Whoever You Are, You’re Not Alone.

9pm. Café Mishka’s on 2nd street, Davis, CA . 1995.

One week in to the fall quarter of my senior year and I’m already stressed. I want to finish the Poli-sci incomplete which hangs over my head, stealing peace of mind and calm. This requires writing a 15-page paper on feminism, abortion and single-issue voters. I’ve made some progress, but much remains to be done and since Shields Library is either social central or a morgue, I can’t get it done there. So I have come to the newest and brightest spot in the tiny constellation of “third-places” which dot Davis ‘ downtown area. Mishka’s is just quiet enough, especially on a Friday night, and it also has excellent food. I order a sandwich, the name of which escapes me over a decade later. It has pesto and roasted red peppers, a detail I will never forget, because of what happens later on that night.

I’m halfway through my dinner and it’s 8:30pm. My cell phone rings and I answer, filled with trepidation. My father’s voice barks profanely over the line, “Where the HELL are you? What kind of life do you think you have? One where you can go as you please, party, take drugs? What have I told you about this world, kunju? It is a dangerous place and if you are not careful, you will end up abducted, raped and murdered somewhere and I will have to identify your body and then I will kill myself and then your sister will be without sibling or father. All because you want to PARTY.”

Sigh.

“Daddy, I’m actually-”

“What? You’re actually WHAT? You’re about to lie to me, I know you better than you know yourself. Save your BS for someone else, edi.”

“I’m not lying, I’m studying. I have a huge paper due-

“Due on SATURDAY? Perhaps on Sunday? Bullshit!”

“No, Daddy, I’m trying to pace myself and-”

“You’re trying to PARTY!”

“I am NOT. Look, you’re REALLY starting to piss me off. For once I’m doing the right thing and this is the thanks I get? Why do I bother? I’m sitting here, surrounded by books and papers, desperately trying to remember my thesis statement and why I even chose it, and YOU think I’m out dry-humping someone.”

“You are lying!”

“I am not!”

“Edi mundi, I can HEAR the party. There is music behind you. How stupid you think your Daddy isÂ…no library plays music.”

“I’m not AT the library.”

“So you ADMIT your lies???”

“No, I’m at a Café-”

“Oho—a café! You are not a French intellectual! Good girls, serious girls study in the damned library, not in the CAFÉ.”

“I’m going to go.”

“go back to your party, you mean.”

“No, this is crap. I’m being good while a million other kids are being bad and you only assume the worst about me.”

“Either you come home RIGHT NOW or you don’t come home at all.”

“I’m in the middle of writing this, I’ll be home in an hour.”

“You could be pregnant in an hour!”

“Is that all you think about? I’ll be done when I finish this page.”

“Don’t bother. The door will be locked. Now you can party all night long.”

I slam my phone down, attracting the attention of the four other people who are lame enough to be on 2nd on a Friday night, instead of the bars which dot nearby G street. They return to their respective books and assignments within seconds. I try and take a deep breath. “Finish your sandwich, if you can’t write, eat”, I tell myself.

I do and I decide to try and crank out as much of my paper as I can. This café closes in two hours but the all-night reading room is available after that. Surely everyone will calm the fuck down by morning.

Pushing my plate away, I desperately tried to focus but it was no use. My heart was racing, I could feel my pulse in my right temple, underneath the palm of my hand. I couldn’t get over the injustice of the situation. I’d never been the studious type, you were more likely to catch me sunning myself on the quad, fantastic fiction nearby than poring over assigned readings. This “new leaf” I had gingerly turned over was a huge change for me, one that I wanted to sustain.

But I couldn’t. Not right then at least.

I thought back to how proud of myself I was, just before my father called and upset my delicate equilibrium and resolve. I mentally rewound even further to how disciplined I had been, five minutes after sitting down, when I resisted the impulse to answer my phone, which had started buzzing while displaying the phone number of quite possibly the cutest Indian boy at school.

Reminiscing replaced the revving in my chest with butterflies in my tummy and I was grateful for it, as I gave in to the wonder of it all, that me, Delta Gamma, College Republican, Greek Orthodox, sole-brown-intern-at-the-Congressman’s-and-then-Governor’s office ME was suddenly desi. I had attended my first ISA meeting and to my consummate astonishment, I had emerged unscathed. I didn’t have brown friends (see: list above) even though I had had the same Sikh boyfriend for my first three years of college. Beyond his immediate circle of friends and cousins, I didn’t even know the names of any of the other South Asians on campus.

I gave in to temptation and called the butterfly provider back. He was enthusiastic but preoccupied, since he was helping his friends set up for a party. “You should come,” he insisted. “It will be fun and IÂ…wouldn’t mind seeing you. I meanÂ…if you’re free.”

Could I do it all? The urge to go to the party nearly overwhelmed me. I had lived at home for all four years of college, had been required to be home by dinner each night and had never procured a fake I.D. simply because I never even came close to needing one. Though my sorority helped me feel a little bit more like a normal college student, I hadn’t attended a single party, with the notable exception of the delta gamma spring formal, and the only reason I got away with THAT is because my date was the ultimate Malayalee dream boy, flying cross-country from Harvard Med to take me to the ball.

Even my stricter-than-a-Muslim Daddy couldn’t turn down THAT opportunity to potentially get me settled. As much fun as playing Cinderella had been, much to the horrified chagrin of my father, I couldn’t do a long distance thing, not at age 20. Enter tall, cute LOCAL brown boy with dimplesÂ…oh, the power of dimples. I snapped my notebook shut, shoved library books in my bag, gathered index cards and pens and left. A few hours of fun to take my mind off things and then I’d head to the library and pick up where I left off. Perfect.

It was 9:30 and I looked for parking in South Davis, where the rich kids lived. :p Of course I was paralleling an S-class but in my defense, it was ten years old, haters. I flipped down the sun visor, so grateful that tiny lights automatically turned on when you opened the mirror. I didn’t feel like touching up my lipstick and I was pleased that I really didn’t have to. I made my way towards unit whatever-it-was while giving silent thanks for always being the overdressed-one, since it meant I could go straight to this without worrying about the appropriateness of my clothes. The butterflies within had mutated in to pterodactyls, wreaking havoc on my insides. What was I doing? I had never been to a brown party. Who the hell would I talk to or even hang out with? This was stupid. I turned around and started to walk back to my car.

“No,” I told myself, stopping. “This is why everyone thinks you’re a stuck-up oreo of a bitch. You’re braver than this. They won’t bite. They’re just Indian kids.”

Inhaling deeply, I steeled myself for what I thought would be an innocent though stressful adventure. When they opened the door after my knock, everyone was shocked to see me but I tried not to freeze. “Dimples” rushed up to me, delight on his face replacing pterodactyls with butterflies, which are a much better fit for my stomach, really.

“HEY. I’m so glad you came. I’m almost done setting stuff upÂ…do you want to wait for me?” He read the look on my face which that question had inspired correctly. “Do youÂ…even know anyone here?” I shook my head negatively.

He introduced me to a few people on the couch and promised he’d be back soon. They were tentative at first, but inherent brown proclivities soon murdered hesitation and then they were asking me about whom I knew and where I was from and what I majored in and if I knew what graduate school I would be attending. Sigh.

“Dimples” swooped in, mercifully distracting all involved in the interrogation. “Here,” he said, handing me a wine cooler. “You’re not relaxed enough. This should help.” He left with a wink as I looked at the red bottle in front of me. “Wait—“ I called after him. “I donÂ’t drinkÂ…I…” He was gone and everyone was looking at me like I had a goiter. My face was probably the same color as the liquid I was looking at, which was far too cold in my right hand.

