I Think: Radio can play a bigger role in giving victims a voice
Sakshi Gautam, radio show producer, Bangalore
My first source of information is always my mobile phone with my numerous news apps — NY Times, Hindustan Times, Times of India. I do come across articles that are shared by people on other platforms as well, but I make sure that what I’m reading or forwarding is from a reliable source.
I’m a girl first and only then a media person, so my first reaction will always be sheer anger and frustration when I hear about news on rape and sexual violence. I understand the helplessness that comes with such incidents. However, as a media person, there are multiple layers to how I feel about the news coverage of such things.
The media should not report based on who has committed sexual assault. The media rule that “gang-rapes must be reported first, then sexual assault by a single stranger, then rape within a family” should not exist. At the end of the day, something has been done, someone’s privacy and space have been violated. Every case should be dealt with in the same way, with the same seriousness. If our judiciary was doing great in convicting people, and if people were better equipped to report crimes, the media would not be under so much pressure.
I’m annoyed by how little progress has been made over the years. I know people tell us that long strides have been made, but I think that unless [sexual violence] completely stops and strong rules are put in place for offenders, it isn’t huge progress.
I haven’t gotten the chance to go on air and talk about sexual violence, but we did a campaign during Navratri on the channel where we discussed these issues. We kept in mind that we shouldn’t offend anybody by passing judgements, and we made sure not to react in a way that would reduce the importance of how the victim is feeling. We let the victim talk about the experience and we let the listeners send us messages about what they felt while listening to the story. I think it’s always right to listen first and respond carefully when it comes to sexual violence.
As someone who has been through similar experiences, it’s easier for me to relate and understand the sensitivity that’s needed, and avoid saying inappropriate things. But for someone who has not gone through something like this… they tend to ask very stark questions that offend people. I think it’s also important to ask victims if they’re comfortable with the gender of the interviewer. There’s a different level of understanding that comes from these things.
My message to the media: don’t think of it as, “How will this get more ratings?” Instead, for those couple of minutes, be human, listen to the person as you would to a friend, and react as you would to a friend. It does seem very idealistic, but I think we can be a little human...
As far as radio is concerned, I don’t think it can play a huge role. Public mobilisation can only change a couple of things here and there. People still need to go through the right channels — a lawyer, the police — to get some action taken.
Where radio can help more is by getting more and more victims to come out and share their stories. This includes sharing what the process is so that someone who is in two minds about approaching the police can gain some clarity. I would like to have more such coverage on-air, but I think we’re getting there.
Caste and class play a huge role in everything wrong with the world, including sexual violence. Anyone who denies it is someone privileged enough to do so. But for every other woman that I have come across, it’s been a huge factor. There have been incidents that I know of, where the victim could not report a case — not because it was someone from the family or because she did not have the opportunity, but because she feared for her life; they think if they report the crime, it will affect their daily lives.
The situation is getting worse by the day. Even when women start a movement like #MeToo, somehow people find a way to make fun of it and do not respect the courage that comes with speaking up. There has to be a more practical, judicial way to solve this. The government must come up with better policies. No matter how much you report it, or how much you talk about it, if you don’t get justice at the end of the day, it goes in vain.
To know more about Sakshi, visit sakshigautam.com