'The media scrutiny made her weak'

Rape victims often have to deal with mental trauma, counsellors try to help

I felt it was a repeat of December 16, 2012 rape. I felt distraught when she started narrating it,” says Shubra Mendiratta, counsellor at the Delhi Commission for Women, Rape Crisis Cell.  

The 25-year-old woman who was allegedly raped in an Uber cab on December 5 was brought to Mendiratta’s office the next day. “She recounted the incident confidently and without hesitation. But it was in the following days that she became emotionally weak.”
The constant media scrutiny on how the woman was coping following the incident made it difficult for her to “overcome the trauma”.

The media buzz was a constant reminder of what happened and that her life “should not go on as usual”.

“It made her emotionally weak. There is this societal pressure that the woman must show remorse at what has happened. The media instead of being sensitive oversteps the line,” says Mendiratta.

“Now she is coping fine. She will join work in another week.”

As Mendiratta speaks of her own battle of counselling rape survivors, she says not in every case is the family supportive even if the woman is willing to come forward and speak of her trauma. The more testing cases are those in which the woman is engaged or married.

The most common question that a counsellor is asked is – should the groom-to-be’s family be told of the incident?

“It is challenging, yes. I ask them to take time, but to eventually tell the fiancee’s family of the entire incident. This also brings out if the partner is supportive in the most testing times,” says Mendiratta.

The most difficult cases are perhaps those when the victim lacks the support of the family.

“Recently, a young woman came to us on her fifth month of pregnancy. She was raped on the pretext of marriage by her fiancee . The man took her for check-ups, got the tests conducted and convinced her she should keep the child. In fact, he paid for all the medicines she needed.”

“Later, the woman came to know that he has planned to marry somebody else. The man tried to act very smart even when we got in touch with him. Eventually, he was arrested,” says the counsellor.

But the challenge remained in “educating the woman’s mother”, says Mendiratta.
“The mother was obviously furious. She blamed her daughter and was in an emotionally precarious condition.”

“It is sad. The doctor said it was too late to conduct an abortion and also the woman was not in good health,” she adds.

Dealing with minor rape victims, especially those from the lower economic background on the outer fringes of Delhi, is emotionally challenging for counselors even if they have been dealing with such cases for the past many years.

Mothers turn hostile

Najma, a counsellor at NGO Nav Sristhi, says the most challenging cases are those in which mothers turn hostile to their daughter’s testimonies.

“This case dates back to 2013 in which the mother refused to believe that her two daughters were repeatedly raped by a man she had an affair with. One daughter was 11 and the other 9. While the younger daughter was quiet throughout the episode, the elder one was sobbing uncontrollably at the police station.”

“The woman created a scene at the police station. She was hyper and said she should also be put behind bars along with the man,” says Najma.

Geeta, 11, only raised her voice when she realised that the man had started sexually exploiting her younger sister. She told her neighbours who helped her get in touch with the police.“But it was appalling to see two young girls go through this. I could not believe that a mother would turn hostile towards her daughters to save a man who had wronged her children,” says Najma.

The girls are now in a “children’s home”. “They are attending school. The elder one doesn’t have to go to work like before now. They sounded fine when I spoke to them last.”

In some cases, the mother supports her daughter, even though it comes a little late. Reshma (name changed), 15, was allegedly raped by a man who took her to a deserted area while her mother was out for work.

“He had an accomplice who claimed he was not raping the girl as he had a vrat that day. Even though the girl had the support of the mother, the woman could not separate from her second husband as she was pregnant with his child.”

“The woman’s second husband eventually started torturing the girl to take back the case. He even accepted money from the two accused to reach an out of court settlement.”

The crisis intervention cell representatives did not lose hope. “We followed up closely with the victim’s mother. We told her she should stand up for it. Now, she along with her three children, is in Bawana. The husband and the accused trouble her so only the counsellors have their mobile numbers. I am glad the woman stood up for her daughter. The case is sub-judice now,” says Najma.  

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