As a young girl studying in college and staying away from home, my safety has often been the subject of worry for my parents and relatives. “Stay alert, keep the pepper spray with you”, mom would say. And I don’t blame her. Newspapers and news channels these days are filled with news of sexual violence on women, may it be physically or mentally. Be it in a metro city or in a small village, we hear cases of sexual assault on a woman by a stranger or by someone close to her. The alarming numbers of sexual assault cases has created an insecure and fearful atmosphere to live in.
From a sexual assault victim, what would we expect to be done? Naturally, the victim should report the violence to a police station. But the shocking finding is that only 1 out of 100 sexual violence cases are actually reported to the police station. Other cases are swept under the carpet and not reported. These women do not speak to the police or to their friends and relatives because of the fear of being blamed, unaccepted in society or disbelieved. Apart from this, there is a lack of knowledge about the laws and rights that every Indian woman has, rights to protect herself after a sexual violence case.
As responsible citizens, it is very important to encourage reporting of a social violence by the victim as soon as possible to the nearest police station. There are various reasons for this…
First of all, a social assault victim may need urgent medical assistance for internal injuries. For example, the women would have to be checked for any sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy post the assault. If the case is reported to the police station, the woman is given proper treatment lawfully and also given financial compensation.
A woman after the assault may not report against the culprit because of his fear or threat. But it is utmost necessary that the culprit is lawfully punished. Also, when the reporting is done immediately, the case becomes a strong one. There are many laws that punish the culprit against both physical and mental violence. Punishing is important because besides providing justice to the victim, it also sends a warning to everyone, especially rapists who are repeat offenders, that the culprit of sexual assault has to pay a huge price for his acts and hence such strict measures would be taken against such kind of sexual violence.
The third reason is that when a woman reports a sexual violence case, she sends a message to other women, who could be the next target, to stay alert and undertake personal safety measures. Even if the case is not filed for legal case, the statistics and description of the event can be helpful for the police to improve safety in certain areas and also update laws.
Hence it is very important to encourage reporting of sexual assault cases. A woman has rights that give her freedom to file an FIR at any police station. The only step we can take for now is to let a woman know of her rights. Amnesty International has launched the #KnowYourRights campaign, which is a people’s rights educational program aimed at informing people of their basic rights via free educational modules on digital and physical media because knowing one’s rights gives one the confidence to take action. Read about the rights here.