This letter isn’t to accuse you or reproach you for all that you do. It is to ask you, what is it that moves you, drives you into the depths of bestiality.
I was told as a kid that books have the ability to open up a person’s mind. I grew up believing that educated people can do no wrong in the world because they are far too sophisticated to do so. As I reached my teenage years, I fell deep into the hands of literature in a way that there was no coming out of it. Through stories and books, I learnt the art of humanity and what emotions are. I learnt that people make mistakes, no matter how perfect you think them to be. But more than all that, I learnt that reading teaches you empathy. Because when you read, properly engulfing the essence of what you are reading, you step inside the shoes of the fictional character and walk around in it. There is no better way of learning empathy than being inside the mind of someone. I, however, went one step further sometimes and started thinking about being inside the mind of the person who created that character.
Thousands of stories and books instilled in me this sensitivity towards people and their circumstances. I started justifying their actions with my own explanation of ‘not judging a person unless you have lived their life’. I feel sorry for you because I think you never ended up reading a book that taught you all this.
I also learnt that ‘people are not bad, situations make them so’. And this kind of thinking fits so many scenarios when you hear about people stealing to fill their stomach, killing to save themselves and what not. But, hearing such things leaves such a bad taste in my mouth because I have never experienced something as such. I haven’t even lied to save my skin when I didn’t finish up on an assignment. Poverty, ignorance, compulsions—these are the things that drive people to do what they generally would not.
I once had a conversation with my friend about how someone can commit rape. What drives a person to do such a thing? Is it lust, I asked, and if so, why not just pay a prostitute? Why not just masturbate? What could be the reason?
Rape is a sickness, he told me. One only gets sick when exposed to disease-causing organisms. In this case, the power-dominant stance, presence of sexual cues almost everywhere from advertisements to magazines, the repression of desires because of sex being taboo even as a topic of discussion and biggest of them all, the awareness of the fact that one can get away with it; this is what infects people and makes them sick enough to rape.
I had a conversation with a professor as well who had a different perspective. He told me, ‘we all are potential rapists’. His statement consisted of a lot of context about ‘the existing gender identities’, ‘numbing of mind due to exposure to violence’ and ‘hegemony of existing institutions and their inefficiency in so many aspects.’
Is it about the power, I ask you. Of ‘putting me in my place’, touching me without my consent just to show you can. The domination of my mind through forcing my body, does that fill you with a sense of superiority? I must repeat that I am not accusing you, I am just asking.
Generally, when talks about rape happened, most people were of view that rape happened in elite class too, it was just less in the spotlight than the brutality of the marginalized men because people liked pointing out at the filth, not seeing it on their own collars.
But all these discussions and ideologies didn’t stir me as they should have. I was stirred even more about the fact that I know you. In the sense that in many cases, often the rapist is either related to the victim or someone that they know.
It doesn’t scare me, mind you. It just disheartens me to think that I know and haven’t recognized or been able to help you. Is there even a way to cure the sickness?
Since I am writing this letter, I wish to take the liberty to put forth a message from my friend too who asked me ‘why is it only rape when the victim is a female?’ ‘Why is it that when a male is raped, it is sodomy and no one even wishes to associate it with the word that would cause it to be just as heinous a crime as when it is with a female?’
To me, the actor the factors associated in causing it turn more important than the impact or cases. Perhaps if everyone read a book stepping inside the mind of a rape victim, no one would think of committing such a crime. But then again, I am not so sure. Maybe with the established violent mindset, they would be pushed even more.
The one who can’t write #MeToo yet.
The Pallavi Writes