"She was asking for it"

A few years ago, a group of us visited Las Vegas for the first time. I'm sure most of you have heard about this city and of its famous Strip. We stayed in one of the hotels there and walked on the Strip until late at night taking in the sights. Among the sights were groups of young women, probably in their twenties or maybe older, all dressed in party outfits, which were primarily cleavage-revealing, figure-hugging dresses, the hemline of which stopped significantly above their knees. In many cases, the women would pull down their hemlines as they walked before it rode all the way past their butts.There were several men who hooted, called after them or simply stared as they passed by.

Quite a few of us were Indians and were shocked, and one of my friends shook her head and said, "these girls are just asking for it!" That statement stayed with me for some time and in light of the many atrocities coming to light in this country and in India, I now come back to it. Asking for what? What did my friend think that these girls were asking for? They certainly were proud of their bodies, so they may have been asking for compliments or catcalls. They may have been asking to be approached by several of the men that they passed. They may have just been looking for a good time of the "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas' kind.

They were not asking to be tackled by multiple men and pinned down to the floor. They were NOT asking to be raped.

I know you will probably sigh and say that I'm being idealistic in thinking that even if a girl walks around naked at 3 a.m., no one has the right to rape her. But, shall I tell you something; the world we have created is an ideal world....for a rapist.

Hearing a news story about rape saddens me, but it is what happens after the initial story breaks that sickens me. Within minutes of the tragic piece coming to light, you can hear the faint murmurings, slowly increasing in volume until it reaches a crescendo. It is the sound of all the venomous creatures coming out of the woodwork, attracted like vultures to the carnage. 'Did you see what she was wearing?' "What was she doing there?" "Didn't she have a boyfriend too?" "She was asking for it!"

How ideal is it for a rapist to have his victim victimized again and again by the public! How convenient for those two high school football players that people from their town assert that their rape victim was making things up to cover up the fact that she had spent the night drunk in her boyfriend's house! How convenient for the rapists in Calcutta that the Park Street lady is labeled loose because she is a single mom and she goes out to party late at night! How perfect for the molestors in Guwahati that their victim was questioned as to why she was drinking in a pub!

So, let's try this exercise! Let us assume the worst of each victim one by one. Let us assume that the teenager in Ohio had already slept with multiple members of the football team. Does that mean she was asking to be drugged, raped and urinated on, and then have those photos and videos posted all over the internet?! Let us assume that the Park Street single mom had a boyfriend or maybe she had a sex business at the side. Does that mean it was okay for her to be raped in a moving car and then thrown out of it in the middle of the night? And, God forbid that the Guwahati girl was not a virgin and was actually sleeping around with several of those men! Does that mean she deserved to be stripped, slapped around and burned with cigarettes?!!

Forgive us that in the twenty first century, women are more confident and self-aware about themselves; that we see ourselves attractive to the opposite sex and we are not shy about it; that we are confident about projecting our sexuality; about daring to have sexual partners before marriage! Whether these victims were whatever the media projects them to be does not matter; what matters is that this serves so well as an 'explanation' of why they were raped!

It shows what a depraved society we are when we only shout our collective outrage when the victim has actually been tortured and killed. I am thankful that a nation has come together to fight against the violent misogyny portrayed by the Damini case, but did it really need to have been such a revolting, heinous act that finally stirred our collective conscience? Will the rest of us still be judged on the basis of the time we go out, the clothes we wear, the confidence with which we portray ourselves, or the sexuality we may consciously or unconsciously project?

You know what we truly ask for? We ask to be given respect. We ask to be considered as human beings. We ask for empathy. We ask to be left alone. We ask for outrage at crimes, any crime, committed against us. We ask you not to sweep these incidents under the carpet, saying that we are overreacting. We ask that you never again humiliate us by saying that we were 'asking for it'.

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