Known predators

Known predators

The National Crimes Record Bureau statistics for 2013 provide shocking insights into the magnitude and nature of rape in the country.

 Of the rape cases registered under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code in 2013, in 94.5 per cent of the cases the assailant was known to the victim, with 34 per cent of these being a neighbor, 1.7 per cent a parent or a sibling, and 7.3 per cent a relative of the victim. While rape cases registered a 35.2 per cent increase between 2012 and 2013, rape by blood relatives rose by 36.7 per cent in this period. Particularly troubling is the rising vulnerability of children to sexual assault.  Almost 40 per cent of rape victims are girls below the age of 18.  In Karnataka, the number of children raped witnessed a three-fold increase between 2011 and 2013. The NCRB figures while alarming tell a partial story as these refer only to cases registered. In most cases of rape, victims are reluctant to report the violence, fearing the assailant, social ostracism, a hostile police and an unsympathetic criminal justice system. Especially when the sexual predator is a relative, the family of the victim forces her to remain silent by claiming that ‘family honour’ is at stake and that reporting the crime will shame the family. It is this silencing of a victim by the family, the neighbourhood and our criminal justice system that encourages sexual predators.

The predominance of children among the victims and of known persons among the assailants is particularly troubling. A child grows up believing that what his elders do is correct. Hence in many cases, child victims are unaware that they are being subjected to abuse. Daily violence and warnings from an older relative enforce the silence and enable the continuing abuse.  Rape is damaging not just physically but also psychologically as it leaves long-term scars. When a child’s trust in a parent, a brother or a teacher is broken, she is unable to form any positive relationship when she grows up.

Rape can be prevented only if the family, school, neighbours and the criminal justice system work together. Parents and schools need to educate children about sexual violence; sex education has become an absolute necessity. We need to take seriously what children say about a ‘dirty touch’ or a ‘lewd remark’ instead of hushing them quickly. Importantly, our police must work to protect victims and not the predators.  We have adequate laws. They must be enforced. 

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