Rape is for real

Written by Kavita Srivastava | Published on: July 1, 1998
was divided into two parts, and was filed on October 20, 1997 (pertaining to the gang–rape On September 5, 1997) and January 2, 1998 ( for the seven–year–long sexual exploitation).

The group tried its best to put pressure on the government for arresting all the 22 accused in this case. Fearing that the girl will be completely isolated when she finally deposes in court, in camera — very often lawyers representing the accused ask highly offensive questions which only adds to the victim’s trauma — we also tried through the NCW to set up a team of women observers in court. A decision in this regard is pending before the chief justice of Rajasthan.

Also, for the first time, we made the issue of rape into an election issue during the Lok Sabha elections in February 1998. We targeted three candidates, two of whom were involved in the hostel rape case. It was a matter of some satisfaction for us that all three candidates lost.

For us, the rehabilitation of the rape victim has been a primary concern. From the beginning, we have felt that the girl who had undergone such trauma needed professional help to heal. We urged the family several times that she be taken to a psychiatrist. In Jaipur, there is a government-run psychiatric centre and a few private psychiatrists. Unfortunately, no women’s organisation, not even the excellent short–stay home run by the Rajasthan University Women’s Association has the facility of a psychiatrist or a psychologist.

The victim’s family, at one level, feared the invasion of their privacy. At another level, they feared that their daughter’s case may be damaged if the defence counsel uses her visits to a psychiatrist to claim before the court that the girl was in an unstable state of mental health and, therefore, an unreliable witness. So, they kept postponing the issue of taking her to see a psychiatrist in Jaipur. Because of the likelihood, since January this year, of the girl’s statement being recorded any time, the family was also reluctant to take her outside the city for professional help. Meanwhile, the delaying tactics adopted by the accused to ensure repeated postponement of the framing of charges and trial has resulted in the statement of the girl not being recorded to date.

By March 1998, the girl who had not stepped out of her house for more than six months came close to suicidal tendencies. MAVJA urged the family to reconsider its stand on the psychiatric treatment in Jaipur. Even after an appointment had been fixed, the family backed out once again.

As the girl spoke of feeling suffocated in the house, she was taken on a holiday for a week by a member of MAVJA. We also contacted women’s organisations across the country seeking help to give the girl an opportunity to heal — receive psychiatric care, get involved in productive work along, be assured full security. Sadly, we were told that there was no such home available anywhere.

We then felt it would help if she could at least step out of her home every day for a few hours. A Child Resource Centre, Vihaan, aware of her situation, offered her a work opportunity. She was given the task of setting up a library for the organisation, a job which she handled well. She also took active interest in other activities of the organisation and was on good terms with all. In her six weeks association with Vihaan, there was not a single instance of her ever making a pass at any of the male co–workers.

Following her retraction, we asked the girl why she had given a different account earlier. She said she feared the wrath of her family if she told the truth. So, on knowing that the family had reported her missing to the police, she chose to lie. More importantly, she said with tears in her eyes: “I did not want to lose this person. It was the first time that I had made my own choice out of love and I wanted to protect him. I feel very sorry that I have lost him now”. Asked how she expected to build an intimate relationship with someone after assuming a false identity, she