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A Website that Created 'Safe Space' for Sexual Assault Survivors Wants the Queer Community to #BreakTheSilence

By: Raka Mukherjee


Last Updated: August 10, 2018, 09:29 IST

A Website that Created 'Safe Space' for Sexual Assault Survivors Wants the Queer Community to #BreakTheSilence

Cases of sexual assault are always under-reported - but this campaign is encouraging you to break the silence.

"I still feel the bite marks, blood stains, and betrayal...." reads one of the sexual survivor's account.

For most people, across the world, sexual assault has been associated with shame. 'What were you wearing?' 'What time of the day was it?' 'Why didn't you take a cab instead of a bus?' are some of the questions that sexual assault survivors are often asked. In some cases, it's the politicians and the police-- the apparent protectors of the society-- who make the survivors go through another round of harassment even when they muster up the courage to speak about it. But sometimes, it's their own family members.

Last year, led by a Human Rights Lawyer, Urmila Pullat, a bunch of people got together and launched How Revealing-- a website to record experiences of every sexual assault-- doesn't matter how irrelevant it may have seemed to the survivor.

Now, taking a step forward, they have extended it to the queer community.

In collaboration with Gaylaxy Magazine, How Revealing is creating a safe space for people of the LGBTQ community to not just share their instances anonymously, but also document it. This, to show the sheer number of victims of sexual assault that no amount of recorded data usually has.

The platform seeks to reduce victim shaming and the stigma and silence surrounding violence.

To share their experiences, the platform offers the users an option to submit their instances anonymously - all it asks are a few simple questions: your name (which you can choose to omit if you want to remain anonymous) what time of the day it happened if you reported the incident - and what the victim was wearing.

While these questions may seem detrimental, Urmila Pullat expresses how this itself is the point. The time, place or clothes you were wearing doesn't justify sexual assault - and mentioning these will reduce the stigma on victim-shaming.

With a new campaign called #BreakTheSilence, the Bangalore-based website now is trying to get the queer community to open up in the safe space because most of them do not have a place to share these experiences.

"Speaking up is also cathartic," said Pullat.

Owing to the lack of safe spaces for people to express sexual violence, people often live and deal with the trauma and internalize it. "There is a huge vacuum of information when it comes to cases which go unreported," she said.

The survivors' accounts are chilling.

"I must have been 12 or 13. I was at a school picnic, and we were all lining up to go horse-riding," reads one account. The anonymous user mentions that she was wearing full-length denim and a tee-shirt which goes to show that age and clothes are irrelevant when it comes to sexual violence.

Pullat doesn't ask for names on her platform - and she goes through a careful process of deleting anything that could identify the abuser before she posts the account.

"I want to keep the voices candid," she said. "Because changing it will hamper the voice speaking up, but at the same time, we are not a reporting platform," she added.

While How Revealing may not be a reporting platform, it does have a directory of helpline numbers that people can contact to actually seek professional help related to their incidents.

The accounts have a scary tone of familiarity. All of them seem like they could have happened to anyone you know, or to you.

"It has happened multiple times," is probably a scary reality - but talking up about it might break the silence and stigma for it to happen again.

Speaking up about it, and breaking the silence, is the first step," says Pullat. "It is not the onus of one gender or sexual orientation to claim responsibility," she added.

Indian politicians, are you taking note? Stepping out at night cannot be a cause of rape or any sexual assault.

first published:August 09, 2018, 19:53 IST
last updated:August 10, 2018, 09:29 IST