In July 2014, my friend Rakesh* and I were abducted by six men in Frazer Town, Bangalore, and I was sexually assaulted by them in a car. It was tantamount to rape, as I told a local daily later.
We filed a case two days later. The case was filed only after Rakesh found and cornered the guy at 10.30pm one night on Mosque Road.
At 11.30pm I got a call from Rakesh saying, “You need to come to the police station right now.” My parents didn’t know about the incident, and it was hard for me to leave my home at that time, so I asked Rakesh to try and talk to the cops himself. But they told him that unless I personally came to the station at that time and gave them my statement, they would have to let the guy go. Obviously I did not want him to be let off, knowing that he’d then disappear. So around 11.45 pm/12am, Rakesh came to pick me up to take me to the station.
Once I was at the station, they asked me to narrate the whole incident while filling out all my personal details: my name, my address, my phone number, my father’s name etc. They told me to wait till the inspector in charge came, that he was currently out on his rounds. We waited for the inspector till about 1am, but I don’t believe he was really on duty as the constables informed me, because he showed up in his pyjamas.
I was really uncomfortable around him as he gave me a creepy vibe. He kept looking at me in a very sleazy manner.
He asked me to repeat the whole incident to him as well, and then asked me to write a written complaint. The subject line of my complaint letter had the words ‘kidnap’, ‘sexual assault’ and ‘molestation.’ When I showed him the written complaint he said, “Don’t write kidnap as the incident happened in your own car, so it doesn’t amount to kidnap.” I later found out that the law states otherwise: if you’re taken anywhere without your consent, it is considered kidnap. But at that time I did not know.
I rewrote the letter again and this time he gave me an ‘if’ situation. He told me, “If you write ‘sexual assault’ you will have to go get a medical examination right now. If you don’t write those words, you won’t have to.” In that moment, at 1 in the morning, I did not feel like going for a medical test. My parents did not know about this incident or that I was even at the police station right now – I was out of the house without them even knowing it, and I needed to get back as soon as I could. So I said, “No, forget it,” to which he replied, “Alright, then just write molestation.” So I ended up writing the complaint three times for him. He knew I was feeling agitated as I had just been attacked a few days ago; I even had a breathing problem, and they complicated the process by asking for thumbprints, calling me out at late hours, etc.
Around 2am, I had to meet the person who was typing out my FIR. He was rude to me and kept asking me insensitive questions. I don’t recall exactly what those questions were, but I remember that they made me feel uncomfortable. While I was answering his questions, the accused’s father turned up at the station. He immediately asked me, “Talk to me, tell me what happened?” The inspector, who took my complaint, actually gave him my complaint letter – which, by the way, was the only copy they had – and told him, “If you can read English, read the complaint.”
The father could not read English, so the accused’s brother read out my whole complaint, word for word, in front of everybody – the constables, Rakesh, the man who was writing my FIR and the accused’s father. The father’s exact response to the letter was, “Galthi ho gayi, maaf kar do.” This father later turned out to be a local politician and then it made sense why the police were hesitant to file a case against him.
By 2.30am my complaint was filed and approved – or at least it was approved according to what they wanted me to write, i.e. excluding the words sexual assault and kidnap from the subject line. From my perspective, this wasn’t a complaint where I was telling them exactly what had happened.
After this they said we could go home and that they would do whatever they could. The next day, Rakesh went to the police station to collect a copy of my FIR, but they kept making excuses like, “Oh you need to come for the cross-checking, we need to know where it happened, come here, come there.” The copy of the FIR which was supposed to be given to us just kept getting withheld by them.
Finally, I met a friend of a friend who happened to be a reporter and he brought the story to light, which was why it was out in the papers. The first story which came out, which was written by this friend, was published with my permission and he made sure that he didn’t reveal my identity. However, other media houses latched onto this story somehow and the news spread like wildfire. They somehow got hold of a copy of my FIR and my complaint. When I turned on the TV, I saw a story being narrated that was eerily similar to mine, using the same wording that I had used in my complaint letter.
