I angrily set about making ‘the others’ wrong. Rapists are wrong. Governments are wrong. Judiciary is wrong. Patriarchal society is wrong. Delhi men are wrong. Men are wrong.
But that was the easy part. I was still the good guy here.
What began to really trouble me came afterwards. It was when I began glimpsing how deeply I am a part of this energy of ‘rape’ too. Haven’t I ever mentally undressed an attractive woman? Haven’t I ever been so angry with a lover that I wanted to hurt her? Haven’t I enjoyed watching sexually charged imagery in movies, on television, in advertising, in fashion? Just because I have never raised a finger on a woman does not mean the same energy was never present within me. Just because the volume is not audible to the world doesn’t mean the twisted ancient song does not sometimes play its awful music inside me also.
When I looked deeper, I sensed that the culture of rape is not only about sex, it is the cult of coercion. Of the powerful controlling the weak through force and humiliation. I have been a part of that too — at work, in my family, as a parent. As I pulled upon this thread, it led me to the sense of masculinity and the adrenalin rush that anger and power give. To the metallic fear that underlies it. And the necessary internal justification that the other ‘deserves’ it.
I am the rapist, I realized. And I am the victim too: it’s been so seductive to make someone else responsible for my suffering. To give away my power and hide behind being the good, noble and wronged victim.
Every time I found more on the subject of violence and rape against women in the months since the Nirbhaya rape case, it reminded me of my responsibility for cleaning this up inside me. It is easier, I realized in hindsight, for me to raise my voice than it is to raise my consciousness. It is undoubtedly hard to slay the demons and monsters outside, but it is harder still to see that they are also inside me.
Yes, I believe tougher laws can deter injustice. But laws also create smarter criminals. I began reading up on the subject and found that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that US states with death penalty laws showed no significant differences in either crime rates or murder rates compared with states that didn’t have them. Yes, I still believe laws will help, but I do not believe they will be enough.
If we create a volatile pressure cooker, asking police and judiciary to hold the lid down tighter can only help so much. If we continue participating in creating a macho, hypersexual culture then beating down on violence and sexuality harder will only make us schizophrenic.
Rape is the fruit of a poisonous tree whose roots are deep within us also. If we don’t see those roots, we can beat each rotten fruit to pulp and new ones will sprout. I’d love to believe violence and rape is committed only by sick, criminal-minded, mentally unstable psychos, but statistics show otherwise: most rapes are carried out by friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, coworkers – people like you and me. So the march for change must eventually lead to my doorstep also.
This valentine’s day, I quietly committed to rising to the challenge of becoming a little more conscious, a little more loving and a little less violent to others and myself. Moving towards becoming a tiny, little rape-free world in myself is the best gift I can think of to the women I love.