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  • Writer's pictureCarlos Luis

Creating culture that believes survivors

A community of active sheroes, theyroes, and heroes unite to eradicate gender-based and other sexual violence in the country. We believe in the stories presented to us, but what about the stories that remain unspoken about? What about the stories that get suppressed because of the pressure imposed by family or the person in power? Blank Noise a community that started in 2003 at the Srishti Institute of Art Design and Technology is currently spearheading the project titled, ‘I never ask for it.’ They vouch to end victim blame and sexual violence.

We must listen to the survivor stories with a pinch of salt at times because there are a few who try to cash on it. Anticipating that, we must give a listening ear to the survivors who have real stories to narrate. Being sceptical helps to verify the story told. Listening gives assurance that there are people who want to do something about it, whether a change may erupt or not. Blaming the victims will in no way help resolve a situation. We are famous to blame the other for the unfortunate situation one is facing because that becomes the easiest thing to do. But is it the healthiest? When we blame the victim we make him or her responsible for the blame, which he or she is not.

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It should actually boil down to individuals who because of their egos or perverse behaviour cause such demeaning activities. Victim blame will only push the victims to the peripheries and make the victimizer victorious. Darlene Ouimet, the author of ‘Emerging from Broken’ says, “People may not realize the damage that they are doing by placing the blame on the victim, but that doesn't lessen the damage that they cause by doing it.” We blame the victim for the dress one is or was wearing. We blame the victim for the uncalled time that one was out of the house. We blame the victim for doing what one likes to do, etc.

The survivor or the victim is usually left with no choice than to accept the harassment and move on because in any case there is no one who is going to listen to their voice, as their voice is rendered meaningless and pointless. Many take on to suicide as the only option and the others choose to live in silence but traumatized. But here is a chance to recognize their voice and the voice of those suppressed for yesteryears.

If we blame the dress, the time, or the victim for being extravagant, then what about the victims who never went out of their house at awkward times and were raped? A five or six-year-old child who wore a decent dress and knows not much about the world, can you blame her? Barkha Dutt said on Twitter in response to the campaign that the survivors and others blamed, need to say it again and again, that, they never asked for it. She further stated, “There is no dress, no relationship, no context, no hour, no moment, no gray zone” that one has to blame the victim for.

When you have to face sexual harassment and everyday sexism you tend to tell yourself that you never asked for it. It happened from the other end. The campaign in a way empowers victims to voice out. It empowers survivors to place on record the mental trauma and insecurities they faced when in a situation of harassment, shame and their voice unheard. The campaign has started a conversation that is here to stay and help build collaborations and be in solidarity with the victims and the survivors.

The moment you blame the victim you are agreeing with the perpetrator. Blank Noise founder Jasmeen Patheja uses art to speak her point to the people of India and the world at large. The victims will walk the streets holding up garments worn when they experienced violence. Because of earlier walks such as these, Blank Noise has been also called walking towards healing and that is exactly their attempt.

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The exact opposite of blaming would be to believe the victim. And help and support the victim to strengthen oneself. Jasmeen Patheja believes that the moment the victims will be free from blame there will be less fear and many will open up and be free. Will the static garments placed in a room with audio testimonies help eliminate violence against women in India? Time will tell nevertheless there are more survivors who have their own story to tell and therefore this time of coming together and saying ‘I never ask for it’ is important.

This unity will give the survivors and the victims the confidence to stand against all odds and face their fears. It will render them safe. But the major part has to be done by the government by developing policies that help safeguard the rights of every citizen of the country. The public needs to become sensitive and careful when faced with the victim or otherwise. We need to learn to control our desires, sober our blatant egos, and learn to respect people around us.

Copyright ©2020 THE GOAN EVERYDAY

The article was first published on THE GOAN EVERYDAY newspaper click HERE to check it.

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