49% Of Survey Respondents Still Don’t Feel Safe Telling Their Stories After #MeToo
Since #MeToo India picked up steam, there has also been an undeniable backlash to the movement. From victim blaming to defamation suits, the women who have had the courage to speak out have been insulted, threatened, and abused. While the movement itself is one that is encouraging more survivors to come forward, #MeToo India has also highlighted the reasons why many don’t — by showing us, on a public forum, the costs of outing predators.
In our anonymous survey of 700 people, 49.3% say #MeToo has not made them feel safer about sharing their stories of harassment and/or abuse. From what we know about sexual violence in India, a whopping 99.1% of cases don’t get reported, according to unit-level data from the National Family Health Surveys (NHFS) conducted in 2015-16. Victims of rape, assault, and harassment know that, to navigate the justice system in India, requires resources, patience, and networks that most don’t have access to. Coupled with the fact that these crimes result in an enormous amount of shame, self-blame, and trauma for the victims, the low rate of reporting is fairly unsurprising.
With the wave of online support and hashtags that urge people to believe survivors, one would think that #MeToo is finally bringing about a change. The past few weeks have seen powerful men get taken down, from the likes of MJ Akbar, to Vikas Bahl.
Then again, yesterday was the first hearing for the criminal defamation case filed by MJ Akbar, against Priya Ramani, where he stated that the “scurrilous,” concocted allegations of sexual misconduct had caused him “immediate damage.” Tanushree Dutta’s allegations against Nana Patekar were called “a figment of her imagination just to gain some kind of fame,” by Patekar’s lawyer. Alok Nath’s wife has filed a defamation suit against Vinita Nanda, after she spoke out about Nath raping her. And in response to allegations against Suhel Seth, senior journalist, Tavleen Singh asked, “Surely even an ‘innocent’ young girl like you should have known not to go alone to a strange man’s house alone?”
These are difficult consequences to ignore. Our survey data shows, however, that younger people are more willing to come out with their stories. 57.7% of 18 to 25 year olds feel safer telling their stories since the movement has gained traction. This is in comparison to a lower amount of 49.2% of 26 to 25 year olds who feel safer now. The age group that #MeToo seems to have affected the least, in terms of willingness to out predators, are 56+ year olds, 66.7% of whom still don’t feel safe doing so.
We can’t ignore the immense work that #MeToo has done, to start conversations around sexual violence and harassment, and perhaps, future generations will be able to call out predators without facing the kinds of obstacles that survivors do now. But we should also be aware, that for the few stories being told, there are hundreds that are staying silent.