“To victims of sexual assault or any trauma, tell your story. Only then will you find someone who had similar experiences, with whom you can connect and move forward…”

I have come to understand that I like to read about other people’s journeys from trauma (of any kind) towards some amount of healing or acceptance. Recommendations requested and welcome.

The first such book I read was The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood [link], which was comforting at a time when nothing could comfort. Now I offer it to anybody coping with child loss. The second survivor story I bought but did not start reading for almost two years, (because it seemed too popular and I thought it was about praying) – then I saw the movie on the TV and finally picked the book. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert –  still surprises me with the impact it has on me (and on atleast one other mother who loves the book as much) – I am reading it for the second time, reading it slowly, savouring every word. The comfort this book brings is specially unexpected because the book is not about child loss, I was surprised that divorce and heartbreak could hurt this much. How the book ends or the story doesn’t matter – what I love is reading about Elizabeth Gilbert’s experiences as she struggles to find some moments of peace. This struggle to help herself was (is) immensely relatable.

Then a friend recommended Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, and now I have just finished reading and am still feeling overwhelmed with the Girl in the Woods: A Memoir by Aspen Matis.

Aspen Matis is a rape survivor. She decides to hike the same Pacific Crest Trail that the Cheryl Strayed does (in Wild: From Lost to Found).

Each of these books has been an eye opener. I have come to see that loss and trauma affects many of us in nearly the same way. No matter what causes it, atleast for a while, the trauma changes the way the survivors view life and everything else.

Aspen Matis felt nobody ‘gets’ what she was going through, including her mother, “I hated her consistent need to know the list of different foods I’d eaten that day. I remembered how she’d asked me if I’d had a good dinner in the same phone call when I’d told her I’d been raped.”

For a long time after the rape, she doesn’t know what she wants… because what she wanted was not possible. The book made me want to reach out to her, to hug her nineteen year old self and to thank her for her courage in sharing her experience. I was saddened but still thankful to be reading how she felt. When have we ever heard a rape survivor’s side of the story? Such first person accounts should be shared.

I had not thought of what a sexual assault could do to every part of the survivor’s life. Consider what it could do to her self confidence: Did she really ask for it? Could she have prevented it? Did she experience rape or was it not really rape? Was she capable of taking care of herself? Could/should she trust men ever again? Was she safe from further assaults? Would she ever be able to have a normal relationship? All her relationships change forever, including her relationship with herself. Then there was the humiliation, the ‘shame’, the anger and the helplessness. I strongly recommend the book for anybody who would like to understand what a sexual assault can do to a victim. Also, what lack of clarity about one’s rights can do. Why having a voice and knowing one’s rights is more empowering than all the safety alarms and pepper sprays in the world. And how terrifyingly disempowering lack of confidence is. I loved the author’s honesty.

In a society like ours that does not even acknowledge that rape is ‘sex without consent’ – this book could be a beginning. Do read and share.

But why was this book healing for me? It made me see I was not the only one coping with what I couldn’t change. AND it made me want to go for a long, long hike.

And I agree with her when she says, “To victims of sexual assault or any trauma, tell your story. Only then will you find someone who had similar experiences, with whom you can connect and move forward...” [from here – What Girl in the Woods Author Aspen Matis Found on the Trail to Independence:]

“It was OK for her to say ‘no’ after saying ‘yes’? Saying ‘yes’ doesn’t mean a blanket sanction to any sexual activity.”

In our hearts forever.

An email: Satyamev Jayate touched a deep wound. After almost 30 years I broke the silence.

Books I am reading.

Why I liked ‘Rabbit Hole’.

A Hiker’s Guide to Healing – Aspen Matis

When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her. —ADRIENNE RICH

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The right to deny or to give consent takes the power away from Patriarchy, and gives it to the individual.

The Indian government [link] and the society [link] and hence the Indian legal system [link] seem to continue to believe that Indian men and women do not need to understand, respect, seek, give or deny Consent. This leads to some problems.

Like, is it possible for someone to respect women, if they have no idea that women are people with equal rights?

And can women be said to have equal rights, if they are not permitted to withhold or to give consent?

Can lack of respect be cured with appeals to display respect [link]?

And where does this disrespect come from?

A large part of it comes from genuinely believing that women’s consent in matters that directly concern them is not relevant [link], and though abuse, violence and disrespect are unpleasant, they are either unavoidable or even necessary to maintain the status quo. Many of us are afraid of any change.

Also, we do not seem to understand Consent as much as we understand Honor – which is why, (amongst other things) – forced sex or rape within marriage is more acceptable to many of us, than consensual sex outside marriage (which is strongly condemned as immoral). [link]

I think it is particularly difficult when not just the society, but even the law does not acknowledge women’s right to bodily autonomy.

