Sunday, June 23, 2013

The importance of revealing rape victim’s identity

By John Cheeran
Is there life after rape? Should a woman live in a purdah rest of her life, if a maniac forcibly violates her privacy? Should she conceal her identity and the identity of those who are near her and next to her?
Are the media and legal system doing the rape victim and her family a favour by not making public her identity? And withholding all references that may point to her identity?  
I do not think so. By not naming the rape victim, you are not favouring her but perpetuating the shame and stigma that is associated with the heinous act. Rape is not the fault of the victim. By treating rape as an unmentionable crime, the media are treating the rape victim as an untouchable, someone who is different from you and me.
How does the fact that the public do not know her name, help the rape victim handle the trauma that she is undergoing? The fact remains that she has been assaulted, privacy violated. Those who done it deserves to be hanged, after establishing their crime in a court of law.
But why the victim has to be always on the back foot? Why are we shrouding her identity, apparently, in an ethical effort to help her?
In fact, in every rape incident, everyone who knows the victim at an individual level knows that she has been subjected to the crime, however long, and however hard, you try to pretend so. In the latest incident of rape – of a medical student at the Manipal Medical College in Udupi in Karnataka, all the students in that campus now must be familiar with the name of the victim. Knowing the name is not the crime, but in the age of surreal connectivity, there are no secrets left among us. To know is the human urge, especially if it involves someone’s misfortune and misery, such are rape incidents. So would be the village or town that the rape victims come from. Her relatives would know. So would be all her classmates. All of them talk. In a free society, where people are free to gossip, and their fare idea about what is happening around the world will continue to do that, unless we want to be a society where news should be always treated with an ethical pen.

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