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Staying silent at rape jokes is never the answer. Leads to rapists thinking they can get away

Campus Voice is an initiative by ThePrint where young Indians get an opportunity to express their opinions on a prevalent issue.

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Sometimes, it’s just easier to close your eyes, shut your ears and refuse to acknowledge what’s before you. Avoiding confrontation is easier, after all. Confrontations are chaotic.

Perhaps that’s the reason you stay quiet when you hear an acquaintance laughingly making a rape joke – you just share a disgusted glance with your friend even though your insides bristle with anger. You don’t want to confront him, call him out for his sick behaviour, because well, what good would it do? He wouldn’t listen to you, and you would become the next target of his jokes.

Also read: Headlines on rapes need to change. Before we point at people blaming phones, chow, jeans

However much you sugarcoat your words, though, you’re being a coward. You’re afraid to speak your mind, say what you think is right because you fear judgement, you fear criticism. Yes, like it or not, you are a coward. That’s why you remain silent when you notice another classmate being vilified in her absence, that’s why you remain mum when you observe a girl in your dance class being leered at. You know what’s happening is wrong, your conscience continually pricks you but just to stay in the cocoon of false comfort that you’ve spun around yourself, you stay silent. Again, and yet again.

At home, the television, the bearer of all tidings, brings to you the happenings all around the world. You flip through the channels languidly, catching mentions of the stock market, day before’s cricket match, the inauguration of a hospital. You press the remote to change the channel and as the screen changes, a small headline at the bottom grabs your attention. It flashes just for a few seconds, though enough time for you to have read it. It mentions, quite clinically, the gangrape and murder of a woman in her 20s in a neighbouring town. The news changes, now a group of party spokespersons grace the screen, heatedly arguing about the latest bill that has been passed in Parliament. You barely hear them.

Scenes flash through your mind. The rape jokes, your silence, the unfair vituperation, your silence, the catcalls, your silence. It’s like a dam bursting – all the shame, the guilt of staying quiet that you had somehow suppressed courses through your veins, engulfs your gut. Because when something wrong happens but you remain silent, you condone the wrong. Your reticence is a sign of your apathy. When people do something unethical and no one condemns their actions, they take it as a sign to continue, to keep on doing what they were doing because they are not met with any resistance. And the rape of the woman that you just heard about is a consequence of the silence and apathy of you, and people like you. The rapists are wrong, undoubtedly, they are. But so are you, because you stayed silent dismissing certain incidents as “minor”, brushing them away. And what these “small” incidents do is cultivate a false sense of being right in the minds of the perpetrators. And ultimately, everything culminates into what you see on the screen, something outrageous, immoral, wrong.

There might not be a direct link, but your action, or rather, inaction, leads to the brutal loss of a life, the destruction of a family, the annihilation of humanity.

Ankita V. Hegde is an 11th-grade student at Sanskriti School, New Delhi. Views are personal.

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