Dear Hrit and Naisha,
Today morning as we sat watching the news you suddenly asked “What’s Rape?” and left me completely flustered. I struggled to find an answer even as a hundred thoughts flashed across my mind. You’re just 10, where had you heard that word? Are you even old enough to absorb this stuff? Who had you been talking to? Were there other things you’d heard of that I needed to clarify?
I floundered in the dark wondering how to explain it all to you. How to explain the heinousness of the crime without explicit details? How to reveal to you the horror of the word without scaring you? How to teach you to be careful without extinguishing your carefree spirit? How to help you grow up to face reality without taking away your innocence? I wondered.
I struggled along babbling about ‘good touch bad touch’, about never being alone in washrooms, about being wary of overfriendly strangers.. trying to warn you… yet never really getting to the point.. never really telling you what I was warning you about.
You’d both looked from me to the television a little lost at the connection between thousands of people being bombarded with water cannons and lecherous men in lonely bathrooms. A hundred more questions unfolded. “But why are so many people there?” “Why is the police pushing them?” “Who are they shouting at?”
Oh you were so confused.
And so here I am trying to get some answers for you. Those people, dear children, are angry. Angry at something that happened to a girl and her friend. They were both raped, violated, hurt, harmed by a group of cruel men — the girl physically, her friend mentally. The scars will take a long long time to heal.
Those people are all standing out there in the cold and the rain demanding for those men to be punished. Will they get justice? Is this even the right way to demand justice? Are they doing the right thing? I don’t know. What I do know is that the need to demand why youngsters are not safe in a country built on tolerance, is right.
The anger is right. I feel it too. Anger, frustration, empathy, shame, hurt, worry, fear.. I feel all of that. I wish I were there. I wish you were a bit grown up and I wish you were there too. But we cannot be there. What we can do, however, is to learn to respect people’s right to be the way they want to be, to not force our morality, our sense of right or wrong on them; to look beyond short skirts and skimpy tops; to create and respect boundaries; above all to learn to say as well as to understand and respect that small word ‘No’, so that no one is raped ever again.. mentally or physically.