A man talks about the time his wife (then girlfriend) was raped by her friend’s roommates. With the help of counseling, she believes she has put the incident in her past now. But only her husband knows of the nightmares she still has, for when she wakes up in the morning, she doesn’t remember screaming the night before.
A girl talks about the time her uncle, someone she loved going to the beach with, forced himself on her. She cried and begged him to let her go but he stifled her screams. “I became quiet; I was stopped for screaming. I'm quiet since then and I'm not able open up with people,” she writes.
A non-binary person talks about being bullied in a boys’ boarding school for not being 'masculine' enough. A teacher sexually assaulted them multiple times because of their posture not being 'manly' enough.
Many people, mostly women, talk about being groped, touched, squeezed, masturbated at, leered at, made to feel dirty, guilty and confused.
These harrowing stories are narrated by people from various walks of life. Take away the names associated with them and you’ll get experiences that resonate with countless people of all genders.
Take away the names and you’ll know that victims of sexual violence are part of our lives, and our loved ones’ too.
Take away the names and you’ll know you’re not alone.
This is precisely what a fortnight old website ‘How Revealing’, hopes to achieve. Inviting people to write (anonymously if they want) about their “experiences of sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexism,” the platform endeavors to “legitimize the complex emotions and reactions that accompany these experiences.”
The founder of the website, a lawyer and Oxford post graduate, prefers to remain anonymous as she believes creating a repository of these experiences is more important than her identifying herself at this point. “Who started is of little importance,” maintains the 29-year-old founder, who will be referred to as X.
X says she got the idea of starting something like ‘How Revealing’ about two years ago when she realized that her own friends and family faced incidents of sexual harassment and sexism on a regular basis, but never spoke about it.
“Some of them had normalised it. Others were embarrassed, scared or felt too guilty. I wanted to create a safe space to talk about these things,” she says.
And once you go through the experiences on the website, you’d realise that feelings of shame and self-loathing are not hard to find among them. Depression and trust issues crop up often in their narratives, as does the prevalent silence surrounding the incidents.
This is why X has also added a ‘Support’ page, linking people seeking help with helplines and NGOs in case they want help. She clarifies that it is not a partnership, merely a collation of the avenues she thinks could be useful for survivors.
“Experiences of sexual assault, abuse and sexism are so universal that everyone knows that they happen. But they are hushed up, causing an information vacuum. People don’t know the scale,” says X. She hopes to one day impact policy with the narratives and stories she collates.
The name ‘How Revealing’ was zeroed in to challenge the exercise of victim-blaming and turn it on its head. “One of the most common things you hear is how revealing the victim’s clothes were. I want to reveal how redundant this argument is: whether it is clothes, the time of the day they were out or anything else,” X says.
X has currently devoted herself to the website full-time, going through and editing the submissions herself, with a little help from family and friends now and then. She describes the exercise as a difficult one, because many people who write in talk about incidents which happened when they were children. She tries not to read the stories before going to bed at night.
“It’s so disturbing that first it breaks your heart and then it makes you angry. But what keeps me going is when so many people write in to thank the platform. Many of them have never spoken about these experiences to anyone. I’m happy to provide them with a place to realise they’re not alone,” X says.