This story was shared as part of the launch of Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors, co-authored by Equality Now and Dignity Alliance International. This story is anonymous and the name Ambika is a pseudonym.
After I reported the assault, things were tough and the behavior of people around me changed. They labeled me as someone who has been raped, but they never talked about the perpetrator. He is from a Muslim community and is financially well established, while I am from a Dalit community and my economic condition is poor.
Some people blamed me, they acted as if I wanted it to happen. They talked behind my back and even to my face, which was very hurtful to me and my family. The stigma has prevented me from getting decent work and I cannot trust men around me.
The Panch (head of unofficial village council) of my area put pressure on me to settle out of court, but I thought this will only bring me more trouble by giving into the culprit. It would also have encouraged men in my community to do whatever they felt like. I wanted the perpetrator to get maximum punishment so that other men would not dare to do such activities.
I did not want to bow down to pressure and felt that through the formal justice system I could receive justice in a true sense. I received support from a few people in my community who encouraged me to fight and I have had good experiences with the police and medical officers involved in my case.
I filed a complaint a day after the incident and there was no delay in the process. The police referred me to support services and they caught the perpetrator in just four days.
Police and medical officers who handled my case were helpful and treated me well and a woman officer was always present. I had a free check-up at the hospital and several follow ups in the weeks after. Psychosocial counseling was provided to me by an NGO (Women for Human Rights).
I have been treated well by the government lawyer representing me, whose services are free of charge, although I have had to make some small payments which has been difficult for me. I was given transport money to go to court to give my statement, but it was still hard; I didn’t feel like leaving the house, but I had to push myself to do so.
The perpetrator is currently behind bars, but he has not been sentenced. I haven’t heard anything from my lawyer recently, I think because of the lockdown for the pandemic. My financial situation is weak and this has meant I haven’t been able to contact the lawyer to follow up about my case.
I think the state should be more accountable towards survivors and ensure they are updated on their cases regularly. But I have come a long way with the help of my family, human rights activists, police, and medical officers. Although I am still awaiting justice, I have high hopes.