There was a picture of my actual complaint letter that was being brandished on the news channels. There was no one else who had my complaint letter and so I still believe it was the cops who leaked it to the media. The media has the right to obtain a copy of my FIR – except this wasn’t my FIR, but the complaint letter which I had written for the inspector. The entire letter, from the subject line to its content, was in the spotlight. They even showed my signature on the complaint letter. They downloaded pictures of me from Facebook and made a feeble attempt at blurring out my face. Any of my friends and family would know that those were pictures were of me.
In the end the inspector in charge did get caught for not filing ‘sexual assault’ and ‘kidnap’, because in the body of my complaint letter, I had noted down the sequence of events as it had occurred. It was only in the subject line that he had asked me to remove those two words, thinking he would get away with it. But according to incidents that I mentioned in the complaint, it had to be filed under Section 376, which is rape. This became a huge issue: the cops were now under pressure since it was being highlighted by the media and nothing was being done.
The inspector in charge ended up being arrested and right now there’s a court case going on against him. He has been trying to get in touch with Rakesh and asking him to change our story. “Tell them [the police] that it wasn’t me [who asked Trisha* to remove ‘sexual assault’ and ‘kidnap’ from her statement] and that I tried to help you.”
The accused and his gang, however, are currently out on bail. There are five of them in total, and whenever they are expected to turn up at the court to decide on a trial date, one of them decides not to show up, stalling the justice process. It is a tactic which is being used by the defense, because of a rule that a person can be pardoned for skipping a hearing up to three times. In fact, there was another hearing just a few days ago and again one of the members of the gang didn’t show up and so the trial date could not be fixed.
They also somehow got hold of Rakesh’s number and have called him up a few times asking him to drop the case. We think it’s the cops who gave away his number.
I also later found out that the main accused has been notorious for doing this to other women. When my story was published online, the comments section had other women writing along the lines of, “Oh this man used to wait outside our college and stare at us.” However, many of his other victims are scared to speak up publicly and I am the only person pushing this case.
My case went on to the Police Commissioner, but this is mostly because my story got attention from the papers. It became something he couldn’t ignore. It was only when the commissioner addressed my situation that my case was finally filed under Section 376.
I was appointed a woman constable for when I had to go do my mandatory medical test after being filed under Section 376, but she was no different from her male colleagues. It did not make a difference to me if she was around or not, because when she was, she just felt like a prop.
I wish the cops had been more sensitive towards my case, especially the inspector who was initially in charge. He treated it as if it was any other case. I think they all need to be sensitized to understand that it is actually a big deal for a woman who has undergone such an assault to have the courage to show up at the station and make a complaint of such a nature.
It’s been a year now, and filing this case is something I regret all the time. It’s traumatic enough when the assault occurs, but what you have to deal with afterward is worse. To those who are afraid to stand up for themselves after what happened to them, I completely understand what they are going through. All this time has passed, yet no trial date has been confirmed for my case. There is so much corruption involved; this is not something I still want to deal with a year later.
When you’re involved in a case like this, you either have a choice to stand up and fight for your rights, or you can choose to shut your mouth. If I could go back in time, for the sake of my life, my peace, my sanity, I would choose the latter option. Yes, I might have been emotionally scarred, but I would not have had to deal with the trauma of the press, the cops; being asked the same question a hundred times over.
People have come up to me and said that this is the best thing I could have ever done, but I rather wish I had not told anyone – just lived my life and tried to move on. Even though it has been a year since I’ve moved to a different city, half my mind is lost to this case which is yet to receive justice, thinking, “What is happening in Bangalore?”
But however hesitant I may feel about reporting to the cops, I do not wish to discourage other girls from doing the same.
*As told to Nadia Lewis. Trisha’s and Rakesh’s names have been changed.
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Read other accounts of reporting sexual violence here.