In this personal essay, Poojitha M K empathizes with the woman who wants to report a crime
but is scared to do so.
“It’s not my fault!”, “I didn’t misunderstand it!” a lot of us including me have this question every day. Most of the times we do not even know if someone is staring at us or following us. We women are always victimized. All of us will definitely remember having faced this kind of
behaviour where we have been told that we misunderstand the other person’s intentions.
Fear of Family
Fear of Family is one of the most important reasons why women do not report. They think their family will be ill-treated by the society they live in. Even after being sentenced by the supreme court to be executed, they still accused Nirbhaya’s character of walking on the streets at that hour. That’s how judgmental our society is. Being a part of society, every woman knows how people think about the victim and about her family. For most of us from middle-class families, it is very important as to what society thinks and talks about.
By reporting a crime, we are putting ourselves out there, exposing ourselves to criticism. In an interview with ABC News, Beverly Engel, a psychotherapist and author of more than 20 self-help books, including a forthcoming book on surviving sexual assault, said, Victims are often too ashamed to come forward. Sexual assault is a very humiliating and dehumanizing act against someone. The person really feels invaded and defiled, and there is a lot of shame attached to that. We say things like, She shouldn't have been wearing that kind of outfit, she shouldn't have been drunk so much, why did she go to that party? We find some reason to blame the victim.”
Traumatised by the questions
We are afraid of getting traumatized by some uncomfortable questions coming our way from the officer we report to. Hence, we decide not to go to an officer and report the crime. Here is a true story of a girl who had 2 sexual assaults unreported and wanted to report the third one. On filing a complaint, the officer asked her to get pictures of her bruised body as a proof which was very traumatising for her. Even though it was for proof, it was very traumatising for her to relive all the moments while taking the picture and explaining it to an officer in charge. We also start feeling what can the officer or the justice system do to make us comfortable. We start to think that ultimately it just punishes the offender while strict action should be taken against the offender.
According to Economic Times, comparing the most recent police reports on sexual violence with the most recent nationally representative household survey shows less than 0.1% of women who were victims of sexual violence went to the police (partly because 87% of the harassment were perpetrated by their current or former husbands or partners). This clearly shows that when we know the offender personally, like an acquaintance or a friend we do not want to report them as we start feeling pity for them.
According to U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, T. Hart and C. Rennison, “Reporting Crime to the Police, 1992-2000,” 2003 statistics it also matters who your offender is. It changes for different people like if he is an intimate partner or former intimate partner, only 25 per cent of sexual assaults are reported to the police. If he is a friend or acquaintance, only 18 to 40 per cent of sexual assaults are reported. If he is a stranger, between 46 and 66 per cent of sexual assaults are reported.
Ray of hope
Even after all this, finally, Nirbhaya gets justice after 7 years of fighting. Probably after
Nirbhaya’s case was reported women started to report more openly. After December 2012
Delhi gang-rape, reported crimes against women shot up says Economic Times. The way women have been thinking is changing. A huge movement was started in social media called #MeToo were a lot of women opened up about the things they
have faced. Bollywood has made movies like Pink and Mardaani to support the women out there and encourage them to report crimes. After all, there is a ray of hope that justice will be served. We should all start reporting and encourage other women out there also to report crimes that have happened to them.
We can bring a change if we stand together, what do you say?