अमेरिका से शालिनी एक डाक्यूमेंट्री बनाने भारत आईं. एक अमेरिकी आर्गेनाइजेशन ने उनकी भारत यात्रा प्रायोजित की थी. वे दक्षिण भारत के एक होटल में रुकी थीं. होटल के वेटर ने रेप की कोशिश की. तब वे सो रही थीं. वेटर ने उनका मुंह दबा लिया. वे घुटन महसूस करने लगीं. मुंह से खून बहने लगा. वो उस दरिंदे से खुद को बचाने में पूरी उर्जा के साथ जुट गईं. आखिर में उस वेटर ने जब यह देखा कि शालिनी के अंत तक भरपूर विरोध के कारण वह अपनी वहशियाना हरकत में कामयाब नहीं हो पाएगा तो उसने यह कहकर शालिनी को छोड़ा कि होटल के मैनेजर से उसकी शिकायत बिलकुल न करे.
बाद में शालिनी पुलिस के पास गई. अस्पताल गईं. अपना मेडिकल कराया. पेपरवर्क ठीक से किया. रिपोर्ट दर्ज कराया. लेकिन शालिनी को दुख है कि भारतीय ब्यूरोक्रेटिक सिस्टम ने रिस्पांड नहीं किया. शालिनी ने अपनी पूरी कहानी अमेरिका जाकर इसी फरवरी माह की 19 तारीख को बयान किया. उनका लिखा न्यूयार्क टाइम्स की वेबसाइट पर भी छपा है. नीचे है शालिनी की जुबानी उनकी अपनी कहानी….
A Personal Nightmare of Assault in India
By SHALINI KANTAYYA
In a hotel in southern India, in the midst of a dreamless sleep, I awoke inside a nightmare. I heard someone screaming. I’m not sure how much time passed before I realized that it was my scream.
I had traveled to India on behalf of a U.S.-based organization to film a documentary about political street theatre and how art is used as a tool for social change. It was the continuation of field research that I had begun as a William J. Fulbright Scholar. As a second-generation American born to parents who emigrated from India, I felt a sense of pride that I could use my role as a filmmaker to serve as a cultural ambassador between the two largest democracies in the world.
But I found myself awake in this nightmare, with a man violently gripping my mouth shut, attempting to rape me. I was biting and kicking, using every ounce of my energy to fight for my life. My mouth was badly bleeding and in the struggle we fell to the floor. He continued to violently grab my face, and said, “Shalini, don’t shout.” He knew my name. I recognized him as the hotel waiter who served my dinner that night.
I continued to scream and fight incessantly, until finally he relented. He picked up his lungi and said, “I’ll leave. Don’t tell the manager.” Then he ran out and shut the door. Did he really think he could try and rape me in my sleep, without protest and that I wouldn’t tell? Yes. He did. He counted on the fact that he lived in a culture that blamed the victim — that the stigma associated with sexual assault would force a woman to keep quiet. And although I had escaped the worst-case scenario, and prevented a rape, the nightmare was far from over.
In the days that followed, bruised and battered, with excruciating body pain, I managed to shuttle to and from government hospitals to be examined and police stations to file reports. I was well acquainted with India’s bureaucratic process, and in spite of my injuries, I wanted to make sure I had filled out all the paperwork correctly to obtain “justice.”
For several weeks, I tried to get a response from several American and Indian bureaucracies, but they all responded the same way: by doing nothing. Despite my formal complaints, in which I detailed the attack in full, these institutions offered no assistance – not even a single follow up call. I was devastated. I traveled to India on part of an American organization, and received no mental, physical or emotional support. As someone who has committed my life to artistic expression and social justice, I have never felt so voiceless.
Rape and sexual assault are not isolated incidents in a woman’s life. The physical wounds can heal, but the psychological and social stigma associated with rape can keep a woman from reaching her highest potential. My mother had always raised me with the idea that I could lift myself up from my bootstraps and follow my dreams. But in the years following the sexual assault, I suffered the worst depression that I had ever known. I finally sought out a free clinic for survivors. The counselor explained to me, “You have something called post-‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You have the stuff soldiers have coming home from a war.” Had I not found someone who could diagnose me with PTSD, and tell me this was a real and treatable condition, this assault may have held me back for life.
The recent gang rapes in India are a reminder to all of us that the rapists are not the only persons who are guilty. The onlookers, the institutions that turn a blind eye, and fail to implement comprehensive policies to address sexual assault are complicit in the violence. When these crimes are swept under the carpet, it perpetuates a culture of silence, a culture that blames the victim.
In the mainstream coverage of the recent gang rape in India, there is a kind of colonial mentality to view these men as savages, and to see India as a place that oppresses women. But looking at figures in the U.S., every two minutes a woman is sexually assaulted. One in four American women suffer rape or attempted rape by the time they reach college.
When I first started to share my story, I was astounded by just how many women began sharing their stories with me. It was like a common secret that we were all hiding. And I grieved not just for my own loss of innocence, but also for just how ordinary my story is, for the invisible war that is happening against women everyday. Sexual violence against women is ubiquitous. It happens to women everywhere, however educated, however empowered, across boundaries of race, class, and nationality.
We can no longer wait for the death of another woman to break the silence of so many victims of sexual violence. U.S. and Indian institutions must move quickly to implement comprehensive policies regarding education, training, and support as well as clearly defined medical and legal protocol to deal with women who are sexually assaulted at home and abroad.
Healing from this traumatic event has been a journey towards deep compassion for myself, for my attacker, and for the people and institutions that betrayed me in my time of need. This story is for the courageous women who have been betrayed by the institutions they loved and served. This story is for the 40,000 women in India who are still waiting for justice for sexual assault. My case is among them. And in the silence, I can hear their scream.
Shalini Kantayya is the director of 7th Empire Media and a 2000 Fulbright Scholar.