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Friday, December 06, 2019

Fighting till the scars heal: mother of rape survivor recounts her journey

On January 24, 2014, 28-year-old dancer was returning home after a party when she was assaulted just outside her home in Powai, by a security guard employed at her own apartment complex

Written by Radhika Ramaswamy | Mumbai | Published: March 8, 2017 2:28:01 am

MORE THAN two years after her daughter was raped by a security guard employed at her own apartment complex, a 55-year-old woman was back in Mumbai this past weekend, to be present in court when the convict’s bail plea came up for hearing on Monday. The Bombay High Court rejected the plea, and the mother heaved a sigh of relief. Having visited Mumbai repeatedly in order to be present at the trial and at every bail hearing, the mother says justice was done but the scars are yet to fade. “My daughter was just like any other youngster, cheerful and full of life, wanting to make it big as a dancer.

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Now she is wary of people, she goes through emotional rollercoasters, wakes up with nightmares and hardly sleeps. She used to feel responsible for what happened,” the mother says. In the wee hours of January 24, 2014, the 28-year-old dancer was returning home after a party when she was assaulted by the guard, just outside her home in Powai. The accused, Pramod Upadhyay, took advantage of the victim’s inebriated state and dragged her to an isolated spot. What followed for the family was humiliation from the society and evidently, a battle for justice. The accused was convicted and handed 10 years’ imprisonment. On Monday, his bail plea was rejected by the High Court.

Soon after the incident, unable to cope with the altered perception and behaviour of neighbours and friends, the victim’s parents took her to Indonesia, where the family now lives. The general focus on her daughter’s inebriated condition at the time of the incident, among her neighbours and in the media, left the young woman traumatised and full of guilt, she says. “I told her she had not done anything wrong,” says the mother. While the family continued to live in the same building for some time, there was a marked difference in attitudes towards them. “We felt we were ostracised. People avoided our gaze. Nobody knocked our doors to offer help or support, except a very few close friends and family. It was becoming increasingly uncomfortable to live in our own house.

So we decided to take her abroad,” she says. In addition, the security guard had been arrested but the housing complex continued to use the services of the same security agency, despite the family’s opposition to it. “We couldn’t live around them. It didn’t feel safe,” she says. Her mother says the family also cut ties with the male friend who dropped her outside the home but did not bother to drop her till the doorstep.

“We felt betrayed by a few friends and neighbours. In the family, we made a pact that nobody would talk about the incident. Our struggles were within,” she says. Barring the few occasions when the court summoned the victim for deposing, her mother made sure she was not present at the trial, though she herself was present at every stage, travelling back and forth. “I was there when all the gory details were being discussed in the courtroom. I retraced the whole incident in the court with the help of CCTV footage. The police and judiciary were sensitive,” she says.

The survivor is now doing a dance course in Indonesia, keeping herself occupied. “I have been travelling to the courtrooms and police stations for justice and at the same time keeping the sanity in the family alive. While justice has been done, I believe mindsets among the most educated and civilised people must change. She was attacked, her dignity was stripped off by a man who was supposed to guard us. People visit those who suffer from cancer or have met with an accident. But the same people shun women who have been sexually assaulted. Why should people make us feel ashamed of our existence when we have not done anything wrong? This angers and saddens me,” says the mother.

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