#WhyIDidntReport: 2018 is not just the year of #MeToo but also of how to shame survivors of sexual abuse
The accounts of women like Padma Lakshmi and Tanushree Dutta show why survivors don't report rape and harassment.
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“How can we believe the word of a woman of something that happened 36 years ago. This guy has an impeccable reputation. There is nobody that has spoken ill will about him.
“But in the grand scheme of things, my goodness, there was no intercourse. There was maybe a touch. Really? Thirty-six years later she’s still stuck on that, had it happened?”
"...we’re talking about a 17-year-old boy in high school with testosterone running high. Tell me, what boy hasn’t done this in high school?”
“As long as that’s an isolated incident, yes … If the person made a mistake and they’ve moved on and they have been a good human being, who are we to judge?”
The above defences should actually end all decisions on sexual predators. There is no reason why they shouldn't feel entitled to continue with their behaviour.
Indians, who presumed the above statements came from some of our male politicians, should feel proud that the US and India are not just "true friends", but "free societies" as well, where the entitled ones not just think alike, but talk, look and make everyone else around them feel alike — unequal.
The comments were by a panel of five Republican women — yes, you read that right, women — in Florida to defend Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh against sexual assault allegations levelled against him.
(From left): Rhonda Rebman-Lopez, Lourdes Castillo de la Peña, Irina Villarino, Gina Sosa, Angela Vazquez. CNN Focus Group of Republican women on Christine Blasey Ford's allegation against Brett Kavanaugh. (Credit: Screenshot)
Christine Blasey Ford, 51, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University, was the first woman to come forward. She says that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s when they were both teenagers. Deborah Ramirez, 53, was the second person to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. She has accused him of exposing himself at a drunken dormitory party when he was a freshman at Yale.
There are reports that a third woman, as claimed by her lawayer Michael Avenatti (who made his name as the lawyer for the porn actor Stormy Daniels) would go public with her allegations this week.
Yet, it's not Kavanaugh who is being asked or expected to prove his 'innocence'. The narrative built around the controversy, like all other instances of sexual misconduct is, why should we believe the survivor?
Actually, the Republican women and men and President Donald Trump have no reason to believe the survivors because that is the only way they can further perpetuate patriarchy and perpetrate more violence against women.
This is simple. Believing the women/survivors, or not vilifying them instead, would mean taking the accusations seriously. Starting investigations, prosecutions. Implementing disciplinary measures, wherever appropriate. Punishing the abusers. But above all, it would mean changing this systemic abuse, this culture of rape and sexual assaults.
And who wants to change that culture, right?
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
Prompted by Trump's "doubts" on the two women who have accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, celebrity chef, author, model, television host, producer Padma Lakshmi has said she was raped by a man more than 30 years ago.
In an op-ed published in The New York Times, Lakshmi, 48, has explained why she kept silent after being raped as a teenager — because she began to feel the attack was her fault. That she understands why women might not disclose sexual assaults.
I wrote an Op-Ed for @nytimes about something terrible that happened to me in my youth, something that happens to young women every day. We all have an opportunity to change the narrative and believe survivors. https://t.co/pqFt50t4R1— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) September 25, 2018
Back in India, actress and former Miss India, Tanushree Dutta, recently opened up about a 10-year-old claim, in which she said she was harassed by an actor on the sets of Horn 'Ok' Pleassss (2009 ). The actor has now named the 'harasser'— Nana Patekar. "Everyone knows about Nana Patekar that he has always been disrespectful towards women. People in the industry know about his background... that he has beaten actresses, he has molested them, his behaviour with women has always been crude but no publication has printed anything about it," she told Zoom TV.
Yesterday (September 25), when asked about the impact of #MeToo movement in the Indian film industry, the actor told News18 that #MeToo movement won't reach India until everyone acknowledges what happened with her a decade ago. She added that though people spoke about the controversy, nobody took action.
While no one has come out in Dutta support, 'understandably', there are people who are already defending Patekar.
Incidentally, Dutta had also accused choreographer Ganesh Acharya, the film’s director Rakesh Sarang and producer Samee Siddique of ganging up against her.
To this, Acharya said, “First of all, it’s a very old incident so I can’t really recall everything very clearly... But I can confirm that nothing this sort of happened..."
“He [Nana patekar] is a very sweet person, he can never do that. He is very helpful and he has actually helped a lot of artistes in the industry, he can never do anything like that.”
Actor and former Miss India Tanushree Dutta. (Credit: Twitter)
But no matter how much the Padma Lakshmis and Tanushree Duttas keep speaking out, the fate of sexual assault/rape survivors would not change until the onus to prove the crime is on the accuser. And here we are not even talking about proving anything in front of a court of law. The survivor, above all, has to first prove her 'innocence' — that she is not lying — to the accused and his cabal of supporters who rear their heads from all directions to defend his honour. Yes, the honour of the accused. Even the media is cautious to refer to his crime and always prefix it with alleged/allegedly — fair enough, considering innocent unless proven guilty.
But then, the accuser can't expect such immunity before the court of people.
So, suddenly everybody wakes up to her past, starts digging for old photos, details of her personal life, what she wears, where she goes, what she drinks and smoke to prove how it was not the abuser but her immoral character which brought the crime upon herself.
The design behind this is even simpler. Doubting a survivor and instead blaming her will ultimately discourage everyone else from reporting similar assaults and harassments. And that is how perpetrators walk free from court and society.
A society which anyway feels only criminals should be punished, and sexual abuse is not a crime.
So, this is our last chance to preserve and guard our culture and tradition of rape and sexual assault — maintain silence, please.