I had never had one before and to be polite, I pretended to take a sip, letting it all wash right back in to the bottle. It was fizzy awfulness, but it served its purpose; everyone relaxed and went back to their drinking, now that they were certain that I wasnÂ’t some prude who would remind them of how disobedient they were. I had drank alcohol before, at home, with my father at dinner. Wine with meals and liquers afterwards, with the occasional Drambuie or Champagne on special occasions. But I had never had anything like this. I had no desire to start now, not with the keys to my car lodged uncomfortably in my front jeans pocket. I set the alco-pop down.

I didn’t have time to write a review of bad alcohol mentally because the door opened and hordes of people descended on the apartment. The lights went out and the sound was immediately ratcheted up. “Dimples” rushed to my side. “FINALLY, I get to hang out with youÂ…I was so scared you’d leave. This isn’t exactly your scene.”

“I’m fineÂ…it’s good to do new stuff. New year, new friends.” I was stammering gibberish from the nearness of him. When he asked if I wanted to dance, I blushed and nodded. Off we went. I enjoyed about ten minutes of it before he got yanked away to settle some predictable drama. My phone rang and I walked outside to get away from noise.

“HELLO?”

“Hi daddy.”

“I was calling to say I was wrong for assuming the worst about you, but it turns out my suspicions were correct. You ARE at a party. Oh, why did I get cursed with such a worthless daughter? Why? That’s it. I’ve had it with you. You have no father. I am dead to you, hear me? Dead! My daughter was a good girl, not a party girl.”

“Daddy, stop-”

“Enjoy your PARTY, edi!”

Click.

I was consumed with rage and sadness. No matter how hard I tried, it was never good enough. Moments later I was called over to the other side of the patio, where several people were engaged in some kind of drinking contest. I politely declined, since I already felt guilty for touching the wine cooler. “Dimples” showed up and asked if I wanted another.

“NoÂ…I better not. I have to drive.”

“Oh that’s right…you live at home, don’t you?”

“Yeah. But it might be too late for me to head there tonight…”

He laughed easily. “You’re not going to. You think I’m going to invite you to a party at my house and then let you do something dangerous? I like you. You’ll be fine. A bunch of people are crashing here afterwards.”

My eyebrows shot up and I started to object, but he cut me off.

“They’re all GIRLS. It’s okay. Chill. You look like you’ve had a rough week. You need to relax.”

I couldn’t believe what possibilities lay before me. Wherever I looked, people slammed shots and sipped beer which had been tapped from the two kegs to my right. The makeshift dancefloor (read: space between three couches) was packed and everyone else was having so much fun. “I’m a bad girl anyway, right?” I muttered to myself. “Might as well have some fun.”

Three+ years of non-stop school (I did summer sessions each year) and dozens of turned-down-invites to parties suddenly came to mind as my anger grew. My father treated me like I was some harlot and THIS was my first party ever! I was a Senior in College! I wasn’t normal! THIS was normal. I considered my future, bleak with law school and fighting off attempts at arranged marriage. When someone handed me a red solo cup full of beer and motioned for me to join the sloppy contest taking place, I smiled slightly and turned towards my opponents. Time to make up for lost college.

Thirty minutes later, I was tipsy. Very tipsy. Or so “Dimples” discovered when he found me on the patio. When he led me inside to dance, he informed me that I was VERY intoxicated. “That’s it—you’re cut off. No puking for you, ‘kay?” He sat me down on a couch and returned with a large plastic tumbler (souvenir from an Aggies game) filled with cold water. Cold felt good. I wandered outside, to get some cold air to go with cold liquid. Then I heard screaming. The police had arrived and were busting anyone underage. Oh, shit. I was weeks from my 21st birthday. I edged towards the bushes which outlined their outdoor area, quietly making for the parking lot. I just needed to sit down and breathe, not get arrested.

I found a curb but it was too late, the sudden movement and fear gripping my stomach had already worked against me—I was retching violently and after what I saw, I knew it would be years before I could eat roasted red peppers EVER again. A policeman sauntered up to me and asked if I was done. Terror consumed me. This was it. Oh Shit. Oh fuck. Oh no. My. Father. Will. Murder. Me. When. He. Finds. Out. I. Got. Busted. “How old are you, miss?”

“She’s 21.”

Wha? Who? I groggily looked over at the source of the voice, thinking that “Dimples” didn’t sound like that. Good call on my part, because it was someone else. He was vaguely familiar, he had introduced himself at the ISA meeting and then tried to say “Hi” yesterday while I was on my way to my English class. I had exchanged two sentences with him before rushing off.

“Sure she is.”

“No, really. SheÂ’s my cousin. I was just at her birthday.”

“And I suppose she’s also got the stomach flu and THAT is why she’s puking?”

“Actually, yes.”

The police officer’s walkie-talkie broke the conversation and he rushed off to fry bigger fish.

“You owe me one,” the stranger said, reaching out his hand.

“UmÂ…thanks.”

I got up unsteadily but then sat back down.

“You’re not doing so well. Come on, I’ll take you home.”

“No thank you. I donÂ’t live around here.”

“Then where are you going to go?”

“I’m already staying somewhere. Here. I’m staying here.”

“Uh, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but ‘here’ is not really an option right now.”

“I’m fine, really. Thanks.”

“Suit yourself.”

What was I going to do? In a sense, the guy was right, b/c people were getting written up right and left and everyone else was leaving. All I wanted to do was put my head down somewhere and sleep. Pesto + Coffee + Natty Light + Drama = pain. The car. I could curl up in the mammoth backseat of the car, with its tinted windows and I’d be safe. I started to get up and must have looked like I was too unsteady for that, because the next thing I knew, a different kid was by my side. He looked familiar. Then I realizedÂ…he was a family friend of one of my oldest friends, I had seen him over the years, albeit tangentially.

“You okay?”

Good grief these Indian kids were so nice. Suddenly everyone was my friend and helper.

“I’mÂ…I’m fine. I’m just going to walk to my car—I’m not going to drive, I just want to lie down somewhere that won’t get me arrested.”

He looked at me sympathetically. “Would you like me to drive you to it? I’m parked right here.” He pointed at a car less than six feet away which I immediately recognized as his MomÂ’s. I looked back at the apartment, hoping to see “Dimples” on his way to meÂ…but there was only MORE chaos. Seconds later, I saw “Dimples” gesturing wildly in front of an officer. Grrrreat.

“Okay.”

I got in the back seat and even though he reversed gently, my head was spinning. “I’m sorry…I don’t feel well. Can you stop? Please stop.” Immediately he gingerly re-parked the car.

“Okay. No problem. My mom would KILL me if someone threw up in here. Hey, I have to go find the friend I came with anyway…will you be all right if I just left you here for a second?”

“Sure. I won’t go anywhere.”

I put my head down on the seat and took a deep breath. It felt nice to do so. I took another. After what seemed like hours, he came back, with the friend who had intervened on my behalf with the police officer.

“Well, well, welllll. If it isnÂ’t my sick, long-lost cousin”, he said as he buckled his seat belt.

I sighed. “My car is parked out front, at the corner…”

“What are you going to do, crash in it??”

“Only until I’m well enough to drive. I just want to go home.”

“That’s stupid. Oh…not the going home part, the crashing in a car part. You know, you’re welcome to stay at my place.”

“I don’t even know you, but thanks anyway, I’ll be fine.”

“It’s not safe to sleep in cars.”

“A) This is Davis. B) This is SOUTH Davis. C) I’d love to see someone TRY and get in that car.”

