Her name was Jyoti Singh Pandey.
The attack reads like a cross between a depraved nightmare and a bathsalts bad trip: Jyoti, a 23 year old physiotherapy student and her male companion are trapped on a moving bus, repeatedly and violently violated, beaten and discarded, naked and bleeding. Then the assailants try to run Jyoti over with the bus.
Emerging details suggest premeditation and the specifics are inhumanely gruesome, my chest caving in as I read them, so I leave it to you, Dear Reader, to decide if you want to know, but I warn that they are jarring, heartbreaking and cannot be unknown.
She died in a Singapore hospital 13 days later, while the world was still catching its breath and the country was still reeling.
An Indian media ban on the publication of her name was upheld despite her family’s pleas. They want her to be remembered as a whole person and we are under no such ban.
She was real; she was concsious and fighting while she endured what is, when we are honest with ourselves, everyone’s worst nightmare. I can’t correlate that despite the touch screen trappings of our purported civility, we are still brutalizing women. In a world where feminism is considered so last century, maybe the repeated and appalling tragedies on women these past few months will bring about the show of force that collective ovaries and healthy thinking men need to bring.
Because this isn’t just about Jyoti.
Perhaps the long list of bad news as of late has us only half listening. Jyoti’s attack came as Malala, the 15 year old girl shot by the Taliban at point blank range for advocating girls’ rights, was released from hospital in London.
Meanwhile in Ohio, an unconscious 16 year old girl was carried around to a series of parties, raped multiple times while people watched and snapped pictures. High school football players are accused, and as the conversation grew, a video went viral, landing on CNN, of teen boys discussing it, one saying that if it was his daughter, he would just let her die.
Now the Sheriff in that case is receiving emails threatening the rape and murder of his daughters. Because people there like football more than women? I don’t know what their fuckin’ excuse is. It’s beyond rationale.
Then a 19 year old in Montreal was sexually assaulted by a man who had just been released from similar charges with police being on record as saying he was likely to reoffend and then he’d be in real trouble.
But wait, as I was putting this together, a seven year old girl was raped and murdered in India. Then I woke up Sunday morning to another gang rape in India, again on a bus, again over hours, of a 29 year old woman, who thankfully survived.
I swear to all the gods and goddesses I can name that my soul is breaking. My womb is screaming. I want to know where all the brothers I’ve always believed in are. I want to know how humanity became so inherently broken that we’ve arrived here, because it catches in my throat, it blinds me with rage, I am about to drown in a sea of my own tears and I know there are more of us that feel this way than there are sick fuck perpetrators.
Despite discussion of India’s pervasive rape culture and how we’re better of here, even here we have built and continue to consent to a society which teaches rape prevention to the potential victims like telling people to avoid being the victim of a hit and run. All too many believe feminism is either a stance that rendered itself obsolete sometime after we breached the glass ceiling but decided we still liked the men folk picking up the cheque, or an extremist view opted into by angry ugly chicks, but we never embrace feminism as a humanitarian issue. We preach feminism to women and think somehow it has nothing to do with men.
Admittedly, men and boys are victims of sexual assault too, but I don’t know how many men look over their shoulders at night for fear of rape. Gender equality goes far beyond pay parity: no one tells dudes with baggy pants to pull them up because it looks like they’re asking for it and that illustrates a dangerous imbalance.
Reject the dogma that you are nothing more than instinctive beasts unable to control your urges; it demeans us both. Openly argue the implication that rape is about sex and discuss it openly as the vile, brutal assault that it is. Be the voice of civilized reason who will never hear someone say that a woman is “asking for it” without speaking up that unless you heard her specifically ask for something, she hasn’t.
Look at your tribe. They are giving you a bad name. We need hoards of brave, unapologetic women crowding the streets and the media working to bring issues to the surface to protect themselves, their daughters, your daughters, but we need the men, the right thinking, sound minded, civilized men who know rape is sick and unacceptable to stand up, embrace feminism, shout loud and proud that you will never stand idly by, because in a city as crowded as New Dehli, not one person stopped to help Jyoti.
There’s an oft cited stat about the number of college aged men who admitted that they would rape someone if they were certain that there would be no ramifications. If you are one of the men who wouldn’t, disassociate yourself from the cretins of your brthren. Be the voice for the women who have been silenced by fear, by death, by humiliation. Because the freedom to not be raped is the most basic civil right and as MLK said: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
So I am lighting candles, figurative and literal, for Jyoti Singh Pandey, for the murdered child, for the Ohio girl, for the Montreal girl, for the Indian woman and praying hard that finally, collectively, we will ignite a blaze of change.