India’s Rape Crisis & What You Should Know

Dragged. Strangled. Raped. Killed. 

These are four words that describe what happened to a 19-year-old Dalit (low-caste) woman in Hathras district, Uttar Pradesh, India. Her only crime was being a woman. In India, there is a law that rape victims remain anonymous to prevent shaming them, however, they can choose to reveal themselves to the public. Her name, though unknown, does not mean she doesn't deserve justice. 

 

So, what happened?

September 14, 2020: The victim went to collect fodder at the field near her home with her mother and sister. When she was at the field, four men attacked her. They dragged her with her own scarf around her neck across the field. As they began to rape her, she resisted which led them to strangulate her. Later, she was found badly injured lying in the field by her mother. The assailants had fractured her spine and slashed her tongue. 

She was taken to the police station by her family to register a complaint against the perpetrators. According to her family, the police refused to register a rape complaint and humiliated the victim instead. This was not her first encounter with her attackers - she had been harassed by them for months before. It is important to note that the four men she named were upper caste.

September 20, 2020: The police registered a complaint. 

September 22, 2020: The victim’s statement was recorded.

September 29, 2020: The woman succumbed to her injuries and passed away in the hospital.

 

According to India’s 2018 national data, a rape happens every 15 minutes. Why does this one stand out? 

First off, this statistic comes from only reported rapes. There are a countless number of rapes that happen that go uncounted for. 

This one stands out because: 

  • She survived for 15 days despite having serious injuries. 
  • The police denied her rape claims and mocked her. 
  • Law enforcement and the government spread misleading stories about the victim and denied she was raped. 

 

 Why did the police deny her right to lodge a complaint in the first place? 

  • In India, a woman’s testimony is enough for a rape complaint to be registered. There was no legal reason for them to deny her claim. 
  • The accused were upper-caste men with connections to high profile people. 

 

What happened after (as of October 5, 2020)?

  • The day after the victim died, her body was cremated by the state police without permission from her family.
  • The four accused were arrested.
  • Large scale protests occurred across India demanding justice for the victim.
  • In a leaked video, state officials tried to pressure the victim’s family to change their testimony.
  • The family was offered up to $6 million if they spoke in favor of the accusers from various groups. 
  • 5 police officers including the Superintendent of Police were fired.
  • The family was given $35,000, a home, and a job for a family member as compensation.

 

As a woman and an Indian American, I feel enraged and disappointed. It is difficult to believe that incidents like this occur every single day and go largely unreported. 

It is outrageous and disheartening to think that this case will soon be forgotten about and will become another statistic. Rape and other forms of sexual assault have become normalized in India and other countries. This is not okay. Sexual assault should never be tolerated, and the victim is NEVER at fault. We cannot blame a woman for the way she dresses or acts; it is not alright to justify heinous crimes like these. Monetary compensation will not bring back a life lost.

As an individual, it may seem like you don’t have the power to do anything. But this is where you are wrong. If everyone thought this way, we could never accomplish anything. Stories like this and others would never be brought to light.

The conversation is changing, and we need to change with it. We need to focus on educating each other and preaching equality. We shouldn’t shame those who are victims - instead we need to help them heal and seek justice. Remember, sexual assault is not limited to women; it can happen to anyone of any identity. We must advocate for those who may not be able to advocate for themselves. We need to raise awareness. 

Just remember, you are not alone. There are resources and people who can help you.

If you or someone you know are victims of sexual assault, you can get help here:

*If this is an emergency, immediately contact 9-1-1*

 

Bentley resources:

  1. Counseling Center: Call 781-891-2274 to make an appointment

  2. University Police: 781-891-3131

  3. Visit this link for more info: https://www.bentley.edu/university-life/student-health/sexual-assault-relationship-violence

National Resources:

  1. National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673, open 24/7

  2. Victim Connect Resource Center: 855-484-2846