After various twist and turns in the Indrani Mukherjea's case, the episode has turned sordid in a manner that not many had expected – Indrani Mukerjea had been allegedly raped by her step-father, and that Sheena is, as Indrani said, both her daughter and sister.
In the latest developments in the Sheena Mukherjea murder case, many have reported quoting Mumbai police sources that Indrani Mukerjea had told them during questioning, that she had been raped by her step-father. Indrani had first claimed that Sheena was her sister, and later changed that statement to “both sister and daughter”.
In a front page story on Saturday, The Times of India reported an unverified statement that Indrani apparently told the police that she had allegedly been raped by her step-father Upendra Bora when she was a child, leading to the birth of Sheena. Mukherjea claims she fled to Kolkata as her mother refused to help her.
Indrani's former colleague Vir Sanghvi told the media on Friday that Indrani herself had told him that she had been sexually abused by her stepfather.
For a media and country has been obsessive about who the father of Sheena and her brother Mikhail are, it has come as an unpleasant and unpalatable shock that a man could rape his daughter, and causing her to have a child as a result of that assault.
But sexual assault committed against children and women by family members is neither an exception nor a rarity. It is an just an unpalatable reality for most of us.
National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics for 2014 revealed that in 86% cases of rape the perpetrator is known to the victim.
In 2014, figures released by NCRB show that in two percent of all reported case of rape, the alleged offender was a family member. Of the 36739 reported cases, 713 were of incest, with 90 percent of the victims being minors.
More importantly, in the “Offenders Relation and Proximity To Rape Victims During 2014” NCRB findings showed that in two percent of the 30077 cases the accused was a father, brother or grandfather.
While these are only reported cases, a more disturbing picture is revealed by a 2007 government study on child abuse – both physical, emotion and sexual.
In its “Study on Child Abuse India 2007” the Ministry of Women Child Development surveyed 12,447 children in the 5-18 years age groups in 13 states.
Close to 68 percent of children said they had been abused in some form or another. In 48 percent of cases, the abuser had been a family member and 34 percent of cases it was an outsider.
Half of the children surveyed had been sexually abused. In half of these cases, it was people known to the victims – cousins, uncles, friends and classmates – who were the offenders.
It could perhaps, be marginally easier to complain against an offender when it is not your own family member. But relations of dependence within the family, the worry of the family’s standing in society, and the victim’s own trauma create additional layers of difficulty for the victim at least, to obtain justice. More often than not, they are martyred in the name of family honour.
Indrani's story, if true, does sound horrifying, but there are many such victims and survivors out there who need attention.