Fifty-eight women filed cases of rape in the district in 2012 till September. But the real number of women raped, however, is likely to be much higher. Of the few cases reported, even fewer make it to the courts.

Fear and shame force many women to suffer rape quietly. Their silence may even give the attacker the confidence to rape the victim repeatedly.

City police Commissioner K.G. James said the police had been organising several awareness sessions to encourage women to report sexual crimes against them. “A woman police officer is present in every station. Vanitha police stations and the Janamaithri police scheme also make it easier for a rape victim to approach the police. But we cannot do anything unless we are informed of the attack,” he said.

Despite the new laws being formulated to protect women and the media attention on rape cases after the death of the Delhi gang-rape victim, rape victims are still considered tainted by society. This sense of shame that women feel after being raped prevents them from speaking out even to their near and dear.

The victim of rape is often the only witness to the attack. The attacker thus goes scot-free if the victim is silenced. That most rapes are committed by family or friends close to the victim also prevents women from speaking up.

Lawyer and activist Bhadra Kumari said assaulters often repeated the crime unless rape victims took legal action against them. “If a rapist thinks he can go scot-free, he will get the confidence to commit more crimes,” she said.

While everyone agrees that women should be encouraged to report rape, the repeated failure of the justice system to convict rapists holds women back.

Ms. Kumari said the gang rape of a girl in Delhi had given prominence to cases of rape. “It is unfortunate that the girl had to die for the system to wake up. Transparency in police investigation and quick trials will increase women’s confidence,” she said.

Rape cases often take several years to conclude. During years of trial, rape victims are made to repeatedly answer questions about a trauma that no person would wish to remember.

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