Recently, there has been a focus on rape in India. At least on my end, I have been encountering accounts of sexual assault happening in India rather regularly. Which is strange. I have found myself asking why has there been such a singular focus on issues of sexual assault specifically in India. Part of me wants to believe that the local Indian media is doing a better job reporting (and also condemning) these events. However, that does not completely explain why these accounts have recently and continuously filtered into media sources that usually do not report on India at all. Or maybe more tellingly, that usually do not report on (or maybe more accurately do not vilify) instances of sexual assault.
I don’t know about India, but I do know something about the American media. I can’t help but compare the reporting of rape in India and rape closer to home including the recent Steubenville trial, but also discussions of sexual assault on our ow campus. When men in India rape, they are vilified by local and international media alike. As well they should. But when rape happens in Steubenville, we should find compassion for the two teenage perpetrators. We should think about their futures. We should consider how our vitriol affects their psyches. With absolutely no mention of the survivor of the rape they perpetrated in this situation. And when we try to talk about sexual assault on campus, when we identify an event in a space (and yes I’m talking about Pub here), the conversation gets deflected. “Well, yes, it’s a problem, but it’s not just a problem with this event. It happens at most parties on campus.” That it happens most of the time does not mean that it also shouldn’t always be condemned, and when we manage to collectively identify a space that needs addressing, maybe it would be valuable to focus on it.
So what I think I’m saying at this point, is that it’s really simple to condemn something that’s happening far away, that’s happening to other people, that’s being perpetrated by people who have been constructed, historically, as something other than what exists with us in the here and now. “Write about the rapes in India” was the original idea. A part of me wanted to write about transnational activism and how to get involved. But I couldn’t get past the fact that I didn’t know much about what was going on in India. What I do know is that there is something going on here, in the way that rape in India is portrayed and in the ways our own campus is being compelled to address sexual assault in our own community. To me, both the rhetoric directed against the events in India and the rhetoric deployed to cushion our own responsibility on campus are intimately related. It is the old story of deflecting responsibility for this issue. It is something that happens elsewhere, to other people. It happens, but I don’t have any control over it. But that’s not true, because the first thing we have control over is ourselves and that is where the responsibility starts. So if we’re going to talk about rape in India, let’s talk about rape on campus first and take some responsibility.