“ItÂ’s really not a big dealÂ…IÂ’ll take the couch. You can have my room. Seriously, don’t be dumb.”

“It’s really nice of you but I’d rather not.”

“Because…”

“Because as nice as you are, I donÂ’t even know you. IÂ’ve never just stayed at…at some guyÂ’s place.”

“Ah. What if it were some GIRL’S place. Then would you feel comfortable?”

“Maybe…”

“That girl you saw me with at the party? Lives across the hall. She’ll totally let you crash.”

I had no idea whom he was talking about, but at that point, I just wanted to sleep. I was destroyed, physically, emotionally, roasted-red-pepperally. I told myself that I didn’t know this girl and that I’d be better off in my car. Then I remembered that story about someone choking on their vomit and dying. Ugh.

“Okay.”

We headed towards campus, parked and walked under a starry ceiling as crickets chirped. Seconds later, we had stopped. My fake cousin knocked on the door and a girl answered. She looked sleepy in her Cal t-shirt and boxer shorts.

“Hey. Can she crash with you? She’s scared of boys.”

“Dude, I would be too. YouÂ’re a freak. What’s your name?”

“Anna…” Lordy, this was no time to be shy. All I could think of was, “You taste like puke, probably smell like a wreck and you are about to impose on this girl. Get over yourself, already.”

“Come on in, Anna. You can totally stay. My roommateÂ’s gone, you can take her bed.”

She opened the door wide and I tentatively stepped in. I turned around to thank the two strange guys who had brought me closer to sleep, a sleep I was looking forward to the way small children dream of Christmas.

“Thanks—“

“Save it. We all want to go to bed. YouÂ’ll be fine. Drink water, take an aspirin and get some sleep.” He gazed over my head, not hard to do because he was a full head taller. “Yo– thanks for letting her stay here. I owe you one.” He turned back to me. “You. Sick girl. Go to bed.”

Sounded good to me. I followed the girl to a dark room which was decorated with the posters you could purchase around the MU at the beginning of every quarter, brought to you by the roving poster people. Ah, yes. Van Gogh’s starry night. Appropriate. I gratefully sank on to a twin-sized bed. My hostess brought me a Tylenol and a blue solo cup filled with tap water. What was with all these damned solo cups? I drank, medicated, drank and then wearily swung my feet up.

“Do you need anything else?”

“No. Thank you so much for letting me stay here.”

She smiled before turning around to leave.

All I wanted was some rest. It had been far too long of a night and I wasn’t looking forward to a Saturday of getting screamed at by my Father while my Mother shook her head and my sister glared at me. Enough. That pain could wait. Right now, I would sleep.

.

When I woke up, there was a hand over my mouth, to prevent me from screaming.

Was this really happening? Wasn’t this guy just helping me not get arrested? Why? As tears rushed down my face, expressing what my muffled voice could not, my hands frantically clawed and pushed. I thought to myself, “Oh my God. Daddy you were right…”

.

.

.

April 3, 2006

Dear Anna:

Sepia Mutiny reports the stories which are in the news – not necessarily all that happened, but all that is reported.

I would urge you to go beyond this, because of something that recently happened. A young woman I know and love dearly was raped, an Indian American woman. How many support groups are there out there for women who endure such horrendous experiences? How many South Asian American women have dealt with such trauma? How many have had to bury their pain within them? Could you write a story asking this question, if only to see what sort of reader responses we get? If only to provide a little support to women who might be silently dealing with this?

It is not a good thing that South Asians are generally in the news here for all the good and amazing things they do and accomplish and earn, it is not an indication that all is bright and cheery for South Asians in the US. On the contrary, I believe that it means that much is not being spoken about, that much is hidden, that ours is a culture in which we brutally punish each other and our loved ones for the sake of painting pretty pictures for society to appreciate, and while we suffocate.

As the only female in this forum, I’m choosing to write to you. Thanks.

.

I’ll never paint pretty pictures unless they portray the truth.

I’m not sure if you even pay attention to this site, but if you’re out there reading this, you are not alone. It was not your fault. Please, talk to someone about what you have endured. I am praying for you to not just survive, but thrive. I know that all you can think about right now is this heinous nightmare, but I promise you, it won’t always dominate your thoughts or haunt your dreams.

If you want to talk to me, I am yours. You don’t need to be suffocated by silence or shame.

suitablegirl@gmail.com

.

I wrote that story the day I got this tip in the mail.

It’s taken me a few more days to publish it because I was scared, worried and filled with doubt. The act of recording my past triggered memories I had long ago left behind. So, wracked with anxiety, I decided that I would come up with another way to write the requested post, without leaving myself so vulnerable. Then, earlier today I realized that my fear of being judged or having this incident used against me was exactly what compelled our anonymous “tipster” to write to me on their friend’s behalf. “I can’t be quiet,” I thought.

But I am not brave. Not even close. I’ll prove it: I’m almost ashamed that a few minutes ago, my heart started to race as I thought, “It’s over now. No one’ll marry you after THIS.”

But that is what I thought. And that is the truth. And that truth is why I have to bare myself, bear terrifying risks and out myself, so that this woman who is just like me, just like my sister, can see me. So she can see that she’s not alone. That it happens to brown girls, too. That it’s not a survivor’s responsibility to feel shame, that such a heavy obligation should belong to the people who were craven and power-hungry enough to commit violence against us.

You are not alone. And neither am I.

I believe in the power of the community we are building here. I believe that I will not be harmed by telling my truth and that this example of acceptance which I have so much faith in will empower you to believe that there are people who would embrace you, wipe the tears from your face and lend you their shoulders to lean on, rather than suffocate you by using fear to silence you, like an unexpected, unwanted hand smothering you in the middle of the night.

286 thoughts on “Whoever You Are, You’re Not Alone.

  1. It would be hard to ignore the LJ stuff, especially if you are one of the mutineer posters. But I will show my solidarity with Anna by saying that everything I’ve read on LJ, regarding this post, is completely numb and insensitive. Some are trying to impress each other with their oh so against-the-grain, rebellious ideas, while others maybe are still feeling a bit of pain/bitterness from their own life experiences.

    Further, I am appalled that some people feel that their decision to ‘not to support/listen to poorly executed, badly tuned music even if said music has the right ideas’ is akin to their decision to ‘not read/support someone’s imperfectly written biographical, literal, traumatic experience even if it has an important message.’ The person who wrote this comment is completely erroneous in this sentiment. First off, music is usually metaphorical (even if there is some underlying actual event) – not literal like Anna’s account, which is about as real & literal as they get. Second, music is an artistic and entertaining endeavour usually comprised of both instrumentation and lyrics; Anna’s account wasn’t meant to be an artistic or entertaining endeavour – It was meant to share intimate details of Anna’s own experience so that others will be more willing to follow suit – an IMPORTANT experience for several reasons outlined above in the numerous comments. Thirdly, you are not just passively, NOT supporting Anna’s piece – you are also ACTIVELY, publicly criticising it, making it less likely for other victims to be willing to share their experience. You are detracting from the very reason she wrote about her exp. in the first place! How this logic has escaped you, I know not.

    I also want to add that I do not feel that Anna’s experience is poorly written – I feel it is exactly the opposite (which is soooo besides the point)… Perhaps why the LJ shmucks even bother to criticize it at all. To Anna, beautiful writing and use of “literary devices” is probably so innate by now, that she doesn’t even realize she’s using them. Her inherent writing abilities are not going to dissapear or get watered-down, especially when writing about an awful experience. Her story was written from the heart – to anyone with half a heart, this is pretty obvious.

