by Amna Iqbal
The difference between noise and sound; the former numbs your senses and the latter makes you listen.
‘Rape’ – The word is noise. Cloaked in the din of a media screaming match, the word has been stripped off the anguish, the trauma, the physical and mental scars that it engenders. And here lies the problem maybe. The term is loaded to the point of exhaustion with implications. It’s too old and rusty to deliver the sharp cut of a steel blade across your skin that it is meant to. It’s last season, nestled somewhere amongst the media buzzword fads. This season is all about the Youtube ban or perhaps Jemima and Russell.
Puritans amongst us will feign outrage at comparing ‘being violated’ to the woeful fashion disaster of high-waisted pants on Asian women. The adrenalin-loaded newsrooms will groan at yet another sob story and will woefully carry it on a slow news day. It’s noise really, no one’s listening. What’s another sob story down the din drain?
So here’s my peeve with the whole flash in the pan, media coverage, tweets and even look-good advertising about ‘Rape’. The word is useless. The baggage it carries overshadows the people who go through a violent attack on their personal space and boundaries, the physical agony and the resulting confusion that in a context like ours is misplaced to proportions un-paralleled.
I am a 29 year old woman who realised 3 years ago that I am not ashamed of the fact that I was raped by my father’s brother. It took me nearly 20 years though. A girl of 7 forced into non-consensual intercourse, that is not sexual but a violent attack on a child and a breach of trust, is not a ‘survivor’. I refuse to subject myself to the term ‘victim’ either.
The pain is excruciating. It can’t be pumped up with adjectives. You are torn apart and the haze is that of terror and shame. A child who does not understand the magnitude of the act of violence being inflicted on him/her is then buried under the flippant senselessness of the terms, a syllable or two and its over. It’s not. The resulting confusion and the life long coping mechanisms you learn, breaking and reshaping yourself again and again is not something survivors do. They walk out unscathed. A few scratches here and there, some therapy and good as new. What we deal with is a condition. You’re never as good as new. You’re maybe a little better some days, more than a survivor; a warrior. And then there are days when you are not.
Those of us who fight, protect, speak out or hold our silences are not asking for a communal pity party. Because believe it or not, everyone is not a crumpled mess lying in ‘the victim heap’ with acid attack/minority/gender issues stories. It’s really a lot more simple – I don’t want a label, I am not ashamed, I was attacked. It’s usually the simplest of things that people don’t get.
I will probably be told ‘rape season’ is over, why did I decide to ‘speak out’ now. Yes it’s very brave of me but really, haven’t we had enough on the topic? I will also be told that there is forced humor in a personal account of something tragic. The only thing tragic here is the fact that there was a ‘Rape season’, I didn’t decide to speak out after gathering my courage for months on end, I am past being brave about it, it’s a matter of everyday fact in my life and there is no humor. It is a furious reaction to the recent circus that was put up when a 5 year old girl was subjected to a far worse fate. It’s an acid reflux combined with a horrible incredulity at the schizophrenic media policies regarding privacy, censorship and responsibility. When the child’s face flashed across a few channels, I realized the reporters there, were probably dreaming of this day when they covered abysmal press releases. They threw her out as tabloid fodder. And hoped to bask in glory. Hope is a dangerous thing. It makes you delusional. Thankfully, those of us who have been on the receiving end of hope, know when it’s time to simply speak for yourself. Loud and clear above the noise. This is not a sob story. It is a reactionary account of someone who has been living with a condition.
Amna Iqbal works as a Visual Journalist at The Express Tribune in Karachi, Pakistan. As she tried to do away with labels of class, sects, religion and gender, she has landed in an undefined space where she is making her way around falling off severe hand-me-down templates of dos and don’t s. Her work today encompasses her creative practice as a designer, writer, a journalist and a woman in a state of constant discomfort. Website: Off The Grid @amna_iqb
Editors note: The ‘Assam Rape festival’ story referred to above as ‘rape season’ first published in nationalreport.net in October has since been exposed as a hoax