Vanitharatnam award winner Rahnas tells how to break the `victim tag'
Rather than statistics of violence faced by women and photo-stories detailing the ordeal they endured, we need stories of survival. Stories of those women, who refused to be termed ‘victim’ over no fault of theirs and decided not to remain ‘faceless’. Rahnas is a representative of such survivors.
I am a survivor, I have a face and a good life… Why should I hide my face for no fault of mine? Why should I be afraid of saying my name? Rahnas is proving that mental strength is all that takes to break the ‘victim’ tag bestowed by the society and to become a ‘survivor’.
“There is no need to remember it. Just take it as if you woke up from a bad dream. Now I am really happy. I never thought that I would continue my studies. I was sceptical even when everyone told me that I could continue my education if I went to Thiruvananthapuram. Those who brought me here were complete strangers. But there were a lot of people supporting me whenever I was in need of something. So I studied, passed LLB, attended Civil Service coaching and got a job. I never expected that my life would turn around like this,” Rahnas started speaking without inhibitions.
Decision to open up and reveal the face
Today nobody subscribes to the idea that the survivor should cover up her face like in earlier generations. Our society has started thinking progressively. We have started to embrace minorities such as the LGBT community. Likewise, the society will gradually accept those who are victims of such attacks. In my case, the attack happened at an age when I did not have any kind of awareness. It is not our mistake that we have been subjected to such attacks. So we have to fight and live our life with happiness. Once we decide to move forward in life without letting the past pull us down, society should also be able to welcome us.
My mother was a bit tense when she learned that Leena Manimekhala was making a documentary called ‘My story is your story’ as we had just started a new life in Wayanad, without revealing anything to anyone. She was scared of how people would respond when they came to know about all this. But all the responses from people who saw the documentary were very positive. I tried to be an inspiration for others like me. There should be enough courage in us to say this is what I am.
When my case started in 2008, people in my locality had nothing else to talk about. It created a strange atmosphere. I was shifted to Thiruvananthapuram a month after the case was registered. I was taken to Mahila Samakhya through the women’s commission. Although it was said that only I would be taken to the centre, my mother also joined me there over fear that she would be alone at my father’s place. Initially she came there to stay with me for a week, but she ended up living with me.
When I came to Thiruvananthapuram, nobody was talking about the incident, nobody even wanted to know what happened. It was a completely different world. I was immediately admitted to a school. (Back home, it was different as people usually tend to talk about the problem that takes place in their locality) Gradually, I got busy with studying music and dance and as a result, I spent less time thinking about the incident.
A week after I came here, my mother and siblings joined me. I have spent several evenings talking about the past with my sister, but then I forgot everything the next morning as I got busy with different things. If you go and visit Nirbhaya home, you will find that the children are living happily there and that they do not dwell in the past. But again they will be sad when they have to talk about it during the counselling session. People often say that we cannot get our childhood back. It is so dear to all of us. What about these children…
Father threatened us not to speak out
My father threatened us not to reveal anything. A lot of people supported us in the beginning when the case was registered. But the support slowly disappeared. Then people started asking me not to identify certain people during the identification parade that was held as part of the case. There was also pressure from some of my relatives. They stopped talking to us, but no significant threats were made. I was safe in Thiruvananthapuram. But that would not have been the case if I was back home.
Great support from friends in college
I did my LLB from Ernakulam Sreenarayana Law College and my expenses were funded by the Social Welfare Department. I had restrictions regarding going out with my friends and using my phone. If something bad happened, Mahila Samakhya and the women’s commission would have had to bear the brunt. A lot of people in the college knew that I came to class from the shelter home. I had a lot of friends, who gave me a lot of support. I had already lived a part of my life and they were not going to hate me for having a troubled past.
Don’t think my father regrets
I saw my father during the time of my trial. After that I have not seen him, except in the documentary. Initially, I even thought that he repented. But when I saw him in the documentary, he came across as if he was not sincere. I could not find any sincerity in his words. He was referring to me as ‘that child’.
Justice should not be delayed
I want to say one more thing. There is a lot of delay when it comes to cases pertaining to our children. When a girl is called up for trial at the age of 25, for an incident that happened when she was 12, she faces a lot of problems. We understand the graveness of the issue only when we grow up. During the trial of my case, I was asked to describe what rape was in plain words. It caused a lot of problems for me. I don’t know who should take the responsibility for putting an end to this delay. Look at the Walayar case. After a few days, people lost interest in it when something new came up. Nobody cares to support the victim’s family. When something like this happens, nobody should think that it does not concern them. Tomorrow, it can happen to anyone. That is the kind of age we live in.
When it comes to compensation, there are parents who are not even aware whether the verdict has come out. Nobody contacts them after the procedures in court are completed. People think that their part in the case is completed once the verdict comes out. The compensation amount can provide strength to the family. Parents who hail from interior parts of the state do not have much knowledge about this. The public prosecutor who represents our state should act in such cases with sincerity. Justice should be given to the victim.