    Finally, I’ve read some of the comments from the “LJ literary critics” indicating that they’ve experienced sexual abuse as well. My only comment to the critics is that your stance to appear objective/over it about your experience is just what makes you so not “over it”. I can’t help but think that by criticizing Anna’s heartfelt post, you are trying to tell yourself you’ve prevailed, and are stronger person for being more “objective” and “logical” about your experience and everything around you. I encourage anyone who has experienced violence of any kind to get counselling, help, open up. There are many resources out there, and some of them are listed in the comments section here. Yes, it sucks that this has to put a curve in your plan for life, but this is one thing you can’t do alone…. this is one thing you can’t be “strong, silent, proud and objective” about.

    Anna, thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve been thinking about publicly writing about my own exp, although I’m not much of a writer. It’s really, really hard, and truly even thinking about it makes my head spin. But, because you were so courageous, when I am ready to say more (publicly), I will say more… and it will likely be a “poorly executed” account, but I will say it anyways! Hell yeah!

    For the LJ critics, I will make a separate account of my experience, set to “badly tuned instruments”, so you feel free to criticize on your own accord – I’m off to “GarageBand” right now!! ;-)

  2. 189 observer and #200 suitable oreo

    All parties have people who want to get laid. There are a few men and yes also a few women who are looking for a quick-fix, not just brown/desi parties.

    The people (mostly sick men) who commit rape probably do not have access to what they want 1) either because they have problems with their appearance, confidence… 2) they have weird fantasies which a normal partner would be unwilling to fulfill 3) their childhood was traumatic, and maybe they want to take revenge in some fashion 4) they simply want to enjoy the feeling of domination, and the fear that happens in ‘survivors’.

    I have heard that prisons are the one of the worst places for men or women.

    Anna, Don’t fight the trolls and waste your energy. A lot of people have expressed nice thoughts, you have a lot of friends and well-wishers. (I can’t add anymore than them)

    all, Has anyone thought on what are the limitations of our desi society system in the context of rape? Some people have raised the question here about training boys and girls, what more can our society do to minimize this occurence? Why do we place so much premium on virginity for girls but not boys? Why do we frown upon pre-marital sex for girls and boys, but if a boy does it, he is forgiven? Is the answer going back in history and examining why it changed and when?

  3. copying and pasting from jackson katz’s site:

    10 THINGS MEN CAN DO TO PREVENT GENDER VIOLENCE

    1. Approach gender violence as a MEN’S issue involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. View men not only as perpetrators or possible offenders, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers
    2. If a brother, friend, classmate, or teammate is abusing his female partner — or is disrespectful or abusive to girls and women in general — don’t look the other way. If you feel comfortable doing so, try to talk to him about it. Urge him to seek help. Or if you don’t know what to do, consult a friend, a parent, a professor, or a counselor. DON’T REMAIN SILENT.
    3. Have the courage to look inward. Question your own attitudes. Don’t be defensive when something you do or say ends up hurting someone else. Try hard to understand how your own attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetuate sexism and violence, and work toward changing them.
    4. If you suspect that a woman close to you is being abused or has been sexually assaulted, gently ask if you can help.
    5. If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive to women, or have been in the past, seek professional help NOW.
    6. Be an ally to women who are working to end all forms of gender violence. Support the work of campus-based women’s centers. Attend “Take Back the Night” rallies and other public events. Raise money for community-based rape crisis centers and battered women’s shelters. If you belong to a team or fraternity, or another student group, organize a fundraiser.
    7. Recognize and speak out against homophobia and gay-bashing. Discrimination and violence against lesbians and gays are wrong in and of themselves. This abuse also has direct links to sexism (eg. the sexual orientation of men who speak out against sexism is often questioned, a conscious or unconscious strategy intended to silence them. This is a key reason few men do so).
    8. Attend programs, take courses, watch films, and read articles and books about multicultural masculinities, gender inequality, and the root causes of gender violence. Educate yourself and others about how larger social forces affect the conflicts between individual men and women.
    9. Don’t fund sexism. Refuse to purchase any magazine, rent any video, subscribe to any Web site, or buy any music that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner. Protest sexism in the media.
      1. Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don’t involve degrading or abusing girls and women. Volunteer to work with gender violence prevention programs, including anti-sexist men’s programs. Lead by example

    Copyright 1999, Jackson Katz. http://www.jacksonkatz.com Reprint freely with credit.

  4. ANNA: I could not find words in English Dictionary to describe your courage to share this story with us. Sepia Mutiny, Abhi and the rest of the gang should be so proud that you are on their TEAM. This reminds me of a four hundred years old “Bhajan” written by Gujarati Poet “Narsinh Mehta”: “Sukhh Dukkh Manma Naa Aaniye, Ghaat Saathere Ghadiya; Tarya te Koina nav Tareya Raghu Naath na……… Be brave and keep your head high. I am so proud of you today……God Bless…Yo Dad

  5. on the positive side:

    it took well over a hundred comments here before the ignorance began to surface. when it did, it was largely lack of understanding, and people here were very positive and compassionate in responding with education, not belligerence. as for the ridiculous livejournal people, they had the decency not to come and spew their invective here. don’t worry about them. they’ll grow up, eventually.

    this is one of the best, most frank and mutually respectful conversations i’ve seen on this topic in a long time. remember, we’re all strangers here, protected by anonymity and/or masked by our web personas.

    massive props go to those who’ve testified, shared personal experience, and contributed resources and links. someone earlier, on this thread i think, called this a defining moment for the mutiny. it sure feels that way to me as well.

    anna, thank you.

    peace

  6. Anna,

    Don’t those LJ folks seriously. That was a POWERFUL piece of writing. I’ll tell you how I know: Three days after reading that story, I’m still thinking about it–constantly. No piece of writing has affected me that way in very many years. I hope you seriously consider expanding it into a book for the benefit of a larger audience.

  7. Now that ‘blame the victim’ has become passe, it’s time for a new game – ‘critique her writing’!!

    I’m speechless with shock and rage at those smarmy assholes on LJ.

    They deserve to have the brown slapped off them….and when they cry about it, I want to be the first to yawn and say I don’t like the way they phrased the experience.

    Hold you head high, Anna. We are all so proud of you.

  8. I’m not commenting here because I’m just killing time procrastinating. This computer remembered me from a time when I was, and I didn’t catch it. The last thing I want is to treat this matter facetiously.

  9. this is one of the best, most frank and mutually respectful conversations i’ve seen on this topic in a long time

    .

    This conversation has fundamentally reaffirmed my love and respect for this blog and the people participating in it. Regardless of where we’re from, which generation we might be, and disagreements we have from time to time, we do want to make the world a more equal and better place in our own ways. ANNA, thanks again for your bravery.

    I hope we can all use our mutinuous solidarity and make a difference about sexual violence in society. I resolve to support at least one of the organizations mentioned above, and participate in at least one anti-violence activity of the women’s center on my Univ campus this year.

  10. Anna, thanks so much for posting. Thanks also for all the hard work you put into this site. Your voice is great to hear.

  11. Is there any convention to not name names in such situations?

    I remember something about fear, shame and other such factors blocking victims from naming violators. That probably is still an issue (esp in some societies and cultures) but I hope less so here, especially when there is so much support today for victims.

    I also remember reading a few instances where victims stood up and named the perpetrators. And the general reaction as I recall was positive and encouraging and admiring of the courage it took to do so.

