A minor girl in Madhya Pradesh reportedly got evicted from her school hostel after she filed a sexual assault complaint against the warden. Not just this, but the warden apparently went on to evict her two brothers from the hostel as well. The minor and her two brothers belong to a financially underprivileged family and had been staying at the hostel to be able to study. This incident yet again proves how underprivileged girls are even more susceptible to sexual abuse because they cannot even afford to retaliate. The cost of speaking up is heavy, and very often even their families have to pay for it. So while it is easy to tell women and girls to lodge police complaints against their assailants, we must also acknowledge why they fail to do so.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • A minor girl filed a police complaint against her hostel warden for allegedly sexually assaulting her.
  • The warden in question has apparently evicted her and her two brothers from the hostel.
  • This shows that while it is easy to lecture women to follow due process, it comes at a heavy price.
  • Unless we understand and acknowledge factors which impede women from speaking up, we won’t be able to deter sexual predators from abusing their power and position.

The cost of speaking up is heavy, and very often even their families have to pay for it.

When one tries to understand sexual crimes, the thing that stands apart is how power plays a critical role here. Predators always target people who are weaker than them. The power here, however, isn’t just physical strength. It is everything which grants someone a higher position in the social hierarchy such as gender, caste, economy. It is important to understand how these factors make certain people more susceptible to abuse, as these are also the factors which keep them from speaking up.

If you dare to speak up, there will be consequences for sure. In this case, the warden evicted not just the minor survivor, but also her brothers. Such retaliation is the reason why girls and women think twice before reporting sexual crimes. The society could shame and blame them. Their abusers could use their power and position to wreak their lives. They could be outcast or disowned by their own families.

Where does the little girl go from here? What are the chances that she will be able to continue her studies?

Where does the girl go from here? What are the chances that she will be able to continue her studies? Will her parents reprimand her for speaking up, as it led to the eviction of her brothers as well? We shouldn’t ask these questions to sketch up a cautionary tale for girls, as to warn them what happens when you dare to stand up for your dignity. Instead, we need to ask these questions to understand where we are failing girls and women of this country. How can someone as ordinary as a hostel warden misuse his position to not just exploit a minor but render her homeless? Unless we understand and acknowledge factors which impede women from speaking up, we won’t be able to deter sexual predators from abusing their power and position.

It makes you wonder how easy it is to discourage victims of assault and abuse from speaking up. But how difficult it is to encourage them instead. How do you tell a girl to stand her ground when she and her brothers are homeless? How do you encourage women to pursue a legal course of justice, when predators show no mercy in dissuading them? The first step here is to accept that it is difficult for survivors of abuse to speak up. Unless we acknowledge this we will never understand how significant and brave their voices are. The second is to protect survivors and their families from repercussions at all cost.

The misuse of power and authority, no matter how ordinary it may appear to us, puts not only survivors but even their families in a world of discomfort. Thus men who resort to such means should suffer repercussions not only for their sexual crimes, but from abuse of position as well. It is the only way to put it across to people that if you misuse authority to protect yourself or to prey on others, it will bear consequences.

Also Read : Growing Up As A Girl Trapped Inside A Boy’s Body Was Not Easy: Gazal Dhaliwal

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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