If survivors come out with allegations of sexual assault after months, years, or decades, do their accusations lack conviction because a lot of time has lapsed since the incident happened? Do we refuse to believe their accounts because the passage of time may have tinted the recollection of the entire episode in their heads? These are some questions, even the judicial system seems to be pondering over, let alone the common public.
- If survivors come out with allegations of sexual assault after months or years, do their accusations tend to be tinted?
- While granting anticipatory bail to Alok Nath, the Dindoshi sessions court noted that promptness in lodging the FIR is an assurance regarding the truth of informant’s version.
- The court needs to understand that in our prudish society, it is a struggle for survivors to speak up.
- Men and women have to overcome hesitation, fear of shaming, isolation and being labelled as tainted, before braving a legal procedure.
According to Hindustan Times, the Dindoshi sessions court has said that Vinta Nanda may have delayed filing a complaint of rape against actor Alok Nath for “her own benefit.”
The court further noted that while a first information report (FIR) is “vital and valuable,” the “promptness in lodging the FIR is an assurance regarding truth of informant’s version.” The order issued by the court also says, “If there is a delay in lodging the FIR, it loses the advantage of spontaneity, danger creeps in of the introduction of coloured version, exaggerated account or concocted story as a result of large number of consultations/deliberation (sic).”
The shroud of doubt against Nanda’s accusation is clearly visible here. However, the court needs to understand that in our prudish society, it’s a struggle for survivors to speak up. Sometimes it takes months or years, and sometimes, the survivors take their accounts to their graves. Discussing sexual crimes is still a taboo in most parts of our society. Men and women have to overcome hesitation, fear of shaming, isolation and being labelled as tainted, before they can stand up and say #MeToo. This is the situation today, in times when the stigma surrounding rape and sexual assault has diluted to some extent. Imagine what it must have been like twenty or even ten years ago.
Also, patriarchal obsession with male gender goads the society to protect male predators, whatever may be the cost.
This means giving the benefit of doubt to men is easier for them, than to believe survivors. Thus, we can understand why Nanda or many like her chose to remain silent. The consequences of standing up to a powerful male predator were much worse than, than they are today (or at least that is what we would like to believe). #MeToo movement has given many women the courage to finally speak up and we have to take in consideration why they failed to do so earlier. By saying that the delay in reporting rape and sexual assault comes with the risk of coloured version or concocted story we fail to see the entire picture.
Another thing about this particular court proceeding that is bothersome is that the judge noted that the complainant, “remember(ed) the entire incident but she did not remember the date and month of incident. In view of all these facts, the possibility cannot be ruled out that (Nath) has falsely been en-roped in the crime.” Everyone has a different coping mechanism. Some survivors block memories of what happened to them. Some remember it partially. Also, with time our sub-conscience retains some details of particular incidents, while discarding others.
It is indeed possible that while Nanda may be able to recall the incident, she may have forgotten when it happened.
To conclude that her accusations against Nath are false because she can’t get the timeline right negates her truth. Just why are we so hasty in discrediting survivors, time and again giving perpetrators the benefit of the doubt? Much as Nath is entitled to a leeway due to all the circumstances, Nanda too is entitled to our trust. It is too soon to write off her accusations. Alas, believing in survivors is yet another aspect where our approach needs to change. So while Nath may be out on bail, let’s not stop backing Nanda yet.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.