Just before the nap time, taking a last stroll on Instagram so my eyes could get a bit heavier and I can sleep instantly, I came across something which wouldn’t let me sleep for days to come.
It was Bombay High Court’s verdict – “No Sex Assault Since No Skin-To-Skin Contact.” I was left numb, with a feeling of uncertainty gushing through. The question that ran through my nerves was not, how could a high court give such an aghast verdict. The question that left me wondering was what about those who have experienced the same, never had the courage to speak out. What about those who were slowly coming to terms with their trauma, or those who were on their healing journey.
Is there any guilt, ever?
And what about those who inflicted trauma, will they be relieved after reading this? After all, it was declared that groping with no ‘skin to skin’ contact is not sexual assault. Even before that, do those people ever feel guilt for giving a scar to someone forever?
Be it Agrima Joshua, Rhea Chakraborty, Rihanna, Mia Khalifa or any woman who speaks her heart out is slut-shamed, threatened and abused online. The trolls this time stooped so low that they used Rihanna’s abuse and assault for trolling her, hence glorifying abuse and domestic violence.
At a moment, when society and now even the judiciary disrupts the healing process of a survivor by reminding them about their stories of assault, it becomes necessary to talk about it.
We asked around people for their lived experiences, to bring light to the fact that even no “skin to skin” contact is as much harassment as anything else. One of the survivors said,
“On Guru Parv a few years ago, I visited Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. As expected, it was Crowded to an extent that it could have resulted in a stampede. There was this guy just behind me and amidst the crowd(who) started throwing himself on me and saying its the crowd who is responsible. Happened thrice, looked at him, he took a step back. But now he started touching my hips, with his private parts. The crowd was loud so even if I made a noise, nobody would have even noticed. I looked around and stamped his foot and left the scene. Does this traumatic experience not count as harassment? For there was no ‘skin to skin contact’?”
Such instances of assault and harassment are daily instances for a lot of women throughout the world. When a survivor starts on their healing journey trying to sit face to face with their trauma, they already have a lot to fight. On top of that when a court jails a gang-rape survivor and another court requests the survivor to tie a rakhi to her harasser, they make us believe that this is no country for women. Such news pulls them back and disrupts their track, and where could hope be, if such pain is inflicted by the judiciary itself.
After being raped and killed, Priyanka Reddy’s name was searched ‘8 million times’ on adult websites. Devotees of Asaram still worship him even after him being behind bars for a rape case. Supporters of Kuldeep Singh Sengar, burst out with cheers for their leader when he comes out on parole.
While sharing her story, another such survivor said,
“Every time I read a new case, it makes me shudder. I am physically incapable of reading cases related to sexual assault or harassment anymore because it is so triggering. The crimes only get more brutal and people only more hateful. It is such a privilege to even be able to read about these things the way some survivors can’t. I feel so upset, I wish there was a way to peace both in the world and inside my mind.”
Dystopia, a reality
How do we imagine, living in fear constantly throughout our lives? With a never stopping reminder to be in fear for the news about rapes never stop. ‘A woman killed’, ‘another harassed’, ‘a girl was blackmailed’,’ a child kidnapped’, ‘woman was beaten to death by husband’, ‘assaulted for dowry’, ‘burnt and didn’t even receive a respectful funeral’. This kind of headlines now don’t even make to the prime time news, because they are so many in number and normalised. Almost 87 rape cases are filed per day. The assault, harassment, eve-teasing, is there any record kept for the trauma that an entire gender is facing?
Childhood, college life, workplace, home, womb, places of worship – is there any place or phase where this would stop? For those who get merciful criminals are left alive just to fight their cases in courts which take years to resolve. The problems and discomfort faced then, there is no record of it. Another heart-wrenching experience that was shared with us,
“ I was in my class and one of my classmates suddenly groped me in front of the entire class. It felt as humiliating as standing naked in front of others. Even though it was a girl. The reaction of others in the class and such a disgusting act really shook me to the core.”
How long and what strength it takes to come to terms with their trauma, at times living with it without uttering a word about it. Sharing and instantly being insecure that it was not meant to be shared and what not. From a reader’s perspective, it could only be thought and imagined.
Yes, Supreme Court has stayed this order and NCW has moved to Supreme Court against the High court verdict. Will this restore the faith in law and judiciary that was jolted with the verdict, will it rectify the trauma that this news brought to so many? We can just wait and ponder over such questions while trying to be empathetic listeners.
If anyone ever approaches or trusts us enough, to share their such stories, lend a hand of love and faithfulness filled with understanding. This is the bare minimum we can do.