• Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 05:30
Screenshot of website
She was a single woman walking on her own. The beach was dark and deserted. Two men appeared out of the dark and began harassing her. She walked faster, they came after her with equal determination. They told her what they wanted- Sex. They tried to pin her down. She veered and then she ran dashed for her life. She ran and screamed, screamed and ran and didn’t stop till she reached a safe place. “I knew that I was incredibly lucky - in a more narrow space, in an enclosed space, I suspect I would have been raped. I wasn’t, but for some reason my heart couldn’t slow down,” she writes. The writer is among the several people who have narrated their personal accounts of sexual violence, which they faced at any point in their lives, on the recently launched website called “Mapping Sexual Violence.” Started by poet Meena Kandasamy, author Samhita Arni, and founding editor of Out of Print magazine Indira Chandrasekhar, "Mapping Sexual Violence" is a platform where people from all walks of life can share their experiences of sexual violence through an interactive map.  The initiative is an attempt to spark off a discussion about sexual violence in India which otherwise is often surrounded by a cloak of silence. “My own life, and the lives of many, many friends, has been affected so hugely by sexual violence - we don’t even completely understand how it’s shaped our lives,” Samhita Arni tells The News Minute. “We talked about it - How do we, as writers, engage with this issue? Can fiction provide a way to talk, or introduce, the topic of sexual violence? Can we use writing to break this silence?” she adds. The trio decided to put together an anthology of fiction and non-fiction writing on sexual violence in South Asia. It is then that Kandasamy came up with the idea of an interactive map for people to come out with their stories of sexual violence and with the help of a friend, the website was developed. Launched on March 22, the website has already received over 50 stories from across the world including from Africa, North America, Europe, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia. Each story is moderated to sieve out spams and abusive messages. The stories recount horrible and often unforgettable moments that people have faced- of being molested, groomed, harassed, groped and assaulted by people close to them as well as strangers. If the website generates enough traction, the founders plan to develop it as a resource- where location and links to NGOs, lawyers, counsellers, etc. can be added on the map so as to help victims of sexual violence. (Screeshot of website) Arni feels that sharing one’s story can be cathartic. “I think it may also give us an indication of how pervasive sexual violence is - even everyday sexual violations, groping, harassment etc. It might encourage others to come forward - tell their stories, seek justice. There’s a lot of impunity right now - it’s important that perpetrators are punished, to prevent further violations,” she says. …It is just past 11:30 pm. A woman who met her friend after a long time decides to drop her home. She suddenly notices a red car pulling over behind her. She feels the person behind the wheels is keeping an eye on her. Suspecting something odd, she decides to stay over at her friend’s place for the night. A few days down the line, the woman’s friend informs her that a woman was raped near her housing society and that the culprits were caught driving a red car similar to the one they had come across that night. “It still sends shivers down my spine,” the woman writes on the website. (The stories of sexual violence used in the copy have been paraphrased.)