The stigma attached to being a victim, inefficient and inconsiderate enforcement agencies, and rampant victim-shaming tendencies have long been serving to push the sufferers of sexual abuse deeper into the depths of darkness. A recent social media campaign brought the disturbing truth about how rampant sexual abuse is into the forefront, with sufferers breaking the taboo by opening up about the time they were harassed.
Regardless of age, gender or socio-economic conditions, sexual abuse is ubiquitous. With it comes an unspoken assumption; the universal belief that being an assault survivor is a mark of disgrace and an embarrassment that has to be kept hidden. Stigmatizing anything with sexual connotations is a problem inherent in our society and it makes it difficult for the survivors to voice their tribulations. A taboo for people to talk about, this becomes a heavy onus that the victims endure, alone.
With the #MeToo campaign, we have advanced to the point that the survivors have started to break the silence and engage in conversation. It was started by actress Alyssa Milano in the wake of the Weinstein accusations in Hollywood. This has exploded into a worldwide online movement that provided a space for people to talk about their experiences and attain solace in the feeling of being heard.
In the first 24 hours, more than 12 million people narrated stories and anecdotes about facing non-consensual sexual violence on various social media platforms. The statistics are harrowing, discouraging, disheartening. While we read about these adversities too frequently in the papers, the situation has become even more daunting on witnessing people we work with on a daily basis reveal their stories.
Is this what humanity has stooped down to? So irrational in base passion, that it is the only goal that we feel compelled to fulfil? Starting off as a women-centric movement, it was realized just how omnipresent the problem is when even men and people belonging to the LGBTQ community started sharing their experiences.
To combat sexual violence, public awareness of these problems must be raised. Being the youth and the torch-bearers of the next generation, we need to start an inclusive fight against this. From sparking conversations to holding campaigns, let us instil morality where it is lost. Let us learn to respect, and teach the same. Let us stand together and give those who have suffered a chance to heal, hope to recover, and faith to liberate. Let us become the society that people learn from. Talking about this is paramount.
Like all campaigns, this too will have people doubting its effectiveness or motives. True, the Facebook posts are not going to put the offenders behind bars, or directly lead to better laws or policing, but what the campaign does is remind us of the magnitude of the problem. For the victims, the trauma from these incidents continues long after it, owing to the societal conditions. Beginning conversations like these is an important step towards mobilizing people in the fight for personal safety.
The all-India Women’s Helpline (1090/1091) and the National Commission for Women’s helpline (0111-23219750) are a few of the emergency contacts available to victims of sexual abuse in the country.