The fact is, like anything logical – Consent is easy to understand. But Consent is empowering for those who are directly involved, the right to deny or to give consent takes the power away from Patriarchy, and gives it to the individual.

Respecting women, for most Indians does not mean respecting them as equal individuals, it often includes controlling their lives and sexuality, and as a result – women being allowed to choose their own partners is troubling for many. An extreme case was Mahendra Singh Tikait who is quoted to have said, “…Only whores can choose their partners.” [link]

What would change if Consent in sexual relationships was understood and accepted by the society and the law makers, as the most crucial factor in determining whether the act was a morally or legally a crime or not?

Here’s a video that explains Consent.

What do you think?

Related Posts:

The Amorous Adventures of Shakku and Megha in the Valley of Consent

Five rapists in Patna want to marry gangrape victim.

Making Marital Rape a legal offence is the fastest way to make it clear that Rape means forced sex, not lost Virginity or Honor.

Panchayat orders girl to marry her rapist because one way to make a Rape right is to make it Marital Rape.

What do you think of these doubts regarding recognition of marital rape as a crime?

“Instituting the idea of marital rape raises the specter of a man going for long periods without sex even though he’s married!”

Forcible sex with wife doesn’t amount to marital rape: Court

Here’s why a 6-year-old rape survivor was ordered to marry alleged rapist’s 8 year old son.

Where Consensual Sex is Rape, and Forced Sex a legal right.

Rapist groom should have waited a little to satiate his lusty desires without problems which he has got into.

“In my own company in a cosmopolitan city, I know women who were horrified on the First Night.”

Who will benefit from criminalising sexual assaults within marriages?

India leads in sexual violence, worst on gender equality: Study

For Victims and Survivors of Marital Rapes.

Legally, marriage doesn’t permit murders and violence, but sexual assaults on the partner are legally allowed. (even if the spouse is minor)

Three thoughts on Bhag Milkha Bhag.

Marriage Sacred in India, So Marital Rape Does Not Apply: Government

Rapist said that coming from Afghanistan meant he didn’t understand what ‘consent’ was.

These panties will change the way you look at sex.

Let’s talk about sexual consent

“It was OK for her to say ‘no’ after saying ‘yes’? Saying ‘yes’ doesn’t mean a blanket sanction to any sexual activity.”

 

“It was OK for her to say ‘no’ after saying ‘yes’? Saying ‘yes’ doesn’t mean a blanket sanction to any sexual activity.”

A Guest Post by Freebird.

I came across this other post: I Got Raped With My Consent. That Will Always Be The Most Horrible Memory Of My Life

I don’t think consensual sex which doesn’t involve any coercion should be treated as rape at any cost. So I find the statement ‘I said ‘yes’ but it was ’emotional rape” very contradictory.

But what I didn’t understand, and do find disturbing, is this:

In this story, why didn’t this girl ever realize that it was OK for her to say ‘no’after saying ‘yes’? Saying ‘yes’ doesn’t mean a blanket sanction to any sexual activity. It is perfectly right to set boundaries, or ask the other person to stop when she was getting uncomfortable. If he was hurting her and she was in pain, why isn’t it clear that she had every right to tell him to stop hurting her and not engage in things which were painful to her? And the moment this message is conveyed clearly and if he still carries on, it does becomes ‘rape’ (not an esoteric ’emotional rape’). Whether it can be proved or not is a different issue. That doesn’t change the fact that it is rape when the other person is violating your boundaries.

Related Posts:

“Even if the sexual intercourse was forceful it was not forcible and contrary to the wishes and consent of the deceased.”

Rapist said that coming from Afghanistan meant he didn’t understand what ‘consent’ was.

‘Madam so many rapes don’t happen in Germany coz girls don’t refuse to have sex.’

Making Marital Rape a legal offence is the fastest way to make it clear that Rape means forced sex, not lost Virginity or Honor.

Forced intercourse in marriage not rape: Delhi court

Forcible sex with wife doesn’t amount to marital rape: Court

“Girls should be married at 16, so that they don’t need to go elsewhere for their sexual needs. This way rapes will not occur.”

What makes Men Rape? – Do read.

The rapists often don’t see their actions as crimes, the police said, and don’t expect the victims to report them.

A tag: But when a woman sees a hot man, nothing happens in her brain?

Triya charitram, Purushasya bhagyam, Devo Na Janati, Kuto Manushya…

Making Marital Rape a legal offence is the fastest way to make it clear that Rape means forced sex.

‘The woman said she was inebriated when a co-worker took her to a room and raped her.’

So how does Delhi – NCR Police define Rape?

How Victim Blaming confuses rapists, police and the society.

When they don’t even understand crime…