While a lot of people believe that rape and violence are things that happen on dark, deserted streets at the hands of faceless strangers, nothing could actually be further from the truth. A 2015 Reuters report says that 90 percent of rapes are committed by people known to the victim, and it’s important that we really absorb and understand this, because tackling rape, particularly within the family, is dark, complex and really horrifying, and it’s important to understand how complicit families can be in these situations if we’re to effectively tackle it at all.
In a horrifying case from Bengaluru, it’s been discovered that a 14-year-old girl from Bangalore was raped by her father, 44-year-old Ramesh for over a year. She didn’t tell anyone, because as is often the case in situations like this, he threatened to kill her mother if she told her. The mother found out about this situation a few days ago, but didn’t want to go to the police. She called members of their family together to decide what to do instead.
The husband’s relatives refused to believe the 14-year-old, and so the family decided to go to a woman priest to ascertain the truth. This is where the story gets even more horrifying. The priest forced the girl to undergo a “truth test”, which involved having the survivor press her hand against a bed of sharp nails. When the girl began to scream in pain, her mother and sister caused a commotion, which the neighbours heard, leading them to finally call the police.
Stories like this are a clear example of how families and communities can act as agents of violence, and show that these spaces are far from as safe as they are portrayed to be. The family of this girl, like many others in similar situations, are completely ill-equipped to deal with instances of sexual violence from within the home. The involvement of a woman’s priest in torturing the victim and disregarding her testimony also shows us how women, too, can act as enforcers of violence and patriarchy against other women and girls.