A reader from India asked me to blog about this at the end of last week. At the time, I told her that I was feeling burned out, but promised to write about it on Monday or Tuesday. I've been procrastinating, though. As much as I know that this is something that's important to talk about, I've had a hard time bringing myself to read about it, let alone write about it.
But I promised that I would. And it's important. So let's do this.
She was held captive for four days.
Her parents say that the police ignored their reports that their daughter was missing.
Her parents say that the police offered them money to keep quiet about their daughter's rape.
She is now in critical condition in the hospital.
When I was five, my biggest upsets in life were that I couldn't wear my party dresses to kindergarten and that I wasn't allowed to have chocolate milk with every meal.
And, you know, here I sit in my privilege saying that I'm too burnt out to read her story, that it's too hard for me to write about.
Of course, for other people, other women, this type of story is the daily reality that they have to live with. They don't have the ability to tune out and think about other things the way I do.
This girl, this five-year-old girl, is fighting for her life, in part because the police weren't terribly interested in finding her. Because she's just a girl. Because she's disposable. Because she was born in a country where sex-selective abortion is so common that, in some provinces, 126 males are born for every 100 females.
This, on the heels of the brutal gang rape in India that happened back in December. In that case, the victim wasn't so lucky - she died of her wounds several days after her attack. The most brutal of her rapists, who was sixteen years old, received a sentence of only three years in a "reform home" because of his status as a minor.
This, in conjunction with another breaking story about a five-year-old Indian girl who was raped and murdered.
And yet another breaking story about a 13-year-old Indian girl who was gang-raped.
And a story about a six-year-old Indian girl who was raped.
And a story about 11- and 13-year-old sisters who were raped by their mother's boyfriend.
All of these rapes happened within a week's span. All of this is in just one country. And these are just a few select stories I pulled -- there are more, so many more. Not just in India, but everywhere.
There are people who want to dismiss this as a problem with the way that Indian culture treats women. There are people who say that, sure, this type of thing happens over there, but it would never happen here. Maybe India has a culture of rape, but here in the West we sure don't.
But, of course, we do.
Rape culture knows no borders, and while it might be worse or more obvious in certain parts of the world, the truth is that it's everywhere. We all live in it. We all participate in it.
In fact, just today, a university student in Arizona was photographed holding a sign that said, "You Deserve Rape." This man, Dean Saxton, is well-known for delivering "inflammatory sermons" on the University of Arizona campus. Today's sermon was about how women who dress like "whores" are responsible for being raped or assaulted.
It just seems so relentless. Every day there's a new story of some kind of horrific sexual assault, every day I hear about police and politicians who don't care, every day there are men and women spreading the message that rape is somehow the victims fault. It just feels like it never ends, and it's sometimes so hard to keep fighting in the face of something that's so unbelievably pervasive and overwhelming.
But we need to keep fighting. That much is obvious.
I want to share with you guys the message that my reader sent me, because her words are more powerful than anything that I can come up with right now:
The last time it happened, I signed petitions with friends for severe punishment to those rapists who raped a 23-year-old, I wrote articles, protested, debated. But the second case, that happened just yesterday has shattered me so much I seem to have lost my voice In India, we all protest and then our voices just die down. No kind of internal pressure makes the government take strict decisions. Rather, in the December 2012 case, a religious leader came up with the hideous statement that had the girl begged for her life from the rapists and called them her brothers, they would have stopped and she would have survived. One of the leading female politicians said, "Women shouldn't go out after 9 at night or dress provocatively." We scream, we shout and the police bashes up innocent protesters and social workers and students. Our voices die down within the country and awareness is blindfolded by our own leaders.
I am writing to you to beg you to talk about these women just like you talk about those who are close to home. Perhaps international pressure and shouts for justice would reach the deaf ears of our religious and political leaders and the pathetic, perverse men who don't think twice before doing this to us women. Why should we dress modestly? Clothes provoke them, no clothes provoke them, we get raped in a sari, in jeans, in skirts, in salwaar kammeez and even if only our face shows. We get raped in the morning and at nights. If they can't control their desires after 9, shouldn't the men be locked up after 9? A lot of people blame the victim back home and not the criminal. How is that fair?
Indian women today are aware, enlightened and educated but far from safe. We are scared to go out and work and we're scared to stay inside. Who knows what familiar face would be the Big Bad Wolf? And he strikes us at any age, at 23, at 45, at five!
So as a woman to another, this is a plea to support our protest because even though we may speak different tongues and belong to different nations, we suffer the same abuses.
Please raise your voice. Help spread the word about this. Join us in this fight. Because together, we are much stronger. Together, we can beat this.
We have to.
A few inspiring images from the protests in India: