An open letter to the teen survivor of the Bulandshahr rape: Be very angry, do not be ashamed

Dear child,

I heard in the news about what happened last week. A gang of dacoits attacked the car in which you and your family were travelling. They attacked all of you, forced themselves on your body, caused you physical pain and injury, looted money and jewellery and ran away.

Within few hours, television, newspaper and digital medai, all over the country flashed the headlines, ‘Mother daughter gang raped on NH 91 in Bulandshahr.’ Soon you were reduced to the key words ‘Bulandshahr gangrape.’ Whenever these things happen, media gets a convenient trending topic and government bodies, like NCRB and NCW, get statistics. You would learn about these when you grow up. I am writing to you just to talk, maybe you would feel better with a casual conversation.

Three days have passed since the incident happened. Court, police, politicians, media, public are continuously surrounding you. You must be feeling scared and confused, unable to understand what happened or what is going to happen. I read in the papers that you are crying inconsolably. It is understandable, I know that feeling. I cried too and I know it is not because your body is paining.

I was around your age when I went to a clinic to get a blood test done one day. There were many other men and women standing in the queue behind me for the same test. The lab technician was collecting blood samples turn by turn but he skipped my turn and made me wait until all other patients had left. I was alone with him in the lab. While drawing my blood he deliberately pushed my hands near his private part. Then, after collecting sample, he made me stand up, slid his hands under my skirt and touched my vagina (you know that sensitive area between our legs is called vagina. We are not allowed to use that word or talk about it anyway, but always remember, vagina is your most private part, an area nobody should touch against your will, not even your mother). I thought it was all a part of the medical procedure. I didn’t know I was being molested but I started crying. A reaction that came from deep within. Then he said, "Ok go."

A file photo of demonstrators protesting violence against women in New Delhi. Reuters

A file photo of demonstrators protesting violence against women in New Delhi. Reuters

Twenty-five years later for the first time today, I am sharing this incident with somebody outside my family. I am doing this just to tell you that you are not alone, my child.

A newspaper on Wednesday reported that in 2016 alone, 450 cases of minors being raped have been recorded. The NCRB website has 2014 crime statistics report, which, in a colourful tab titled ‘figures at a glance’, says 36,735 cases of rapes were recorded that year.

Girls and women are being raped every hour of everyday somewhere or the other in the world. We will never know why they rape us. They rape us for fun, anger, fear, revenge, insecurity, or even love. Yes, many husbands rape their wives and say it is their ‘love.’ They rape girls and women of all ages, class, caste, creed and nationality. It does not matter where you are, what time of the day it is, what you have been doing or what are you wearing. Nothing is common about rapes except just one fact – the victim is always told that it is her shame and her life is ruined.

You might have noticed your father and you are were asked to cover your faces while talking to the media. Do you know why? Because the great law of this country wants to protect ‘you’ from ‘your’ shame. Let me tell you about Suzette Jordan. Suzette was raped and to protect her from shame, media called her the Park Street Rape Victim. But what she felt was not shame. She was angry. So angry she was that she refused to hide her identity in shame and fiercely marched on a mission to punish the culprit and protest against the culture of victim-shaming.

Sunitha Krishnan was gang raped and she was angrier at her family than her rapists, because the family blamed and shamed her. She has now dedicated her life to the cause of rescuing thousands of girls and women from sex slavery and give them a new life.

Eve Ensler was raped and beaten by her own father when she was younger than you. She felt sad, angry and defiant but not ashamed. She grew up to be a great scholar, writer and started a worldwide movement to end violence against women.

I am telling you these stories because it is time for you to be very angry. Be very angry today. Let your anger be so severe and toxic that it would consume every other emotion you feel – shame, fear, honour, modesty — everything would be dealt with later, first you should be angry. Be hysteric and violent in your anger. Scream and shout. Kick and punch.

The society would tell you anger is not a desirable quality in good girls. Good girls should keep their voice and eyes low and shouldn’t talk back. “If you talk about your rape, who will marry you? What would happen to your future?” they will tell you. Be angry at such people. Remember being a good girl is not your priority, marriage is not your priority. Today you are so angry that your only priority is to punish the perpetrators. Be the Goddess Kali and unleash your anger on men who violated you.

Make anger a habit. Make it a culture. A culture where women are so angry at every small incidence of violence and sexual abuse that men would gather at little corners and shuddering in fear they will tell each other, “Do you see girls these days, so angry all the time at the slightest thing. We cannot even grope and poke them a bit.”

There is a long tough journey ahead. But I know you will stay strong and brave, and one day you will be a fierce leader of our cause.


Sanjukta Basu

Updated Date: Aug 04, 2016 15:59 PM

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