It looks nothing like a new dawn if you read about it. And there is quite a bit out there to read. There has been a lot written on the Brock Turner – Stanford assault case this past week.
A lot of support has poured in for the survivor, although in her own words, a bit late, after she spent whole year of enduring trial in the court room where the lawyer tried to paint her a flawed character.
Of course, there was hardly anything on this on topic on the Indian media. When I first saw the news making headlines and got curious and read through the details, I immediately understood why. This is no ordinary case. This opens up a whole new dimension, one which we are not yet ready for in this sub-continent. (And hence the possibility of a new dawn)
Here are the two things that have had everyone take notice of this case and spin far along two extremities in terms of judgement and opinion.
First of all, the accused is Star sportsman of the college, coming from a wealthy family. It was a student party and he was drunk like most students out there. (What’s wrong with that, right? If anything is wrong, it is the drinking culture and sexual promiscuity in colleges) A conviction for him means registering as a sex offender and losing out on the bright career he was counting on. (And in his Dad’s words – All that for 20 min of action?!) It was appalling the amount of support that poured in for Turner – the guy who was merely at the wrong place at the wrong time, as his lawyer tried to portray and many parents desperately wanted to believe.
The accused and his family thought they had one thing going for them, the second factor. The victim, rather, the survivor was also drunk that night, she was so drunk she had passed out. So what could possibly be so wrong? She was careless. She was irresponsible. I could almost hear them screaming in muffled voices, “She deserved it”.
Women have traditionally gone back into the hood after something like this. “You were drunk and this happened? Of course it will. Now go off the drinks and try to live clean” – as if Alchohol somehow made what Brock Turner did right.
But the girl did not listen to that inner voice so adept at creating guilt. She chose not to hide the brutality of what happened beneath usage if alchohol, hers or his.
“Yes I was drunk. But I did not consent”. She did not mince her words. “You hurt me and you hurt my family”. She chose to speak. And that made a whole lot of difference.
I contrast that with what happened to me in the Supermarmet few minutes ago. As I was walking across one of the aisles, a tall muscular man was walking down the opposite direction, his arms wide and swinging. My body stiffened, alarms going inside of me. I contracted my body and turned sideways, like I have been taught and practiced all these years. Move away. Stay inconspicuous. Don’t go out at night. Don’t go alone. All the while men walked down narrow supermarket aisles with wide arms with no concern for physical comfort of the women who share the aisle space.
It is all so easy to overlook the guilty act in favour of possible faults – what the woman wore, how she laughed, how late she was was out etc. In India’s own brutal Nirbhaya case, questions were raised on why the victim was out at night with a male friend.
With this case, I finally feel the change in the air. The voices speaking out over Internet tell me that it is ok to be who we are and still demand to be safe and treated with respect.
As I tell my daughters, “It is up to us to make it look like normal. It is perfectly normal for a woman to walk down a road full of men, with held high. It is perfectly OK to walk as if you belong, in spite of the stares, in response to the stares. Fake it if you have to. Just hide the trepidation. It is up to us.” I finally felt I was not alone saying those words.
While the whole world is speaking out to support you and stand for you, I thank you for speaking up. Finally.
Photograph by Jairo Alzate from unsplash.com