Writer and photographer: Vedanshi
CW: Discussion of r*pe
Rape is among the most prevelant crimes against women in India, with an average of 88 cases being registered every single day (Times of India, 2020). We are sharing a compilation of helpful resources for survivors of sexual assault in India.
Definition of rape in India: a type of sexual assault that involves insertion of the penis or penis-like objects into the vaginal, oral, anal or urethral parts. Rape includes such activity that is done against-will, without-consent, with consent (but out of fear), with consent (but under fraudulent circumstances), with consent (but intoxicated), with consent (with a minor under the age of 18 years). In any instance of rape, as per section 228 of the Indian Penal Code, doctors are not allowed to reveal the identity of the victim. (Marrow, Forensic Medicine Notes, 2019)
Say someone is assaulted, or experiencing harassment or abuse. We’re going to share some available options for seeking support. When someone is assaulted, their choice is taken away from them. When deciding what kind of police action or medical support to seek, the choice is in the survivor’s hands, every step of the way.
If someone’s life is in danger, call 112 and ask for the police (100), fire (101), or ambulance (108) depending on the situation.
If someone has been sexually assaulted, it was not their fault. They may not remember what exactly happened, and that is normal.
If a victim is hurt with life-threatening injuries, ask for an ambulance by calling 108. Even if they don’t have any apparent injuries, it is a good idea to go to the hospital and ask for a rape kit to be performed- this is a sexual assault examination performed to collect evidence after a rape. If they think they may be pregnant, they can also ask the medical professional for options. They can also test the survivor for any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
In India, survivors of rape have several rights. One of them is the right to free medical treatment in any hospital. According to Section 357C of the Criminal Code, no Indian hospital may charge any fees for treating victims of rape, and instead must immediatley provide victims with first aid free of cost. Secondly, two-finger tests are prohibited in medical examinations as the Supreme Court of India has determined this test violates the right of rape survivors to privacy, mental integrity, and dignity. The Ministry of Health has ensured that all hospitals are provided with a medico-kit to collect DNA samples for forensic testing purposes. Either a female doctor performs the examination, or a male doctor does so with the consent of the survivor and in the presence of a female doctor or nurse.
Mental health support:
Survivors may feel vulnerable, angry, confused, depressed, or another way after a sexual assault. There are mental health professionals who can help with the healing process, but more immediately, survivors may find comfort in your ‘Safe Buddies’. These can be trusted friends or family members. India also has many suicide prevention lines; for a comprehensive database of these lines, head to aasra.info/helpline.html
Survivors have the choice to decide whether they want a police report filed and press charges against their assaulter(s). This can be done by going to a police station and filing an FIR, which is a First Information Report. A FIR is a written document prepared by Indian police when information is received about a crime from either the victim directly, or someone else who files the report on the victim’s behalf. This report can be provided verbally, in-writing, or online. India also has the 1090 phone line that can be called for help in the event of crimes or emergencies experienced by women.
When filing an electronic FIR, several important pieces of personal information will need to be provided, including:
The complainant's name
Complainant’s father's/mother's name
Complainant's residential address
Complainant's mobile number
Complainant's email ID: this is important because a copy of the e-FIR will be sent to via email for verification.
Throughout the process, keep as many records and documentation safely and securely stored so that they can be referred to in the future if required.
In India, survivors have the right to Zero FIR, which means they can file an FIR in any Indian police station, irrespective of where the incident took place. It will be the police’s responsibility to transfer the file to the relevant jurisdiction for investigation. As an example, if a girl was assaulted in Jaipur, and travels to Delhi, she can submit an FIR in Delhi, and Delhi Police will transfer her file to Jaipur. Survivors also have the right to a harassment-free and time-bound police investigation, and in accordance with Section 154 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the statement will be recorded by an officer at a time and location convenient for the survivor in the presence of parents or guardians. A female officer will take the survivor to court, and the statement will be re-recorded in the chamber of the Magistrate in order to verify the accuracy of the police statement. If the survivor has a disability, then the Analyzer Educator Social Interpretation will be present to accommodate. This procedure ensures that the survivor doesn’t need to repeat their statement in court, and they retain their right to privacy throughout all legal proceedings.
If someone is in an abusive relationship, there is help available. First of all, if anyone’s life is in immediate danger, call 112.
There are many forms of abuse. Specifically, domestic abuse, or intimate partner violence, is a form of abuse used by the abuser to maintain power in a relationship through verbal, emotional, mental, sexual, reproductive, financial, or physical abuse and coercion.
The survivor can find a ‘Safe Buddy’ to help them, and check-in on them regularly- be it, friends or family. This person can help alert authorities if they don’t respond to a check-in text, call, or email within a reasonable amount of time. They can also come up with a code word if there are concerns of their abuser reading their messages.
If the survivor is looking for support services online, and is concerned their abuser will see them, they can use ‘incognito’ web browser features, which ensure that searches and web activity cannot be tracked on that device.
Survivors can also reach out to local women’s shelters.
If you’re worried about the safety of a loved one, how can you help?
If their life is in danger, call 112.
Otherwise, you can share resources and information, like this article. Be kind, understanding, and above all else, non-judgemental. Victims are often unaware they’re in an abusive relationship, or they depend on their abuser for things like a home, an allowance, or they are being gaslighted. Gaslighting is when the abuser denies ever being abusive when confronted about their actions and behaviour, and is a form of mental and emotional abuse. For the person you are trying to help, even though they may not immediately leave their relationship, you showing belief in their experience validates it, and may give them the strength and assurance needed to leave.
As an ally, you can also offer to go with them to the police, the hospital, to court, or be with them when they call a crisis line or shelter. When victims are isolated from their support networks, it, unfortunately, gives their abuser more power over them.
Believe them. Stand with them, no matter what they decide. Be an ally.
Sources for further reading: