According to statistics done by WHO, around 1 out of every 3 women worldwide are sexually assaulted at least once in their life. But to be blunt, no number can convey the trauma one goes through, physically and mentally, when being raped/ assaulted. The worst part is, for the most part, this nightmare of a traumatic experience doesn’t end with that one incident. After being assaulted, when one seeks assistance and justice, they go through a similar, if not more, traumatic experience throughout the whole investigation. And if you are a woman who has a lifestyle unlike the conventional ones in a conservative society like ours, then it will be longer and more twisted of a nightmare.
If you look through the whole sexual assault investigation checklist the law enforcement people go through, you’ll come across literally a series of questions about the victim’s “character/ lifestyle” more than questions about the actual criminal. In a paper published by The University of Texas System, we see a thorough interrogation of the victim about their consumption of alcohol and drug, the situation of her state of mind, and her relationship with the criminal. One doesn’t have to go through dictionaries to know that this very interrogation goes against the very concept of consent.
In many countries like ours, where sexual interaction and discussions are still considered taboo, most investigators often consider the victim’s “character” and “relationships” more than the actual effort to find the criminal. The Rape Law Reform Coalition’s member organisations were forced to quote the National Assault Against Women Survey 2015, which indicated that 27.3 per cent of women who had ever married had experienced sexual violence from their spouses (including forceful sexual intercourse). Most of these women don’t even bother to report this to the police because according to the so-called “social norms,” when it’s your husband or boyfriend (in the western world) in the giver end of this assault thread, it’s supposed to be “normal.”
And even after going through hell and back with this whole interrogation process, our society and law enforcement department has an infamous way to frame the victim in the end. “What were you doing at a party so late at night? Why were you wearing such revealing clothes? What were you thinking about hanging out with your guy friends alone in a room?” The time they should have spent concentrating on the actual investigation process, they waste that time interrogating and blaming the emotionally scattered victim.
Remember the raintree incident in Banani, Dhaka? All the accused in that case got bail after a long and tedious jurisdiction process, just because the girls were “willingly” at a party with their friends, and they filed the case later than “lawfully” acceptable. Remember the incident at world-class news network CNN’s female reporter being sexually harassed at the workplace and being fired for its accusation? Though it started the famous #metoo movement, it got so little attention from law enforcement and CNN itself before the worldwide pressure of the movement started.
In the Netflix show “Unbelievable,” a young girl gets accused of a false allegation of sexual assault, making life a living nightmare for this girl. But eventually, a series of other rape cases lead to a revelation that depicts how easy it is to neglect and blame a woman in such a vulnerable state for a male-dominated social system. There’s a dialogue at the end of the show: “No one ever accuses a robbery victim of lying or someone who says he was carjacked. Doesn’t happen. But when it comes to sexual assault…..”
It is very difficult to find a woman around us, regardless of race and class, who hasn’t gone through some form of sexual assault. And even though there are people who are becoming more aware of these and doing everything they can to minimise the harm, there are still millions of people, even in this modern era, who point their fingers at the victim the first chance they get, making the investigation of these insufferable and brutal. Whereas sexual assault victims should get all the support and understanding in the world, our society and jurisdiction system make it worse and add to the trauma and suffering.