The Story Never Cedes
#ShrutiSpeaks about rape anxiety, the anger and the hopelessness that grips us, especially now.
When I sat down to write this piece, I intended to start it on a funnier note- talking about beating the heat and meeting deadlines. But I soon ventured off into ‘serious’ territory, and the article became less me-centric. And perhaps that is required for this piece.
In the past few weeks, there have a number of rape-and-murder cases, especially those that have affected children, throughout the country. The news has really affected me, and those around me. There have been heated debated on Whatsapp, in class, during dinner and at home. What does it have to with mental health? I really don’t know. Except that mental health is affected by such events, and that rape anxiety amongst women is real, and that the trauma of sexual abuse has serious consequences for the victim.
What is rape anxiety? Well, “It’s the anxiety, the mundane, common anxiety — when you’re walking, when you’re going somewhere new, whatever — that there is a danger you could get raped”. This follows me, and my friends, when we’re travelling the metro, taking the cab alone, or even when a stranger appears especially shifty. We text each other, keep in touch with our parents, carry pepper spray, wear decent clothes and remain vigilant to combat this. I remember being around 12, and being relentlessly stared at by men, and followed around by a waiter at a party. I remember refusing to dress up nicely to go out after that, so men would stop staring. Early effects of rape anxiety? I don’t know.
Should an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old have such problems? Should they carry pepper spray and wear decent clothes as well? I don’t know. But I have been very, very angry for the past few weeks. Angry at the politics of the incident, and angry at a system that allowed the perpetrators to be at large. I’m also angry at the way in which women’s bodies are used to play out politically, and the way in which the trauma inflicted is swept under the rug.
Welcome ordinances have been issued, and I’m in awe of the lawyer fighting the case — but a wide-ranging change in the way we think and speak about things is necessary.But I’m still mad — at people, especially dudebros, who think its okay to bash feminism and make fun of it, but who stay silent when such incidents occur, and at the bestial use of rape as a tool to propagate hate and communalism.
I think that the main motive behind writing this piece was trying to sort out my emotions. However, this horrible incident, along with many others, has forced my to understand my privilege. As an educated, city-bred girl I’ve had access to the kind of mental health resources that others don’t. I’ve been able to understand the effects trauma and anxiety have had on me because those around me have supported have helped me. This incident has also forced me to reconsider being silent in the face of such violence and hatred. We, at once, need to understand and check our privilege. Only then will we be able to understand the extent to which we are shielded.
I’ve been struggling with writing this, as I wasn’t sure how to incorporate all that has been happening with my general rants. I’ve tried, and I don’t really care about the flow of this piece, I’ve said what I needed to say.
About the author
A committed advocate of mental health, Shruti uses communication as a medium to dispel the myths around mental illness. She is a regular contributor to our posts. When not writing, she can usually be found in her favourite place — her bed. She can also be found eating and reading, at various points across Shiv Nadar University.