Playing ‘Bold’ is an attitude, and no one can define it better than the Padma Shri awardee — Dr Sunitha Krishnan.
From being a rape survivor to a fighter, this renowned social activist from a very young age liberated herself from the fear of consequences, making one astoundingly bold move after the other, which she continues to do so even now.
Sunitha was 15 years old, still in school, when she was gang-raped by 8 men in an Andhra Pradesh village, where she was part of an initiative to teach Dalit children. Her assaulters did not like the interference of a woman in their so-called ‘man’s world’ and raped her to teach her a lesson.
While rape undeniably is the most heinous crime, the consequences of it are further intensified by the huge social stigma and the ostracization that the victim undergoes. Not to forget, often victims are blamed for the crime committed on them and are made to suffer for absolutely no fault of theirs. Sunitha too, like most rape victims, was subjected to a similar tragedy.
The assault on her didn’t make people angry rather they wanted to know whether she had brought it upon herself — “You were out at night?” asked her insensitive counselors. The society conveniently pushed the blame on her agonized parents and accused her that she “was asking to be raped.”
“I, for the first time, understood what it is to be shamed and traumatized for a crime you had not committed,” Sunitha revealed in an interview. During her Ted talk, she further elaborated, “For two years, I was ostracized, I was stigmatized, I was isolated because I was a victim. We as a civil society, we have PhDs in victimizing a victim.”
Though traumatized by the incident, Sunitha refused to play the victim and her bold stance made people raise their eyebrows and further made matters worse for her. “It was a crime committed on me and if anybody had to be shamed… it had to be those buggers, who did it. I never felt like a victim and that bothered people around me. And a large part of my isolation and ostracization happened because I didn’t conform to the bracket of a victim, I refused,” said Sunitha who had to pay a hefty price for her bold move, where her morals were questioned. “They thought I was very arrogant and most of them felt I deserved what I got and then it became that I was a moral-less character. It was like – ‘Look at her how she is behaving, she hasn’t learnt anything’… that kind of a thing.”
While Sunitha overcame the fear of social ridicule with her extraordinary boldness during the day, there were still plenty of inner fears to deal with. In the night, all her nightmares would come back to haunt her. “I would run around, run away from my bed to the main road and my family would just not know how to handle it,” explained Sunitha.
However, after reliving her traumatic ordeal for nearly 9 years, Sunitha found a way to rescue herself. “I took my story and channeled my anger into fighting for others,” Sunitha said in an interview. She directed all her anger and angst into establishing — Prajwala, an organization for the rescue and rehabilitation of victims of sex trafficking, in her native Hyderabad. For over 20 years now, she has been relentlessly working towards sex crime and has saved thousands of women and children from trafficking.
With every rescue, she does, she endangers her life. She has been attacked 17 times, has lost an eardrum, and one of her arms is permanently damaged but irrespective of the consequences, Sunitha continues with her mission.
Sunitha strongly believes, “For anyone, if anything happens, it’s your personal choice how you view that incident, what you make of that incident is solely left to you. End of the day it’s a lonely path. There maybe 100 people around you but it’s a lonely path. Your fears, you have to tackle yourself, your ghosts, you have to tackle yourself, your sense of wretchedness, you have to tackle yourself… so it’s a personal choice.”
Well, we can’t help but admire her playbold attitude. Take a bow, lady!