    So…what’s keeping victims from naming violators? By not doing so I am afraid the perpetrators will continue on blithely in their ways and the world isn’t any better off. Naming them can create a cycle whereby others will also step up and in the whole process, violators will be shamed and would be violators will think (at least) twice…

  12. Naming them can create a cycle whereby others will also step up and in the whole process, violators will be shamed and would be violators will think (at least) twice…

    how will a violator be shamed if they are in denial or if they dispute the rape? what if they call the SURVIVOR a liar?

  13. that is incredible; anything that i would’ve said has already been said by others. You are a goddess, Anna.

    just curious: what is the SM record for most comments to a posting?

  14. PropaMcG, I was thrilled to see your link for the very innovative and necessary Blank Noise Project – one small but potent torchlight of hope against the daily indignities that women in urban India have to deal with. I will be passing that one on to many a friend across the subcontinent (And your words were truly touching, even to those of us who are not Anna and who have not walked in her lovely shoes).

    LiveJournal…sigh…argh…The internet seems to bring out the fearless mice in full force sometimes. On the other hand, the resources posted by Sepiaites are amazing. As is the spirit of this page.

    Yours in sepiaed unity, K

  15. Whoa people, calm down. The draperyfalls character and his/her (?) friends are maha-jerks yes, but referring to “live journal” users is about as sensible as referring to “blogspot folks” or “typepad folks” or “movable type folks”. It’s just a platform. I’ve been mystified by it for years, but it is only another blogging platform. There are plenty of perfectly decent livejournal users who I am sure would applaud Anna if given the chance. There are even some mutineers who use live journal.

    And to think they’re becoming doctors? God help us all, it’s just not right.

    Seriously. If I was the vindictive kind and didn’t have so many of my own problems to deal with right now, I would be severely tempted to find out who draperyfalls is and forward his or her comments to all the medical schools in the country. Unfortunately there’s no MCAT for compassion. This person sounds like they don’t even have a reflection.

    And, Anna, it was written just fine, especially for your audience, which you know better than anyone. I don’t know where a stupid undergrad gets off giving such vague and uselessly snitty critique, but my count you’ve been praised by at almost a dozen professional writers, artists, lawyers, and professors, not to mention many, many doctors.

  16. Is there any convention to not name names in such situations?

    Maisnon, other lawyers in the house? My understanding is that unless one is willing to try to press charges/bring a civil suit, naming names can open one up to a libel charge, and the ensuing defense essentially amounts to the work of pressing charges or bringing a civil suit. So one might as well go that route to begin with, so at least not to be on the defensive. I think this is a good thing for us to know, so someone with actual knowledge, please help!

  17. Anna,

    I’m speechless. I don’t even want to begin to think what your parents put you through after the fact. How do they even go off making you out to be a criminal? It’s just plain despicable on their part. All parents need to realize there’s a need to allow their kids to make mistakes. You can’t expect them to be perfect, and when you push those kinds of aspirations on them and then chastise them for being less than perfect, it’s not good for ANYONE.

  18. Rahul here. The jerk “who blamed the victim” and “defended the rapist”. Looks like most people misunderstood me, though from couple of comments I could make out that other got the message too. So I think I need to make some clarifications. I am dead against rape or murder or any crime. Rape in particular is a henious crime and shatters the victim for life. Trauma is more mental than physical in most case. And we all have to carry our fights against this crime in whatever way we can. ThatÂ’s why I appreciate Anna for talking on this topic and spreading the awareness. Similarly Project Blank Noise. I hope that these initiatives take more meaningful shape – come out of blogosphere and rally together and show solidarity with the victims, spread the awareness through MSM and ensure that justice is done. That will be true triumph humanity. I also strongly feel that we need to take whatever measures we can from our side to avert such crimes. Better be safe than sorry.

    My response to the comments to my previous post:

    Aniket: “I strongly disagree with rahul’s comment here. i think that a higher complaint, conviction rate and modern forensics can really help improve the situation.” I strongly agree with you :-) . I mentioned that in the 3rd sentence of my post. Higher reporting, complaint and subsequent punishment of the criminal can go a long way in dissuading such crime in future. I donÂ’t know why you said you disagree with my comments.

    Shruti:

    “Don’t go out late at night. Because if you do, it’s your fault. Don’t wear sexy clothes. Because if you do, it’s your fault. Don’t drink. Because if you do, it’s your fault. Don’t Don’t Don’t ……. Because if you do, it’s your fault. Thanks for blaming the victim. (survivor, as I would say)”

    Now you are putting words into my mouth..err..keyboard. Please read my post again and tell me if I ever blamed the victim. If you go out late at night in a nasty neighborhood, don’t you take necessary precautions and be all safe and cautious? If you wear “sexy” clothes, people will think you are “sexy”. Period.

    Drink. I too drink. But I know how to drink, means I know when to stop. Major problem with so many people and the main reason why drinking gets such a bad name is most people think drinking means drink till you puke. DonÂ’t drive on the freeway if you donÂ’t know how to drive properly, because it could get you into serious trouble. Similarly donÂ’t drink if you donÂ’t know how to because this too can get you into serious trouble. How do you feel about loosing all your consciousness and being in a strange place with strangers in the middle of night.

    “In this context, “old-fashioned”=regressive and “Listen to your parents”=blame yourself for getting raped.”

    Ok I accept that I was being really sarcastic when I added that listening to parents bit. But it was more because Anna herself ended her story by “Oh my God. Daddy you were right…” Anyways I take that back (If I can).

    “No, how about it’s in YOUR hands? How about… don’t rape women? How about… do not bring trouble?”

    How I wish that was possible. If we told potential rapists not to rape and they agreed, potential murderers not to murder and they agreed, potential robbersÂ…. Ahh Utopia.

    “I think you are giving Rahul too much credit. There are clear implications of him shifting the responsibility for sexual assault onto women”

    Believe me, I really didnÂ’t post my comment to get any credit or anything. Nor to start a fight. If at all, a meaningful debate as to what we can do within our control to tackle this menace.

    Kavita:

    “Your antediluvian implication that women go to parties, drink and pull out “RAPE ME” placards is beyond frightening”

    Kavita, you too are reading things that I didn’t post, nor did I imply. We all know that we become weak – both physically and mentally when we consume too much alcohol. And when we become weak and we are possibly surrounded by people who intend to take advantage of our weakness, then that’s recipe for disaster. I have to add here that I am NOT defending the criminal here or blaming the victim. My point is, do not, or atleast try to avoid getting into situations where others can take advantage of you. Consider a guy with a bagful of money, totally drunk, roaming around in the middle of night through the streets of Patna (or any Indian town). What are the chances of him waking up next morning and finding his money intact? Hope you get my point now.

    Ex-Lawer:

    “If only violent crimes against women could be eradicated by us all listening to our parents”

    Did I say that? If at all, I said that crimes like rape will always be there, just like other crimes are there. I have already mentioned that I had gone overboard with that parents bit.

    Friends, I wont post any further in this topic irrespective of the replies. Because I think I have made my point.

  19. @girish, #219

    parenting is the one of the most demanding jobs out there, don’t make a judgement till you are one. if a kid makes a mistake, and it is serious enough, a parent will never forgive h(im)erself. whether or not (s)he is responsible.

    more importantly, the issue here is that “mistake” is a wrong word here. though from your post i am pretty sure you did not mean to use it.

  20. Wow. Check out the totally emotionally-dead bots over at the LJ. Anyway, moving on.

    Rahul, you sound like Camille Paglia and that’s a scary thing. I was going to post on your similarities and the absolute insanity of both your arguments but I’m too tired and I think everything that needs to be said to you has been. The logical acrobatics you’d have to do to hold a woman responsible for being sexually assaulted are nauseating in thier incoherance and depress me horribly.

