When the boot is on the other foot

Rape is a behavioural crime of power play. In patriarchal society, mostly women are the victims, but there are some notable exceptions

Rape, euphemistically defined, is sex without consent. Why is consent not sought by a sexual predator? The power equations are so skewed in favour of the perpetrator and against the victim that the question of seeking consent is redundant in such situations. In a patriarchal society, power equations favour men, therefore, in most of the sexual crimes, with rare exceptions, it’s a woman who is at the receiving end.

There are some atypical situations where women wield power and men are the victims. But this, in no way, is meant to belittle a timely and appropriate ‘MeToo’ campaign. Description of these exceptions will only highlight the true nature of sexual offences — that are not so much about sex per se, but about power play.

A 22-year-old girl, who is preparing for the Civil Services Examination, stays with her parents in Green Park (New Delhi). She is dating a postgraduate medical student and in all likelihood, they will soon tie the knot.

However, an untoward incident happened around two years ago that cast an ugly shadow on her personality. In those days, when she returned late in the afternoon from college, their domestic help — a 16-year-old Nepali boy, Bahadur — would serve her lunch, after which she would retire to her room till her parents’ return at around 7:30 pm.

On one such summer afternoon, after having lunch, she summoned Bahadur to her room. She liked the able-bodied, stout, yet effeminate Bahadur and had a desire for him. She initiated a conversation and asked questions about Bahadur’s non-existent love life. She refused to believe that he’s single and explained him the meaning of virgin which according to her was a curse for a young man like Bahadur. He was finally allowed to leave the room after this embarrassing encounter. But this was not the end.

The strong desire that she had for him had emboldened her and after a few days, Bahadur was summoned to her room again. This time, she wasn’t patronising. She forced him to shed clothes, fondled him and made him do things to her. He was reduced to a sex-slave role play. With time he became less inhibited but always pleaded, “Didi, jaane do (Sister, please let me go).” He was threatened time and again that if he defied her, she’ll call the police and get him jailed for raping her.

One day when her parents returned early, unannounced, they caught them red-handed. She accused him of rape, but her parents knew who was the instigator and who was in control. Nevertheless, Bahadur was beaten up and asked to leave, not just the city, but also the country, if he cared to live. This incident left her in a psychiatric turmoil.

“It’s the perpetrator who needs the real counselling, not the victim,” explains Dr Rajat Mitra, a crime psychologist who has done extensive research on the mind of a rapist.

In another case, the owner of an export house based in Noida, who is in her late 40s, is the perpetrator. She runs a decent setup that employs some 15 people and has an annual turnover of more than Rs 10 crore.

A 22-year-old commerce graduate joined her company as a junior accountant. This tall, lanky fellow with mild manners and sharp features, grew up in Rohtak. He wasn’t very confident and would remain tongue-tied because he lacked English-speaking skills.

His small-town persona struck a chord with the owner. One evening when the senior accountant had to leave early, she decided to take a look at the accounts. The junior accountant had to stay back at office for this, while the others left for home.

They were locked up in her room for the task at hand. The conversations took a flirtatious turn when she praised him for his good looks. “You’ll earn much more as a model than an accountant,” she told him, “Almost 10 times more,” she reiterated.

He tentatively agreed to be her model. “We should begin today,” she insisted. She made him try some outfits and asked him to change clothes in front of her. “One of the prerequisites of being a model is to lose body shame,” she wasn’t just asking. Soon, he found himself standing stark naked before her, his heart pounding loud, and his legs shaking. He was stunned enough not to resist the things she did to him. “You will not regret this day,” she kept saying.

But she was wrong. He regrets that he did not take a stand and allowed himself to be violated. It was his worst nightmare. He left office well after midnight, dishevelled and disturbed. He could not bring himself to go to the flat he shared with his elder brother. He felt violated and blamed himself for what had happened.

He even contemplated suicide, but good sense prevailed and he returned home at dawn. But he never went back to work at the export house. He changed his mobile number, suffered depression and had to see a psychiatrist. Now, he’s a clerk to a lawyer and is simultaneously pursuing law from Delhi University.

Dr Mitra cautions that rape is not just a fallout of unbridled sexual appetite; in fact, it is an act of cowardice and escapism. In some of the cases, the rapist murdered the victim for fear of the case getting reported. There was also a case where the rapist covered the eyes of the victim while raping her because he found her gaze disconcerting. “I could see through her eyes that she was pleading me not to kill her. This disturbed me,” the rapist told a researcher.

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