Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Changing the ‘victim’ narrative in Rape

Rabeeha Abdurehim

Let’s talk about rape. Again.

And let us start of with this question posed to all.  How about we change our anti rape campaigns from ‘please don’t rape me to ‘don’t you even dare try’.  It all started while scrolling through Facebook and found Inji Pennu’s status that said:

I wish the campaigns from women were “I wont be raped and killed” and something along the lines of “If you dare come close, will hunt you down to your grave”. Why always in victim mode?

This got me thinking into how we portray rape victims, and every other campaign or narrative on rape in the world, showcasing a helpless victim, that lost all by being raped, denied of justice and isolated by the world. And hence the arrival of the question of why not change the narrative from ‘Don’t rape’ to ‘Don’t you dare rape’.  While thinking and talking about the same with anyone I could on my chat list, a lot of interesting things cropped up in the chats.

Firstly, the fact that even when a victim tries to become a survivor by defending herself, there is the question of how far that is possible, if she or he is not trained to meet such situations or is a minor up against a group of people.  One way is to make sure that the victim is armed with a strong law, that makes sure proper punishment is giving to the rapist for the crime, devoid of any social stigma and morality that lingers around the victim, after the crime.

Let’s talk about fear in this scenario next. When the narrative as such is shifted from shaming a victim or rape to shaming the rapist, there is a stronger chance of rape being curbed. Rape as such is more about power and control than lust. It is about ‘teaching a lesson’, showing who has control over the victim’s body, and that by default, a person who don’t adhere to patriarchal norms or codes are asking to get raped.  The fear of getting raped should be shifted to the fear of committing rape.  That will not happen, if the victims, who in most cases are women, get more power to stand up for themselves, or even speak out against the crime of rape.

While the discussion went on, there were many who talked aloud the problem in this shift of narrative that I am sure many of you are thinking: Won’t this challenge the male ego to commit more rape to show who is boss and who is in power? The answer to that is yes. But here again lies the biggest problem folks. We have arrived at the foundation of the problem in front of us, this mentality of ‘showcase of power’. This question, which honestly even I thought of, made me realise how much our mentality is very much similar to that of Jyoti Singh’s rapist Mukesh  Singh  who talked about how now that people are fighting against rape, next time, the rapist will kill the victim and not simply leave her alone after the rape.  In ways we didn’t realise ourselves, we again will shift the blame to the victim.

Reaching the last paragraph, which is where the writer has to conclude her arguments or give out a powerful soul retching ending to her case, I decide to do neither, instead I conclude to start a conversation. I conclude the way I began.

Let us talk about rape. Again.


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