  21. Re: Rahul’s comments.

    I know this whole issue is a highly-charged and emotionally-loaded topic, but with all due respect, I think that Rahul’s detractors have indeed been misunderstanding his comments and are reading far too much into them. I managed to read between the lines of what he was basically saying in his original message, and he’s now confirmed this in post #220.

    I think some people are extrapolating his statements excessively and are making erroneous assumptions about his attitude and intentions. All Rahul is saying is that one should behave “responsibly” with regards to the situations one places oneself in — in the same way that it makes sense to look both ways before crossing a busy street, or the fact that one should wear a seatbelt when driving one’s car (or should not consume alcohol before driving).

    He is not blaming the victim, and neither am I, but common sense and vigilance should always be paramount in any situation we find ourselves in, especially if the situation is unfamiliar and we are not surrounded by people close to us who we can trust.

    In an ideal world this should not be necessary, but in the absence of such a utopian state of affairs, it is good to exercise such a mindset in the spirit of “self-defence”. Of course, simultaneously there should be concerted efforts on an individual and a societal level to address the issues motivating & causing the behaviour of both actual and potential rapists, with the hope that ultimately these attitudes are eradicated completely.

  22. *with the hope that ultimately these attitudes are eradicated completely.

    I’m going to rephrase that as: “…..with the aim of ultimately eradicating these attitudes completely.”

  23. Jai, (and Rahul)

    All Rahul is saying is that one should behave “responsibly” with regards to the situations one places oneself in — in the same way that it makes sense to look both ways before crossing a busy street, or the fact that one should wear a seatbelt when driving one’s car (or should not consume alcohol before driving).

    Sometimes it is less about the “logic” in a response then the appropriateness of it within a general context. When the topic is sensitive and painful saying things like “you should have been careful” is simply unnecessary and rude. It’s the same issue at LJ. The article may or may not be “well written” but is that really the point? The context for it is completely absent.

    The last thing women want to hear when another innocent woman is assaulted is that “there you go you should be more careful”. Screw that. How is that relevant to the topic at hand if you really think about it? Unfortunately I always find men make these arguments and no matter how honorable the intention it is simply unacceptable and unnecessary. It takes away from the current issue and when a man tells you how “you should be careful” it rubs doubly harder.

    Now having said that I do get your point of view. I have seen some of my own female friends completely inebriated at parties and totally “normal looking” guys will come upto them and stick their hands all over them with the worst of intentions. Yes assholes come in the forms of good guys. And I have many many many times yelled at my own girlfriends to not get to that point and not put themselves in that position because I may not be around the next time. It’s painful for me, more then I have words to say when I read something like this and all those times flash in front of me.

    But again it’s hurtful as a woman if someone throws this justification in for something bad that has already happened. Do you see my point?

  24. It’s not just hurtful, it’s insulting. Do you think women don’t KNOW they have to be more vigilant than men? What is the point of this kind of paternalistic outpouring of “Well, you girls better watch out?”. We know. We know and we’re sick of it.
    When you’re responding to this kind of issue (or to continue what I was too tired to expand on in my previous post about Paglia, writing about it academically) it’s thoroughly unhelpful to write things like this:

    Women must be aware of the signals they send out, aware that, at three in the morning, with that flirting, they have created expectations. If they fail to fulfill those expectations, they can be in trouble. They could be out with a Ted Bundy or a Jeffrey Dahmer. A woman cannot go on a date, have a bunch of drinks and go back to some guy’s dorm room or apartment and then, when he jumps on her, cry date rape. Most people aren’t sure what’s going to happen on a first date. Given that ambiguity, every woman must be totally aware at every moment that she is responsible for every choice she makes.

    All Camille Paglia and all incredibly dangerous and disempowering, wrapped up in some kind of pseudo-”feminist” rant. The fact that there are sexual predators out there is a fact that women are aware of. The fact that we might be assaulted by one is something we know. There’s a difference between the is and the ought that Rahul (and Jai) are missing. And to talk about it in the terms of “every woman must be totally aware at every moment that she is responsible for every choice she makes” as Paglia does is absurd – are women supposed to be the only ones held responsible when it comes to sexual violence, or sexuality, period?

    And to say “but common sense and vigilance should always be paramount in any situation we find ourselves in” as Jai says is pretty much a throwaway moot point. NO kidding. That’s true of everything – just like a man don’t walk around INVITING being mugged or have his ass kicked because some group of assholes decides that he’s from the wrong side of town/a fag/a “nigger”/a “paki”, and yet the possibility always exists, a woman knows that she may be targetted for simply being a woman by some piece of scum. However, I don’t see anyone prescribing that men be more “vigilant” of every corner turned or every strange situation encountered as being a potentially dangerous one – it’s assumed he has the brains to know “common sense”. Why is it that we can presume women are somehow putting themselves at undue and stupid risk just because they are leaving the house or hanging out with other people and then pat thier hands and nod understandingly while we tell them we wished they were more careful? Jeeze.

  25. First off: thank you Anna, for your honesty & temerity. Your story has a little bit life altering for me…

    Second: I think maybe in your argument, brownfrown and rahul/jai, you guys are missing a teensy something about “vigilance” and knowing how to keep out of trouble -

    Some of us DON’T KNOW HOW, okay? I’m 21 and have been on something like a curfew since … forever. It has been REALLY difficult to learn how to be responsible when faced with the kind of insular attitude that forbids you from learning your own limits, or how to not get yourself in serious trouble. It kills me that I can’t rid myself of my own naivete safely – I’m stuck this way, while I live at home; the minute I move out I’m exposed to all sorts of shit that I don’t know how to handle, and my family is too far away to help (even if I could have brought the issue up with them in the first place).

    In this context, my “vigilance” is either useless or a complete abstinence from all social activity, neither of which is fair. Yes, I have enough common sense not to skulk around dark alleys in a mini, I’m not a twit. But I haven’t learned many of the more sublte kinds of things that will land me in trouble, and the desi community is dead set against me acquiring that type of knowledge, and herein lies the problem.

  26. Mina, Hmmm. You do make an important point – there are certain life skills that we only get good at if we are allowed to be exposed to enough situations where we’re allowed to assert our own agency.

    However, while your “naivite” could perhaps put you at a disadvantage, still doesn’t enforce the arguement “women need to be more careful.” We all have a sense of self-preservation. I doubt your relative “newness” to living by yourself and having to handle yourself in social situations as an adult will compel you to throw yourself in the way of danger, even though it may, like you said, take a while before you learn “many of the more sublte kinds of things that will land me in trouble”. Sure – that’s growing up. It took me a few years too.

    A word of encouragement – I hear you. I grew up in a family where there was no curfew simply because you were expected to come home right after school and not leave again until it was time to catch the bus for class the next morning. When I left home at 19, I moved by myself to one of the most libertine cities in the world. It was an onslaught of sensory and experiential overload and I was determined to do it up as much as and as fast as I could. Did anything traumatic happen? No, thankfully… other than some requisite, retrospectively “what the hell was I thinking” heartbreaks. I was lucky. I was aware, at that point, not to go skulking around dark alleys, like you are, and not of getting into a car if the driver is drunk and every other public service announcement that they flashed at us repeatedly through highschool, but as for lifeskills, I was raw and uninitiated.

