Fighting for Faith
This piece has been written by Anonymous.
Exactly one year and two months ago, I had started writing this article. But at that time, the story was incomplete.
In what were the most difficult 6 months of my life so far, I had faced several things – the death of a grandmother, the death of a close friend, an abusive relationship. And rape. Yes, rape. No, I did not slap him immediately after the act. No, I did not go to the police. To all those who wonder why I didn’t, please consider that the Law School community has, time and again, discouraged survivors from even filing SHARIC complaints. In such a scenario, imagine being a 19 year old, yet to come to terms with the emotional trauma she was experiencing. Imagine standing in front of a group of men and narrating the ordeal in detail, over and over again. Difficult to imagine? Even more difficult to do.
Filing a complaint before the Sexual Harassment Inquiry Committee was an incredibly difficult task for me, considering that the perpetrator was once a friend. It did not help that I was feeling guilty for having been drunk at the party or for being unable to fight back during the incident. My guilt was added on to by those who messaged me asking me to let the matter be, to think of his career. My parents, who were more disappointed than angered, shook my confidence even more. Looking back, I would never have been able to file the complaint had a group of my friends not come to my room and given me the confidence to take the step forward.
I used to think that filing a complaint would mean that I would no longer have to interact with the perpetrator. I was wrong. That is when the mind games began. Emotional blackmail, constant messaging, fake threats of suicide, gaslighting and humiliation. While some ridiculous attempts did provide comic relief (going to each MHOR hostel room and faking a heart attack, seriously?), others tore at my self-worth (before this I did not know that only pretty girls can get assaulted). It became all the more difficult when his mother came to campus to meet me. I refused to meet her. But clearly, neither the college administration nor his mother understood consent well.
In the long months before any proceedings commenced, the perpetrator continued to attend classes, seek attendance condonations and project extensions for having been “traumatised”. These months were the starting point of the conversation revolving around condonation of the acts of sexual harassers on campus. Many batchmates took the stance that they could not take any decision about my reality until the SHIC had decided on the same. They chose to place their trust in an unknown body rather than a batchmate they had known for 3 years. We, in Law School, often forget that we are not bound by judicial principles when we do not possess judicial authority. Neutrality is not a virtue when you know the reality of oppression. Regardless, it was saddening to see these people change their stance when their own friends were harassed (consistency is also a judicial principle, if we really want to go there).
It took almost one year, one bold professor, and one committee change to finally commence the proceedings. I will not lie – the proceedings drained me completely. However, for once, in the entire journey, I felt closer to justice than I ever did before. It was also the time where I found support in seniors and friends who selflessly devoted their time to the cause. Help is indeed always given in Law School to those who seek it.
A few months later, the decision of the SHIC came out. Ecstasy was my first emotion, grief was my second. Over the year, I had pinned my entire mental health on that one decision and expected it to solve all my problems. The grief struck when I realised that I was not magically cured. The day of the decision was the first time I felt suicidal. It’s surprising how little is said about mental health issues in Law School considering how many people suffer from them, day in and day out. I realised after a long time (and constant pushing from my roommates) that seeking help would not make me “weak” and I did deserve to be happy.
On the 15th of September, 2018, my struggle was vindicated. Securing justice gives you the closure that “what if” never does. Yes, the struggle was long and there is still a long way to go. But now I know I have the strength for it, since it is no longer my fight alone. It is the fight of the senior who guided me when I was filing a complaint, of those witnesses who poured many hours into the proceedings, of those alumni who came out in support, of those friends who consoled me when I lost hope, of those parents who would have died to get their old daughter back, of all those women who told me they went through similar experiences, of that bold professor who took on the college administration to ensure the proceedings continued, of those SHIC members who worked tirelessly to complete the proceedings, of the partner who taught me how to recognise my worth – and lastly, it is the fight of all those who came out and stood in solidarity on that momentous Saturday afternoon in the pouring rain.
I could fight because it was not a lone woman’s fight. It was a community’s fight.