The 11-year-old Chennai gang rape survivor who was allegedly assaulted for seven months by 17 men is being blamed for her fate. This is a classic case where the blame for sexual assault is being placed on every other shoulder, than where it actually belongs.
According to a report in The New York Times, people are blaming her mother, accusing her of neglecting the girl. They also said that the girl, who wears hearing aids and acted younger than her age, was “deaf and dumb.”
Seventeen adult men between the ages of 23 to 66 years preyed on an 11-year-old girl. They allegedly drugged her, molested her, raped her and blackmailed her. Must we ask questions about the girl’s or her parents’ conduct, when her ordeal has been proved by medical examination? The truth is those who participated in this act are monsters. But, why is it so hard for people to find some compassion for the young survivor and her family?
Blaming survivors and their families for sexual assaults is one of the reasons why sexual crimes are so common in India.
The society lets perpetrators walk freely, with their heads held high, never putting a shred of accusations in their way. The shame, the blame, the jibes are directed towards those suffering. Else they must face a barrage of blame from people. Why was she wearing those clothes? Why wasn’t she acting her age? How come she didn’t come forward with these allegations earlier? Surely she must have encouraged the attack in some way. Why weren’t the parents on guard of their daughter? How did this assault go on for months before they found out?
- The 11-year-old Chennai rape victim shaming is a classic case of the society protecting men from the blame of sexual aggression.
- Not the parents, or the women, but the blame and shame of sexual assault must lie with perpetrators.
- By deflecting blame away from sexually aggressive behaviour, we are sending the wrong message to boys and men, that they will never be held accountable by the society for their actions.
Only in India can men put an 11-year-old through such an ordeal and manage to deflect the blame. How can we even curb the rate of sexual crimes in India when people won’t stop shielding rapists? They don’t realise that in blaming survivors, they are telling men that there is nothing wrong with their behaviour. That their sexual aggression is eventually the fault of their victims. It would only motivate sexual predators to feel righteous in their actions.
In fact, if people ask why women or girls find no courage in coming forward with accusations of assault, then this is the reason. The survivors know that instead of getting social support, all they will get is blame. Often parents ask girls to move on with life because the dignity of the family will be put on the line.
No one apart from the sexual offenders deserve blame and shame for crimes like rape.
If her perpetrators ever manage to walk free, they will do so knowing that the society thinks they were not entirely at fault. Millions of young men and boys won’t think twice before laying their hands on a girl, assuming that they wouldn’t have to bear any social consequences for their actions.
Which means that if victim shaming motivates other men to be sexually aggressive then the blame partly lies with those who shroud male aggression. Today, it is a little girl from Chennai, tomorrow it could be someone from their own locality or worse family.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.