun her or mark her out as "different" is to doubly victimise her. In any civilised society, the burden of shame associated with rape must lie only with the perpetrators, not the victim.

To this end, our society must demolish the myths associated with rape. First, women do not incite rape by the way they talk, behave, and dress, or by going out alone or late at night. Rape happens because of a predatory mind-set, and is the responsibility of the rapist and of the society that allows such a breakdown of law and order, not of the victim. Second, it is not a woman's fault if she does not know how to tackle her assaulter: there is no "correct" way to respond to a rape situation. Each rapist is different. Third, rape is not just unwanted sex. Rape is an act of violence done to demean, dominate and oppress the victim. Therefore, a rape victim does not bring dishonour to her family. A family's honour is only diminished when they internalise power structures defined by the rapists, and further demean or oppress the rape victim. Forcing her into secrecy, undermining her by not believing her story, or dismissing her for being "damaged" are all acts of injustice.

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