In a previous column, titled “The Age of Too Much Information,” I had written about the trend of actors making media confessionals that seemed uncannily timed with the release of their respective films. I observed that while many actors need to be lauded for speaking openly on sensitive topics such as chronic depression and sexual abuse, others seem to find both catharsis and publicity by publically revealing their personal maladies.
Kalki Koechlin, an actor whom I greatly admire, was accused by several journalists of courting publicity when, a few days prior to her films release, she spoke about enduring child sexual abuse (CSA).
Kalki was appalled and hurt by the media cynicism and reached out to me to clarify that she had first revealed her traumatic encounter with CSA more than a year ago. Wary about making further statements about CSA, she had thought it prudent to delay speaking up against this horrific crime until after her film’s release. Finally, convinced by an NGO that the cause was more important than cynical sniping, Kalki did speak up and unfortunately bore the brunt of a media backlash.
Kalki wrote to me saying, “If you are wrong about accusing people of publicity, you disempower people from talking ever again, you bring fear into people who are already fragile about such issues, and that is truly, truly sad when people are talking from an honest place with a larger good intention. I am literally scared to open up about this now, and yet that’s exactly how CSA victims are made to feel so often, hence the abuse thrives.”
Kalki is, of course, absolutely right. CSA is rampant in our country and needs to be discussed openly and freely, without fear of shame or adverse repercussions. Silencing brave voices that speak against abuse was the very opposite of my intent but I see how media censure can prevent a ‘survivor’ from sharing personal anguish.
People have spoken about enduring CSA. It takes enormous courage and fortitude to make public your private pain. They are not ‘victims’ or ‘survivors’ but rather brave souls, who speak up in the hope that others may be spared the trauma that they themselves have endured.