Some of the media in India called her “Amanat,” an Urdu word meaning “treasure,” while protesters have referred to her as “Damini,” Hindi for “lightning” and the title of a Bollywood movie about a woman’s fight for justice.
Now her father wants her name made public, contrary to laws in India that protect the identity of rape victims. His daughter was the 23-year-old medical student brutally gang-raped by six men on a bus in New Delhi on Dec. 16. She died in a Singapore hospital two weeks after the attack from her injuries.
“We want the world to know her real name,” her father told Britain’s Sunday People newspaper.
“My daughter didn’t do anything wrong.”
Rape victims don’t do anything wrong. They’re not guilty. A woman doesn’t get raped because she wore too much eye makeup or she was out after dark or she went to a party.
Yet those reasons are often brought up in both the court of public opinion and the court of law. Fewer than half of rapes in the United States are even reported; one study found only 16 percent of rapes were ever reported to the police.
As a journalist, I’ve always found it acceptable to protect the identify of a rape victim. But now I wonder about this practice. Does the idea of keeping the name secret perpetuate the idea that rape is a crime shameful for the victim?
The web of secrecy surrounding rape victims nearly killed the daughter of a friend of mine. She was so ashamed of being raped at the age of 16 by three teenage boys that it took four years before she told her family. In the meantime, she attempted suicide and was just recently diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and a host of other emotional problems.
The New Delhi victim died while protecting herself, her father said. “I am proud of her. Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter.”
The father also supports the idea of naming a new anti-rape law after his daughter, as proposed by politician Shashi Tharoor.
It’s been reported that a woman is sexually assaulted in India every 20 minutes; in the United States, it’s every 2 minutes. The conviction rate for rapes in India for the year 2011 was just 26.4 percent — barely a fourth. That’s impressive when compared to 5.7 percent of convictions for reported rapes in England and Wales, according to a 2008 Washington Post story. In the United States, 97 percent of rapists never spend a single day in jail.
Will more laws fix that? Better conviction rates? A change in societal attitudes?
Before she died, the New Delhi rape victim said her six attackers should be burned alive. After reading the gruesome account from her friend (a male but not her boyfriend) who tried in vain to protect her on the bus, it’s easy to agree.
Her father said he hopes they’ll receive the death penalty. Their first court appearance is Monday. One of the six will be tried in juvenile court, and his maximum sentence can only be three years.
“I hope no one ever goes through what she had to endure,” the victim’s father said.
The world should not forget her. You can find her name in the headline of the interview with her father in Britain’s Sunday People. It’s all over Twitter as well.
She was Jyoti Singh Pandey.
Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Overland Park, Kan.