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#MeToo has revealed many sexual predators. When their actions come to light, who carries the shame? This question was brought sharply to me recently because of the identity of one such man.
Trigger warning. This story can be deeply triggering as it mentions sexual harassment, assault, and child sexual abuse.
Do use the healing corner at saahas.space to help you ground yourself. If you have caused sexual harm to others and would like access to mental health support Neha Bhatt offers a Healing from Harm support group.
Over the last two years, it has come to my knowledge that my father has harassed many women and sexually assaulted one. As these encounters of the harm he has caused came to light, many women have come forward to my mother, sister and me, and shared their stories.
Those he harmed said they did not talk about it when it happened as they believed that men are a certain way, that they had ‘handled’ it and let it pass. They did not want to break up the family or hurt both his daughter’s chances of a ‘good life’.
Over the past two years, as these stories are coming to light, those who were harmed by him slowly understand the magnitude of what has happened, the sheer number of women that have been sexually harassed or harmed. With this understanding comes shame. They not only carry the shame of having let it happen to them, but they also carry the shame of not putting a stop to it and letting it happen to others.
It is not their shame to carry.
It can be their hurt, pain, sadness, anger, certainly not their shame.
The shame is not my mother’s for not having known or seen the signs or failed to protect her friends and the women around her.
The shame is not mine or of my sisters.
The shame is not of his parents or his siblings for not having caught it sooner.
The shame is purely his. The responsibility is his and his alone.
Yet who is made to feel responsible and shame around this? The entire family system, in addition to all of the women he caused harm to, harassed and hurt.
The person who has caused harm is protected.
My father sexually abused me as a child. Repeatedly.
The fact that a person who has co-created me could be possible of such a heinous act is very hard to digest. As it should be. In fact, most people might wonder why I’m writing this, what do I get out of sharing this? Is it not personal? Won’t my ‘good’ family name get ruined?
Well here is the way I see it – my ‘family name’ is already ruined by the person who gave me the name. I’m just being open and honest about the extent of it.
I am not protecting abusers anymore.
I’m being authentic.
And a part of this authenticity is recognising that my abuser was also a very loving and caring father. He raised two fierce feminists. He didn’t bring us up with any patriarchal chains. He encouraged us to do anything and be anything in the world. He showered us with love warmth and affection. There is equally no shame in my accepting this or sharing this.
My father has had access to the best kind of mental health support and has fought many battles over the years in addition to addiction and a mood disorder. He accepts some parts that need help and healing and is willing to put in the effort to do so, yet he refuses to accept or treat the parts that cause so much harm and pain to others.
These are truths about my abuser that I hold within that may be opposing yet equally true. A person can be complex, layered, and hold multitudes within. This is as true for me as it is for my abuser.
The #metoo movement is not the answer for people like him as he has already lost everything there is to lose, including an income and his family unit. For the women who have been hurt by this predator, there is too much to lose and really nothing to gain by coming forward. The legal system is not on our side as we see repeatedly. The systems do nothing to support us or make us feel like we are worth fighting for. Instead, the system protects those who cause harm and silences us. Whose shame is that?
The ‘good family’ I am from is shattered. If it can happen to me, in my family, what about each one of your families? Whose abuse are you not acknowledging? Whose behaviours are you protecting? Who are you fostering shame onto? Whose shame are you carrying?
I am not protecting my father who is a predator.
I am not protecting abusers.
It is not my shame.
Whose shame is it?
Image source: VickyLeon from Getty Images Signature Free for Canva Pro
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If you want to get back to work after a break, here’s the ultimate guide to return to work programs in India from tech, finance or health sectors - for women just like you!
Last week, I was having a conversation with a friend related to personal financial planning and she shared how she had had fleeting thoughts about joining work but she was apprehensive to take the plunge. She was unaware of return to work programs available in India.
She had taken a 3-year long career break due to child care and the disconnect from the job arena that she spoke about is something several women in the same situation will relate to.
More often than not, women take a break from their careers to devote time to their kids because we still do not have a strong eco-system in place that can support new mothers, even though things are gradually changing on this front.
No law in the country recognises enabling the rapist to walk free after marrying the survivor. However, in reality, it is something that families and communities often push for.
In the same week where the Delhi High Court on Wednesday, 11 May, saw a split decision on the constitutionality of the marital rape exception, another equally reactionary decision was handed by a divisional bench of the Supreme Court when they set aside the conviction and sentence of a man who had repeatedly raped his 14 year old niece
The facts of the case are simple. The accused, K Dhandapani, enticed his 14 year old niece with the promise of marriage and raped her several times. The family came to know of the offence when the girl became pregnant, and a case was lodged against him under the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. After trying his case, in 2018, the Sessions Court found him guilty on all three counts, and convicted him and sentenced him to 10 years rigorous imprisonment. The accused appealed to the Madras High Court which upheld the conviction and the sentence in 2019.
The girl gave birth in 2017, before the case came up in court. Despite the pending case against him, he continued to have sexual relations with the girl, and she gave birth to her second child at the age of 17.