'Focus on the crime and not criminal'

Reporting Rape

In an attempt to keep alive the fire which was once felt and witnessed in the massive outpouring of anguish and protest in 2012, after the infamous December 16 gangrape incident, Metrolife spoke to various professionals on how media could help change mindsets and make people realise that the crime is not merely an ‘individual’s issue’ but a rampant epidemic which should be eradicated at the earliest “Journalists are seen as objective, neutral and just reporting facts.

Hence, people tend to believe what appears in the media. Media needs to be objective because it has the added responsibility of reflecting social attitude and also shaping mindsets. Social attitudes today are accepting of commoditisation of women. Though we generally agree that rape is bad, there are instances when people say that a woman has brought it upon herself. Even after the Uber case, some people said “why did she drink and fall asleep?” says Sanjay Srivastava, professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology in Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Since all gruesome cases of sexual assault cannot be reported by the media, Srivastav adds “It is absolutely imperative to have an open discussion about gender and sexuality.”

Dr Arti Anand, a practising psychologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital says, “How women react to an act of crime is a ‘learnt behaviour’ (embedded in our psyche). The same is constantly reinforced in them that rape is a stigma.” Unfortunately, the spotlight is on the ‘rape survivor’ rather than on the perpetrator. “The whole focus should be on the criminal and the crime and not the victim and her state,” she says.

“Women suffering from gender-related violence, especially rape survivors, should constantly be applauded for talking about their trauma and this would definitely help them gain confidence and overcome their fear of a stigma. Rape is a crime and the criminal has to be ashamed and not the survivor,” says Dr Anand.

Aamir Khan, a former student of Jamia Milia Islamia University, says “Media unconsciously feeds only what people want. If you see, the films that we have been watching over the years have actually subconsciously ingrained in us that ‘women are helpless’. This helplessness is unwittingly and very easily mimicked. When an act of rape happens, media tends to sympathise with the victim and in turn focuses on an individual rather than the crime at large. I think that makes women susceptible to the stigma that is still prevalent in the society.”

Since the 2012 case, media has devoted special attention to this sex-related crime, and through its extensive reportage has underlined the fact that no subject is taboo and that we must learn to discuss these things openly. The collective view of experts and academics alike is that “gender and sexuality are about power relationships” and
“we need to understand where power lies and what anxieties are generated when structures of power begin to change”.

As Prof. Srivastava says, “Most of our institutions (the law, bureaucracies, the police) have a very ambivalent attitude towards gender and sexuality and this needs to be highlighted by the media, social scientists, activists and academics etc. We are too willing to accept our institutions as being above criticism. This needs to change”

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