A. Ranganayaki in Open The Magazine:
One morning, two months ago, I read a horrific news report in the Hindustan Times about the rape and subsequent gangrape of an 18-year-old girl in Delhi. She was first raped by her brother’s father-in-law, who had asked her to his home on some familial pretext; she managed to escape him, found a taxi driver in her catatonic state, and asked to be dropped home. Instead, the driver and his companions took her someplace in Dwarka and gangraped her.
It was the use of the word ‘allegedly’ littered throughout the very short report that I first registered. It made me so angry, for some reason. I don’t think the word has been used or drawn my attention as sharply in reports about other crimes. Allegedly. Supposedly. Apparently. Maybe. We’re not sure.
Perhaps it is to do with my own ghosts, perhaps not. Reportage on sexual violence has, in recent years, become far more prevalent; popular, even. The typical ‘progressive’ response to this is one of affirmation, validation; the willingness to talk about it in public. My response was different. My entire being revolted against the ambivalence of the writing, because if anything, its uncertainty made the monstrosity of the act palatable. It gave me the option of feeling a passing horror at the article, and moving on. Then, there were responses from people on Delhi and its total lack of safety. That appalled me too. Is geography central to this story? I don’t believe it is. Relevant as an aside perhaps, nothing more. The cab driver and his mates raped her again. Because she told them what happened? Because she was already a tainted, violated body? Did it excite them?
Sexual violence and abuse are primal and unspeakable. It is far more comfortable to denounce them in terms of morality, emotionality and religiosity than to actually engage with them. They defy historicity, context and the narratives of modernisation. They are liminal, suspended, beyond the reach of articulation. Predicated upon cornerstones of morality, anything remotely related to sexuality is always exciting press, but it’s a fine line—you don’t want to offend sensibilities. People ask me if talking about experiences of rape, abuse and violence help “get over” it. “Is it somehow therapeutic?” they enquire sweetly and cluelessly. No, I tell them. You never “get over” violence. The experience of violence is always constitutive of our beings, our identities and sexualities. The reason I speak is because I can; because I want to; because it affords some navigability through a maelstrom which holds no “rationale”, escape or solace.