First things first.
Please go and read this searing and sensitive post by the amazing Anne Theriault of thebellejar blog. I’m putting trigger warnings on it and all the links it contains because it is about the kidnapping, rape and torture of a five year old girl in India.
Because of that, you probably won’t want to read it. You’ll think, that’s too much to deal with or bear or put into your system. To this I say, well, there are real people dealing with it in real time and space, and that five year old girl needs people to know what’s going on. So do it for her, her family, the families of the many other girls who have been assaulted there in the past few months.
She wrote the piece because a reader of hers, who lives in India, reached out and asked her to help, to broadcast. The letter from that reader is in Anne’s piece and it is heartbreaking.
It was hard to read. Hard knowing that there are so many more stories. There are days when I don’t want to turn on my computer with it’s portals to Twitter and blogs and Facebook because I know I will see yet another one or two or more cases of something horrible happening. But I do, because well? These stories need witnesses. They need amplifiers. They need attention drawn so that perhaps we can raise awareness.
I see stories here in the US: Steubenville’s Jane Doe, Rehtaeh, Audrie. Cases in Florida and now Michigan, all with the same script of assault, denial, cyberbullying. It’s in Syria, in Africa in many places, in Scotland, Brazil, in India.
And for those cases that reach the news, there are others many others that never see justice, media, or support.
As Anne says:
“Rape culture knows no borders, and while it might be worse or more obvious in certain parts of the world, the truth is that it’s everywhere. We all live in it. We all participate in it.
In fact, just today, a university student in Arizona was photographed holding a sign that said, “You Deserve Rape.” This man, Dean Saxton, is well-known for delivering “inflammatory sermons” on the University of Arizona campus. Today’s sermon was about how women who dress like “whores” are responsible for being raped or assaulted.
It just seems so relentless. Every day there’s a new story of some kind of horrific sexual assault, every day I hear about police and politicians who don’t care, every day there are men and women spreading the message that rape is somehow the victims fault. It just feels like it never ends, and it’s sometimes so hard to keep fighting in the face of something that’s so unbelievably pervasive and overwhelming.
But we need to keep fighting. That much is obvious.”
Anne says that the news around rape has been relentless. She’s right. Many of my friends post about rape culture, assault, and the seemingly never ending reports of it.
And so we must also be relentless in our opposition to rape and assault, no matter how it happens, no matter what gender engages in it or suffers it (for men raped get far less support culturally and it happens in war, in jail, and other place), no matter the culture, no matter the myths and norms around sexuality, around dominance and masculinity, around how some women can bully survivors in some sick complicity with the system, around finding more and more ways to build and sustain empathy in our children, consent in our educational models, peace-work in our daily lives.
Sitting back and hoping it will fade away doesn’t work. Thinking that this is happening “over there” doesn’t work. Allowing the stories to be so much news filler doesn’t work.
We assume we have the luxury of not reading. The survivors though don’t have the luxury of not living it. They are asking for our help, so read it for them and take some action.
If assault occurs without borders, then we need to ACT without borders, collaborating, protesting, planning, and researching outside of country or state to find solutions to what seems to be epidemic violence, so destructive, and I think, preventable.
Still, we need to act with education, checking our own privilege and cultural ignorance. There is a lot I don’t know about the situations in India, and for me, a western, white woman to write this means I need to be clear I don’t know the full scale of why what is happening. Hell, I don’t even truly understand it here in the US. I can’t swoop in like Western Superwoman thinking I know how to help. This powerful article, left on Anne’s blog from Rambling In The City, is very enlightening and amazing in it’s call for empathy and understanding of the alienation happening to men in their country.
I don’t always know how to help, only that I want to. And engaging in help means listening, waiting to be asked, knowing what I can offer that will actually truly be of use, here and throughout the world. But we must be as relentless in our love and action as the stories of violence that we hear. I do know that.
It’s going to take a hell of a lot of work, but we have to do it.
Read her words. And act because she’s asking us to.
The last time it happened, I signed petitions with friends for severe punishment to those rapists who raped a 23 year old, I wrote articles, protested, debated. But the second case, that happened just yesterday has shattered me so much I seem to have lost my voice In India, we all protest and then our voices just die down. No kind of internal pressure makes the government take strict decisions. Rather, in the December 2012 case, a religious leader came up with the hideous statement that had the girl begged for her life from the rapists and called them her brothers, they would have stopped and she would have survived. One of the leading female politicians said, “Women shouldn’t go out after 9 at night or dress provocatively.” We scream, we shout and the police bashes up innocent protesters and social workers and students. Our voices die down within the country and awareness is blindfolded by our own leaders.
I am writing to you to beg you to talk about these women just like you talk about those who are close to home. Perhaps international pressure and shouts for justice would reach the deaf ears of our religious and political leaders and the pathetic, perverse men who don’t think twice before doing this to us women. Why should we dress modestly? Clothes provoke them, no clothes provoke them, we get raped in a sari, in jeans, in skirts, in salwaar kammeez and even if only our face shows. We get raped in the morning and at nights. If they can’t control their desires after 9, shouldn’t the men be locked up after 9? A lot of people blame the victim back home and not the criminal. How is that fair?
Indian women today are aware, enlightened and educated but far from safe. We are scared to go out and work and we’re scared to stay inside. Who knows what familiar face would be the Big Bad Wolf? And he strikes us at any age, at 23, at 45, at 5!
So as a woman to another, this is a plea to support our protest because even though we may speak different tongues and belong to different nations, we suffer the same abuses.