Since reading about the rape of a minor, I’ve been feeling uncertain about my abilities to protect my daughter and making her feel safe.
The anguish of a mother who knows the gory details can probably hear her daughter’s scream every time she closes her eyes. How do you ever stop the feeling of helplessness at not only the loss but your inability to keep the promise you made her, to protect her, always?
When I saw the pictures of the eight accused men, I felt paralyzed with fear. I remembered an incident when I was 11 years old and returning from school in a tram (they used to regularly ply in Kolkata then). It was practically empty with just a few passengers. As my stop approached, I got up to stand near the gate. I vaguely saw an elderly gentleman come stand beside me. Generally, I would be alert standing beside a man but this time I didn’t think twice. The tram was empty and he was an elderly man wearing a dhoti and kurta.
Suddenly I felt him pinch my breast hard. When I turned to look at him, I was aghast to see the nonchalant look on his face. He continued to look straight ahead as if nothing had happened. That’s when I truly noticed him. He was old with a hunch, sunken tooth, bushy eyebrows, and wrinkly skin.
I couldn’t reconcile the person with the act. I stood frozen. I know I would have reacted in some way had it been a younger or middle-aged man. But not a grandfatherly looking old man! I was unable to fathom the thought behind the act. The only question that haunted me was ‘how could he?’
Till date, whenever I read about the rape of a minor, I blocked it off. I didn’t want to face the brutal truth. But reading about the tilak touting old man, supposedly the mastermind and main accused in the rape case, again brought back that question.
Seeing the images of the accused, I couldn’t help but think of them as grandfathers, fathers, brothers, and husbands. They all had families and relationships. This thought led me to read about other minor rape victims across the country and another question raised its ugly head.
What happens to the women related to those accused of rape?
The mothers, wives, daughters, granddaughters, and sisters, how do they feel about their men when they hear the gory details of what they did to a child? How do they feel, when they remember sleeping with them at night or being touched by them? When they serve them food? When they hear them talking about women’s safety? When they touch their feet to take their blessings? How do they shake off the feeling of being dirty or soiled from their touch?
How do they feel about themselves? Do they feel shame, guilt or are they duty-bound to uphold these relationships? When they walk on the streets, do they sense people staring at them, judging them? Do they feel alienated? How are their daughters treated by their in-laws? Do people bully their children? Are they labeled forever to bear that burden?
Does the mother feel troubled to accept that she failed to raise a good son? Does the wife feel safe leaving her young daughter with her father or grandfather? Does the daughter feel secure, loved, and taken care of? Is there respect in these relationships?
If these men can rape outside of home then surely they must have violated some relation at home too? Did they speak up then? Did anyone believe them? Do their arrests bring them some relief knowing that now there is a possibility that they might be punished? Or is their shame heightened even further knowing that maybe their violation will also become public?
Or have I got it all wrong?
Perhaps there’s a strong need in me to believe that they should think or feel this way. I want them to question themselves. This is my way of making sense of what has been happening.
But is it really that easy?
Isn’t their survival at stake too? Isn’t their identity and very existence being questioned? Won’t it destroy them to accept the truth? Wouldn’t they too want to block off these thoughts and emotions from hurting them? Wouldn’t it make them angry to hear people maligning their families? Why would they want to believe such heinousness from men who have been their own, their own flesh and blood? Is it possible for them to change their love to hate, just because the world wants them to? Are they ever able to reconcile with that seed of doubt in their minds, continue living with their men, and be happy?
Isn’t denying a way for them to ignore the fact that what they see was always there and what is now will always be? Is standing by them an expectation they have to adhere to?
Does their turmoil ever go away? Are they ever able to reclaim their lives?
(Can women related to those accused of raping a minor ever reclaim their lives? was first published in Momspresso on April 20, 2018 / Photo by Kat J on Unsplash)