Drawing courage from the scenes of women protesting after the gang-rape incidents in Vasant Vihar and Gandhi Nagar, a 27-year-old fashion designer in New Delhi district has filed a case of rape against three of her relatives. Her complaint recounts the agony of being a victim of sexual harassment for 12 long years with no one to turn to, all starting at the tender age of nine.
The FIR goes on to trace the journey of the victim from the time she and her mother were abandoned by her father and explains how due to the unsound mental state of her mother, she was sent to her aunt’s (mother’s sister) home in Muzaffarpur where the alleged exploitation by her uncle Sohan (name changed) began and worsened with the passage of time.
It is alleged that taking advantage of the victim’s vulnerability, his wife’s tacit support and his own clout in the family, Sohan not only had intercourse with her but also justified acts of incest by citing examples of other people involved in similar acts.
The victim also accused that her aunt remained a mute spectator and dismissed her husband’s acts as fatherly affection.
The complaint goes on to add that when the victim turned 13, Sohan’s younger brother Monu (name changed) also started having intercourse with her. Besides the sexual harassment, the girl was made to do household chores and was occasionally beaten up on trivial pretexts such as not being serious about her studies. Whatever little resistance she could offer was tackled by her uncle who told her that nobody would believe her if she narrated the incidents and that he would commit suicide.
A minor reprieve came in 2000 when the victim was called to her maternal grand-parent’s house in Darbhanga. However, hopes of a secure environment were dashed soon after when Sohan started visiting Darbhanga and continued what he did at his own house. In 2002, the victim even got pregnant but the accused made her undergo an abortion.
Three years later the victim (who was then an adult) came to Delhi for higher studies but her miseries did not end. She alleged that her uncle often visited Delhi on some pretext or the other and raped her. It was till 2006 that the exploitation continued and in between all efforts by her to seek help from family members, including her maternal-grandfather, did not yield any favourable outcome and the victim was, instead, told to bear the pain and forget about her ordeal.
Some even doubted her story or accused her of having ulterior motives. Any legal action against the accused was seen as going against “family honour and moral values.”
In 2007, Sohan was convicted in a murder case and sent to life imprisonment which the family tried to portray as natural justice but soon the accused was out on bail.
Following this, the victim started living a secluded life and avoided visiting her relatives: so much so that she did not even attend the funeral of her maternal grandfather fearing the presence of Sohan and his wife. In between, she also consulted a psychiatrist to cope up with the trauma.
Finally, after witnessing the public outcry in the aftermath of rape cases in the Capital, the victim filed a case on April 25 in which she named the two men who allegedly raped her and also her aunt, who, according to her, had connived with her husband.
In her complaint, the victim also said that she had recorded the footage of her uncle and his brother confessing about their acts of sexual assault and rape upon her and was submitting footage carrying the same.
Statistics on rape and other forms of sexual harassment have often pointed towards the involvement of family and relatives in a large number of cases. It is, however, a known fact that a lot of those cases go unreported due to rules of patriarchy, the stigma involved and even fear of life and security.