    So what kept me safe? Vigilance? No. Common sense? Well to the extent that I wasn’t inviting strange boys back to my appartment to do lines of coke with me or anything, uh, sure. Mainly, just happening to not be at the wrong place at the wrong time – sheer dumb luck. Nothing of Anna’s actions in her story is particularly atypical or shocking for most university kids. We all party. A lot of us have gotten drunk. At some point, most of us have had to crash somewhere because it’s too late/home is too far etc… When it comes to precautions, I don’t see any flagrant breaking of rules. Nothing in that story indicates a serious lack of judgement that can be pointed to as “there, that’s what you did wrong”. Horrible awful shit happens to people who have done nothing to deserve it because other people exist who are horrible awful psychopathic assholes. Sometimes, it’s totally futile in trying to find direct causal links. But while this is a reason to rage and perhaps put your energy into raising awareness and offering solidarity, it is not something that should freak you out or paralyze you as you get ready to leave home. Get furious, don’t get stifled. And sorry – I don’t mean to dole out advice – your comment just really struck a chord.

  27. As a man think about those times when you’ve walked into a situation that was inherently dangerous. maybe it was the dorm room of a bunch of guys who had “beef” with you/whatever it was. did it feel like a fun situation or did you wish all the drama would end? so now think about if you had to do that every weekend just in order to go out and have fun. Half the room would be filled with your friends and you’d just want to chill and relax and talk to those good looking someone, and the other half of the room might include a couple people who want to mess up your face. and you don’t know who that might be. sucks right? it might be true you’d need to be careful and not drink too much but is that really the best answer to the overall problem?

  28. But I am not brave. Not even close. I’ll prove it: I’m almost ashamed that a few minutes ago, my heart started to race as I thought, “It’s over now. No one’ll marry you after THIS.”

    I will marry you – church or island?

  29. Mina and everyone else,

    The people who are likely to hurt you are not strangers. They are boyfriends. They are relatives. They are friends. The overwhelming majority of rapes do not occur because a girl is skulking around in an alley in a miniskirt. They occur because she is around a mean-spirited, selfish, power-mongering male who claims to care for her.

    Raj has been effectively rendered impotent by an army of commentators, so I’ll restrict myself to the one idiocy of his no one addressed. Rape does not occur because a woman is perceived as sexy. Rape occurs because a woman is perceived as vulnerable by an asshole. Why do children get raped? Why do babies get raped? Why do old women get raped? Why do women, fat and thin, short and tall, modest and immodest, old and young, ugly and beautiful, get raped? Why did the Japanese rape every women they got their hands on in Nanjing? CAUSE IT’S ABOUT HURTING SOMEONE, NOT ABOUT GETTING LAID.

    Which brings me to my last point, Mina. Leave home. Get a part time job while you go to school, or get a loan. If for other reasons you have to stay home, make demands, and make them loud. Don’t put up with it. Take it from someone who experienced a fairly restrictive desi home life, and left home – you are doing far more harm to yourself by accepting the restrictions people are placing on you, than the world will do to you once you get out there.

  30. brownfrown,

    Your comments are striking a chord with me. Especially when you start opening up the discussion to Anna’s specific situation, which seems unfair and irrevelant to the point of her post. Do you really want someone to comment on that aspect of your post?

    Nothing of Anna’s actions in her story is particularly atypical or shocking for most university kids. We all party. A lot of us have gotten drunk. At some point, most of us have had to crash somewhere because it’s too late/home is too far etc… When it comes to precautions, I don’t see any flagrant breaking of rules. Nothing in that story indicates a serious lack of judgement that can be pointed to as “there, that’s what you did wrong”.
  31. jai, rahul, etc., i don’t have much to add to what brownfrown and others have said on the tip of how hurtful, insulting, and unhelpful your little reminder is that it’s a dangerous world out there for women. what i am wondering is, as MEN, why don’t you acknowledge discuss what YOU can do to help make it a little safer? instead you smirk:

    How I wish that was possible. If we told potential rapists not to rape and they agreed, potential murderers not to murder and they agreed, potential robbersÂ…. Ahh Utopia.

    guess what? “potential rapists” are not a special aberrant breed of man. they are normal men socialized in a culture that normalizes the dehumanization and objectification of women. they are normal men whose peer groups commonly hold a belief that getting a woman drunk or finding one who is drunk is a perfectly acceptable way to get sex from her, and that this is not rape. they are normal men who, if accused of taking advantage of a woman, will say she shouldn’t have put herself in a position that led them on. they are normal men who believe they are ENTITLED.

    i refuse to believe there was no intervention that could have taken place before this guy committed this heinous act. mentoring and the creation of female-positive male peer groups is key. there are plenty of mainstream efforts and organizations like men can stop rape, but i have yet to see a concerted effort on the part of brown men to acknowledge and challenge misogynistic attitudes in our community, because they would rather focus on the racism they confront. consequently, for example, i see them clamor in favor of media representations suggesting that they can be just as degrading to women as their white counterparts (ahem). all of these little things make a difference, and instead of trying to tell women what WE should do, i’d like to see you check yourself and do your part to confront sexism in our community. really, your attitude is just as irritating as a white person telling you that it’s your responsibility not to draw attention to your brownness, rather than going out and participating in some anti-racist efforts.

    highly recommended reading (seriously i can’t emphasize enough; i wish these were required reading before going to college) – sexual assault on the college campus: the role of male peer support

    a woman scorned: acquaintance rape on trial

  32. Which brings me to my last point, Mina. Leave home. Get a part time job while you go to school, or get a loan. If for other reasons you have to stay home, make demands, and make them loud. Don’t put up with it. Take it from someone who experienced a fairly restrictive desi home life, and left home – you are doing far more harm to yourself by accepting the restrictions people are placing on you, than the world will do to you once you get out there.

    Amen to that. There is a point in life when you need to decide who is responsible for your life and believe me no matter what anybody tells you it’s YOU. I have friends who were submissive listened to everything they were told, did everything they were told by their parents, that doesn’t mean that life didn’t happen to them. Since they were so used to being told what to do and how to behave they doubted themselves too much. And its not like your parents will know how you should act in every situation you land yourself in. I don’t mean go against them every opportunity you get, but be reasonable.

  33. DeutscheDesi,

    Your comments are striking a chord with me. Especially when you start opening up the discussion to Anna’s specific situation, which seems unfair and irrevelant to the point of her post. Do you really want someone to comment on that aspect of your post?

    Sorry, I don’t mean to be obtuse but I’m not sure what you’re saying. I was referring back to the story that started this whole discussion, but if you are suggesting that I’m trivializing it in any way – I really do appologize. I was using it as the common springboard in relation to which we are all gathered in this thread and which has elicited such a large number of highly emotional responses so I’m not sure how it’s unfair or irrlevant. I stand in absolute solidarity with Anna and the reason I brought up her story was because it is such a classic example of assault where the survivor is neither being stupid, acting “provocatively” or in any way breaking the rules of “vigilence” – she’s merely out, at a party the way I and all my friends and most people I know at univeristy are, at least four times a month.

  34. bytewords: @girish, #219

    parenting is the one of the most demanding jobs out there, don’t make a judgement till you are one. if a kid makes a mistake, and it is serious enough, a parent will never forgive h(im)erself. whether or not (s)he is responsible.

    more importantly, the issue here is that “mistake” is a wrong word here. though from your post i am pretty sure you did not mean to use it.

    I don’t disagree with you. Parents have a tough time raising their kids, but at the same time there is a point where they can go too far. Too often, parents err at the extremes. In this case, Anna’s parents didn’t trust her at all, wrongfully. Other parents are too lax with their kids, and they abuse that trust. To the credit of parents parenting first gen kids, it’s really hard to know what’s right and wrong, what’s acceptable and what’s not.

