I haven’t written in long. What makes me do so now is the utterly insensitive attitude towards an issue that is as real as the sun rising everyday.

After Barkha Dutt opened up about her childhood incident of abuse at the recent Women in the World Summit, trolls have come out galore about how she’s doing it only for publicity. Why after all these years, they say, a woman like her should have had no problem talking about it at all. To those of you who have never been abused (I sincerely doubt someone like that exists), to get an idea of what abuse feels like, think of the time  when your heart-and-soul took the hardest hit, multiply it by say, a zillion, and imagine yourself being shredded. I think it’ll give you a fair idea.

The bottomline? It’s not easy. A person can be strong-willed, courageous, liberal, frank, independent, and more, and yet not be able to talk about abuse for years. Sometimes never.

Apart from the by now-familiar comments on how women invite attention and hence get raped, to how feminists are overdoing the whole woman-is-a-victim idea, what was shocking  (and dangerous) was the body shaming, and the underlying idea that you’re beautiful if you attract sexual attention without seeking it. The comments don’t stop with the men having an opinion, either.

About why Ms. Dutt must be lying – ‘‘Cause, sex sells; even if it’s in the form of abuse’ said one lady. ‘Feminists have certain vested interest due to involvement and influence of foreign funds.’ said another, on social media blog ‘dedicated’ to men.

Feminism is not about women ruling the world. It is, as a friend says, about YAY! WOMEN! while also saying YAY! MEN! It is about equality. Not selective justice. Or freedom. Or special rights. We teach our children ‘ladies first’ because the ladies have been ‘last’ long enough for patriarchy to take such a strong hold that it dictates every aspect of a woman’s life, including how she should feel. Is that right? Debate, by all means.

Boys get abused too. Not many speak up. Because ‘Tu ladka hai, Ladki ke tarah ro mat.’ I agree and accept that there are false cases aplenty against men, accusing them of abuse, violence. But that does, in no way justify harboring narrow-minded, perverted views against women who speak up about their painful past. Feminism doesn’t call for discrimination against a man. Abuse has a wider scope – it cuts across gender, caste, race, religion, any and every other perceivable division.

I have been subject to ugly stares, glares, gestures, and much more. As have been my friends. And at an age too, when we didn’t know what it meant. Did those stories make their way back home? Some did, some were buried. Did those that did go home get treated like they should have been? Not necessarily. My father picks me up from the railway station if I’m coming back home any later than 9 pm.

Why not teach boys and girls to not be a pervert, and to stand up against one instead?

Child sexual abuse is as real as anything can get. Statistics say every 2nd child is abused in the country everyday, majority of the crime committed by a person known to the child. It’s high time we accept this fact, and make ourselves receptive to talking to children about topics like sex and abuse.

This is for every Barkha, Suzette, Oprah, Madonna, Anoushka, Ozzy, and the countless others, for whom this grim reality is life itself.


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