An Open Letter to Priya Ramani, the Courts and My Family

Trigger warning: This article contains mention of sexual abuse and child sexual abuse.

Dear Priya Ramani,

You have taught me how important and relevant it is to speak about abuse. If I am feeling a little stronger and more encouraged to speak just because you won a battle, perhaps my speaking up could also lend some small bit of courage to someone else.

Dear judges,

You have reminded me again that I deserve to stand upright even after being wronged. Thank you for deciding that women cannot be punished for speaking about the abuse they have endured, and that they have the liberty to talk about their experiences even if they only manage to muster half the required courage after a decade or two.

Thank you for acknowledging the amount of courage it still takes one of us to speak about abuse endured in the past. I am well aware that this ruling alone will not necessarily convince my family/society of the same, but the mere realisation that the law stands by me serves as a healing touch to my wounded soul.

Dear family,

I was sexually assaulted at the age of 9. No, I was not raped, but rape is not the only sexual crime there us. This happened in your own home, at the hands of a close friend of yours. And, by the way, I was wearing a full-sleeved shalwar kameez then, along with a dupatta.

My failure to inform you then does not translate into my acceptance of the incident. It only means that I couldn’t trust you enough. I, unfortunately, am still not sure that you would have believed me or protected me if I had spoken then. If I had feared being seen as the evil girl by you, lacking in morals/sanskar, at the mere age of 9, your own ideas and thoughts were most probably the reason.

My silence for a couple of decades does not mean that I coped well. In fact, the initial trauma was always renewed with the same intensity whenever I had to interact with that person or his family; whenever you suggested that an assaulted woman had been calling for it through her dressing or interaction with strangers; whenever you told me that going to a university or a workplace would place me in danger; whenever you assured me that being at home and not speaking to strangers meant safety.

The constant feeling of being unsafe within the four walls of ‘home’ is the worst ever experience of my life, and nothing in terms of material provisions could ever compensate. I have nothing to say to the person who inflicted all of this upon me, because deep down, I have always blamed you for failing to protect me. I still hold you accountable for this; though, perhaps, your constant insistence that I am to hold the burden of your reputation on my shoulders silenced me, even though my heart and mind are not at all convinced.

I wish I had the courage to come forth with my own name or even the names of the people who assaulted me and deprived me of the right to live a normal life with normal dreams and aspirations. Nevertheless, I have to speak now, at least to the extent that I feel comfortable at present. I owe this to all the silent souls out there who have not yet found the means to speak.

Featured image: Journalist Priya Ramani and #MeToo accused M.J. Akbar. Photos: PTI