Digital Rape: What Is It?

The term digital rape comes from “digit” which means, finger or toe and has nothing to do with crimes related to tech or the digital world

Some time back, while working on a project for academic purposes, I came across the word, Digital Rape. Out of curiosity and a genuine intent to understand, I asked a few folks if they knew about the term “Digital Rape”.

To my surprise, most of them were caught unaware.

A vast majority of the Indian population is still not aware of the term digital rape. But when it comes to digital rape incidents, the number tells a different story altogether. The ratio of such incidents is way too high. Every four in five girls go through this traumatic incident at least once in her lifetime.

However, digital rape is a gender-neutral word, when it comes to both victims and the offenders and the incident leaves a permanent scar in terms of mental trauma in victims irrespective of their age or societal circumstances.

Digital rape and its origins

Definition of Digital rape

The term digital rape comes from “digit” which means, finger or toe and has nothing to do with crimes related to technology or the digital world. It is an act where the offender sexually assaults a person using a finger, thumb, or toe or any other object other than the penis.

This act is a gender-neutral offence as the perpetrator could be a male or a female, and the same applies to the victims as well. Digital rape induces severe trauma physically, mentally as well as emotionally and the victim may take years to disclose and even more time to acknowledge what has happened and recover from.

The occurrence of and severity of digital rape was not acknowledged until the Nirbhaya Gang Rape incident that happened in 2012. Along with new rape laws proposed and included in the Criminal Law Amendment of 2013. Digital rape was also included under the scope of section 375 of the Indian penal code, which until then was regarded merely as a case of molestation.

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Changes in law related to digital rape

In the aftermath of the 2012 gang rape incident, the punishment for such an act is provided for under section 375 of the IPC. If the victim is a child, then the punishment is mentioned under Section 3 of the POCSO Act. However, there is still an ongoing struggle to patch the loopholes in the law when it comes to digital rape.

For instance, a 2-year-old girl from Mumbai was brought to hospital bleeding from her private parts. The initial report found a ruptured vagina without any signs of rape. However, subsequently, it was found that it was the father of the child who was the perpetrator. He was arrested, but was not charged under section 376 of the IPC (or Section 375 of the IPC, for that matter).

In another such incident, an elderly woman was assaulted using a rod by an auto driver, on her way to a relative’s wedding. The auto driver was arrested, but was not punished under rape charges. This tells a lot about the need for amending the law and the challenges in the implementation, and clearly shows that both are two different things.

Though the changes in law did create an awareness among the people to file a complaint related to such incidents, the number of cases being registered still remains low as compared to the actual incidents happening. A situation that has been a concerning one for a very long time.

Why do people still hesitate to file a complaint?

Why victims don't file complain of rape?

Digital Rape is still an alien and a largely misunderstood concept for many. It is still not considered as serious a crime as rape.

However, the repercussions and trauma related to a digital rape are in no way any less than a rape or a crime associated with a rape (in fact, the effects are more detrimental as this often involves young minds).

Then why do people hesitate to file a complaint?

  • Lack of knowledge/awareness
  • Unaware of legal procedures
  • Fear of ostracization and trauma
  • Most important – the perpetrators in such cases are mostly close family members or relatives.

Digital Rape incidents inflict great trauma on the victim. It takes years to recover from such an incident, without the assurance that one may actually be able to fully recover. The psychological impact of such crimes relating to children is far more concerning than anyone could possibly fathom.

We need a stringent psychological evaluation coupled with fast-track legal procedures for any form of sexual crime. For justice delayed is indeed justice denied.

Helpline numbers:

  • National Commission for Women Helpline 7827170170
  • Central Social Welfare Board -Police Helpline 1091/ 1291, (011) 23317004
  • Shakti Shalini 10920
  • Shakti Shalini – women’s shelter (011) 24373736/ 24373737
  • SAARTHAK (011) 26853846/ 26524061
  • All India Women’s Conference 10921/ (011) 23389680
  • JAGORI (011) 26692700 / +918800996640
  • Joint Women’s Programme (also has branches in Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai) (011) 24619821
  • Sakshi – Violence Intervention Centre (0124) 2562336/ 5018873
  • Saheli – a women’s organization (011) 24616485 (Saturdays)
  • Nirmal Niketan (011) 27859158
  • Nari Raksha Samiti (011) 23973949
  • RAHI Recovering and Healing from Incest. A support centre for women survivors of child sexual abuse (011) 26238466/ 26224042, 26227647

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Image source: CanvaPro

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About the Author

Sheeba Vinay

Writer/Literary Agent/Lawyer In Making. I write to stay sane, and when not writing you can find me binge watching crime documentaries. Hopelessly in love with Jane Austen, Books and Tea! [email protected] read more...

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