Have you ever felt afraid to walk alone at night? I know I have. If I’m in a cab late at night coming home, I talk to my husband on my mobile so the cab driver knows there’s someone expecting me at home. I once even faked a conversation with him when I couldn’t get reception.
Why am I telling you this? Well yesterday it emerged that the late Ravi Shankar‘s daughter Anoushka Shankar was abused as a child by ‘a man (her) parents trusted implicitly’. In a heartfelt video that she posted on the One Billion Rising website she talks about the abuse she suffered for years at the hands of this man. Interestingly, she also talks about feeling afraid to walk alone at night, worry over dressing in a way that will attract the ‘wrong type’ of attention and even anxiety when a strange man stops her in the street to ask for the time.
In this day and age we shouldn’t feel that kind of fear or intimidation, and it makes me sad and even angry, blood-boilingly angry that as women we often do. And worse, that many of our sisters suffer abuse, violence and the torture of rape everyday single day, all over the world.
Last month I wrote a post on the rape that took place in Delhi at the end of last year. The response I got from it was overwhelming. So many of you out there, like me, were horrified by the rape and fatal beating of this young woman who was simply going about her life. For me there was also a sense of helplessness about it all. She was overpowered by a gang of men who were intent on harming and abusing her- what could she have done? She had a male companion with her, but he too was beaten and taken down.
Perhaps in that kind of crisis situation its difficult to know what the correct response is. But elsewhere there is a response- to dance. This Valentines Day, the One Billion Rising initiative is celebrating it’s 15th anniversary. On V-Day as its known, we are urged, women and men, to take a stance on violence against women by staging a ‘rising’. The idea is to get together a kind of flashmob of people dancing in protest over sex crimes and violence against women. I love the campaign’s strapline “one billion women violated is an atrocity, one billion women dancing is a revolution.”
In the wake of the Delhi rape, its reported that there are several One Billion Rising events taking place across India today. That kind of response, that stand of unity, makes me proud to be an Asian and a woman. We should be standing together as women and raising awareness. We need to send the message out that a grope, a lewd comment or any other illicit act is completely deviant, that its not ok for men to treat women that way.
So this Valentines Day, if you are lucky enough to have a man in your life who loves you, please also think of those who have suffered hell at the hands of a man. If you can’t be involved in a flash mob, you can tweet, add a twibbon to your Twitter profile picture, or add a Facebook status and start a discussion. Whatever way you do it, lets stand with those who have suffered.