Woman alone
"It is heartbreaking that we as a society don't provide an environment where a survivor feels comfortable opening up about her experiences"Unsplash

"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." – Helen Keller

Something extraordinary has happened on social media in the aftermath of the reprehensible incident in Bangalore on New Year's eve.

Indian twitter has erupted with story after story of sexual violence against women. The Bangalore incident showed us once again that women are not free or safe in India, and the anger that has been bubbling inside us for years is finally spilling over.

The harshest truth that so many of us live with, is that we have all been through some form -- or the other -- of sexual violence, at least once in our lives.

Groping, stalking, child abuse, domestic violence, vile comments, etc, half our population has been living with this coupled with mixed emotions of guilt and regret.

Guilt because half the time you think it was probably your fault, as our leaders and moral police keep telling us. Regret because you couldn't tell anyone, report it or even talk about it. This is why it is so remarkable that women from all over the country are tweeting their stories. Many have spoken about their experiences, for the first time ever.

What prompted this outpouring? The same old drivel that we have heard every time a woman talks about sexual violence: "Not All Men". Indian men took offence to the "generalization", because apparently being generalized is worse than being groped, pinched, assaulted or raped.

The fact is we already know that it is not all men. What we don't know and choose to turn a blind eye to is that it is all women.

Yes All Women have been keeping secrets that are appalling to say the least. And they shouldn't have to. This is not our shame. This is the shame of men who have dared to presume they have a right to our bodies.

As usual the reaction to the Bangalore incident was on the lines that the city has been "shamed". The ones that should be ashamed are the ones who have the audacity to perpetrate sexual violence. And this fact will be acknowledged only when people speak up.

Three days ago I shared my experiences on Twitter, some of which I had never told anyone. Despite having the most supportive family, I have kept secrets. Can you imagine how much the women around you have hidden from you, especially if they never had a safe space to share?

Talking on Twitter and sharing my experiences not only gave me a platform, but gave countless women a safe space in which to talk. Perhaps the most fascinating impact I have seen of this outpouring is on men. Isn't it sad that so many men are not even aware of what half the population goes through?

It is heartbreaking that we as a society don't provide an environment where a survivor feels comfortable opening up about her experiences. We all know the balderdash that society feeds us. Don't wear clothes that'll attract attention. Don't travel alone. Don't drink. Don't go out with men. Don't talk to strangers.

We are told to be wary of men. If something wrong happens to us, it was our fault because we must have done something to attract attention. We've been fed this drivel all our lives and then we wonder why survivors don't speak up. The insinuation is that if you were touched inappropriately, it's on you. You were not careful. You didn't prevent it.

It is time we stop this baloney. I hope these past few days of therapy that women have had on Twitter continues. I say therapy because telling even one person about your dark experiences is the first step to healing. And talking on a public platform takes immense courage.

To me, this has been revolutionary because never in all the years I have spent on social media have I seen so many people supporting survivors of sexual violence, and calling out the naysayers.

We shared our experiences so that someone out there reads and knows that they're not alone and it wasn't their fault. All that these survivors were looking for was support.

That's one of the best things we can do as a society to make things better for women: Listen.

When someone opens up about their past, listen. Don't blame them for not being careful, not preventing it, or not reporting it. Understand that it takes time. None of these survivors "asked for it". Let us remember that.

The writer is a poet, blogger, writer, storyteller and advertising girl from Mumbai who spends her time drinking coffee, collecting new makeup and petting dogs.