    You are right, I meant mistake in a more general sense, and not with regard to Anna’s story.

  35. To say that women should exert common sense is not a big lesson; women exert common sense all the time. The fact is, even with the most common sense, a woman can still be in danger of being sexually assaulted. Women should not have to always be fearful when dancing, or just having a couple of drinks to have a good time, or even walking to a parking lot at night. It is unfair that women must always be more vigilant than men, and even with this vigilance, they can still be attacked. That is what I hope people understand, and I hope people (esp. men!) continue to work on making the situation better. Respect to Anna for posting her story, and respect for the support and good intentions people showed on this post.

  36. Dharma Queen,

    Thanks for bringing a very important point. It’s funny how often the issue of rape as violence and domination (NOT sex, not unbridled passion, not “playing rough”) gets forgotten. I found myself doing a “No means NO” campaign with the class I TA the other day. And while I was glad (although a little surprised)that we were talking about this issue, it was disturbing how seemingly regressive ideas about gender issues, rights, responsibility, “liberation” etc… have become on campuses. Feminism has become a dirty word amongst many women and someone actually put up thier hand and asked me what “date rape is”. I don’t mean to mock these first year kids – but is this where we are today? Are we still confused about what’s okay, whether no means maybe, whether we’re expected to put out if we go out, if dressing a certain way will “get us into trouble” and do we (as someone did) express a sense of disdain if we see posters promoting rage instead of caution amongst women?

    Is feminism over at this school? I asked. “No, there are totally feminists around,” was the reply from the woman in the first row “Who else would put that poster up in our dorm bathroom? Definitely no one on our floor”. I sat stunned as the women in the conference laughed in recognition and the men seemed to either nap or idley doodle on thier notepads.

  37. brownfrown,

    I always thought my English was pretty good. Let me try to clarify……

    I was referring to Anna’s story as well. I gather she didn’t post her story to be open for analysis and judgement from others, favorable or otherwise. (I could be wrong on that point.) It seems to me, that she posted in order to support someone confronting the issue of rape. The fact that you openly discuss and defend her actions throughout the story, opens this whole discussion to critiquing her experience. How many people on this board feel comfortable making judgements on decisions she made that night? If you claim she acted with complete vigilance, somebody should be able to counter that point. However, to do that would be going down the road of judging her and her actions that night.

    My point is, is discussing her actions that night, right or wrong, really serve the goals of the post?

  38. Okay DD, Point taken. I acknowledge your comment but I’m not going to respond to it here because I don’t want this to turn into a discussion on literary analysis and intent and the place of the author and public forums etc.
    BF

  39. deutschedesi, i see how picking at parts of the story could lead down a slippery slope, but i don’t think brownfrown was pointing out anna’s vigilance in order to distinguish her as a survivor who is worthy of support, but to underscore through this example how it is a MYTH that women get raped due to lack of vigilance.

  40. JoAT,

    Sometimes it is less about the “logic” in a response then the appropriateness of it within a general context. When the topic is sensitive and painful saying things like “you should have been careful” is simply unnecessary and rude. It’s the same issue at LJ. The article may or may not be “well written” but is that really the point? The context for it is completely absent……The last thing women want to hear when another innocent woman is assaulted is that “there you go you should be more careful”.

    I agree completely. As far as I was concerned — and from what I gather, Rahul’s intentions were similar — it was just a general statement in terms of the best way to deal with possibility of facing such situations in the future. I was not speaking directly to Anna, and in fact the criticism on this thread (and on some of the links people have supplied) of her supposed misjudgement was something that I myself found grossly inappropriate and ill-timed. To paraphrase what Kush Tandon said, “there is a time and a place for all that, but this isn’t it.”

    But again it’s hurtful as a woman if someone throws this justification in for something bad that has already happened. Do you see my point?

    “Justification”, absolutely not. “Partial explanation”, yes.

    Brownfrown & Leena,

    I am afraid that I am not going to dignify your indignant, inflammatory diatribes towards me with a response, especially your insistance on perceiving offense where none is either evident or intended, your insistance on picking up what you (erroneously) perceive to be negative comments whilst simultaneously ignoring the other constructive points which have been made, and your assumptions of my stance on this issue (“smirking”, “patronisingly patting women’s heads” etc). All of this is so far off the mark that it is ridiculous, especially as you appear to have overlooked the points I have made in a substantial number of related messages I have submitted here on similar issues both recently and over the past 6 months. Long-time readers of Sepia Mutiny, including Anna herself who has probably read every single message I have ever posted on this blog, would be able to confirm this. You are welcome to email Anna directly and verify my personality (at least what she has gleaned from my extensive participation on this blog) and general stance on issues of rape, women’s rights etc. I can guarantee that she will contradict your erroneous assumptions from start to finish.

    Mina,

    Both Sahej and Dharma Queen make excellent points and I support what they have said. What I can add is the following: Do not “drink to excess” in public, unless you are in the company of mature, responsible people emotionally close to you who you would literally trust with your life.

  41. Leena, it’s still a dangerous slope to go down. If somebody gets mugged while drunk and walking alone in a strange neighborhood, most people would say that they were foolish. I’ve done so to friends who got mugged in such circumstances. However, I would never say something similar to somebody who is the victim of sexual violence under such conditions.

    Saying that some people took all reasonable precautions has the effect of creating a class of survivors who are “blamed” for what happened to them, and I am unwilling to do that. Sexual violence is too horrific for anybody to second guess the conditions under which it took place.

  42. jai, thank you so much for your additional coaching. it’s hell of ground-breaking. i can tell you totally get what it means to be a male ally in anti-sexist efforts.

  43. ennis, agreed that there shouldn’t be separate classes of those who did and didn’t take precautions. however, the media tends to sensationalize cases where it appears the victims did not take such-and-such precautions and then people harp on those facts and suggest that they’re representative of the norm when it comes to violence against women — and that’s why you got that string of fucked up comments under that thread and people like jai who continue to think that lack of vigilance is “partial explanation.” that’s why i do think it’s important to emphasize that in the majority of cases including this one, shit happens regardless of precautions. that way we can get rid of that ignorant discussion and focus on the REAL culprit, the dynamics of power and control.

  44. Or we could simply decide that rape is a crime like murder, but unlike mugging, where we will never attempt to second-guess anybody for what happened to them. That avoids going places like: 90% of survivors took all the possible precautions and 10% took some of the possible precautions. I don’t want to get into that. I care about all of them. The existence of this debate about necessary precautions serves to discourage disclosure, because people stop to think about whether they can justify their actions. I would rather impose a blanket standard.

  45. Why destory this thread?

    As Siddhartha somewhat pointed this thread, the beauty of this thread, a courageous woman stepped up to open her wounds to possibly heal others wounds. She did in a purgatory sense. It heals her, It heals the woman who was discussed in the email, and countless others (irrespecitve of race, country, and place). Have you noticed a great majority of commenters are first timers and you can sense tears in their eyes. Nearly, 40% of hits are from India, and this is the first time, I see a lot of comments from India too. Sharing pain knows no boundary.

    Please focus on the process of healing that was initiated in an untold way. Pedantic discussion is jarring noise.

    Leena, you have picked the wrong guy for bashing, Jai. He is more than sensitive. I think this baiting each other is no serving purpose here. Maybe, in your school’s senior class or graduate seminar. Nnt here. Not at all. Some people sound like the bar scene from Good Will Hunting – they more interested in showcasing the term paper they recently read.

    I really think sometimes lack of empathy and refrain is more common than one would like to think. Please fccus, at least for this thread.