A website allows victims of sexual harassment to share their stories anonymously
Howrevealing.com offers a safe, non-judgmental space for victims to express their traumatic experiences, and find support.HT48HRS_Special Updated: Mar 25, 2017 11:30 IST
“I feel the streets are never safe - day or night. Walking on the street that reaches my home, out of nowhere, a figure on a bike gropes my breast and drives away leaving me dumbfounded. Too slow to react, too numb to realise. That incident was more than four years ago and I am still scared.”
This is an excerpt from a post on howrevealing.com, a website that lets victims of sexual crimes share their stories. We don’t know who wrote it, their age, or profession. The website specifies it’s a female author, but we don’t know what she was wearing at the time of the attack, what time of day she was out on the street, or whether she was drunk or sober. In other words, there is no chance of victim blaming.
Instead, we get uncensored, horrifying stories of a traumatic sexual assaults. “Identity and descriptions of the victims and perpetrators of sexual crimes often create bias. People team up, and judgments are passed. Anonymity, hopefully, makes it raw and scary,” says the founder of the website, Urmila (29), a Bengaluru-based lawyer and researcher.
Urmila, who wishes her second name be kept a secret for her own safety, first came up with the idea of the website after the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case. She was studying in Delhi at the time, and witnessed the sudden, vocal outrage first-hand. It was also the first time she realised that women, from all walks of life, collectively shared experiences of harassment, gender-based violence, rape threats, and sexism. But only a few spoke out, or reported them to the authorities.
“Before the Nirbhaya case, sexual harassment was normalised in our society. It wasn’t a big deal. It was only after the public outpouring of support after the incident that things changed. The case showed us the consequences of keeping quiet. Even today, women don’t report sexual crimes thanks to victim shaming, and worse, online trolls,” Urmila says.
She launched howrevealing.com in January 2017 in an effort to create a judgment-free platform. People -- of all genders -- can write on the website to express their feelings: of fear, guilt, shame, anger, trauma, depression and apathy. Most importantly, the website provides anonymity to protect them from being identified and targeted online.
However, if the recent The Viral Fever controversy is any indication, the post that accused founder Arunabh Kumar of sexual harassment was criticised for being anonymous. Trolls rushed to Kumar’s aid by arguing the legitimacy of the post, and wrote it off as an effort to malign TVF’s image.
“It’s a risk we run with. Without anonymity, people won’t speak up. Not just because they are scared, but also because some of the trauma is still fresh, and it’s difficult to talk about with your identity known,” says Urmila. The decision to stick to the anonymity clause has worked in their favour so far. Two months in, the website already boasts of 80 posts, and Urmila claims they receive at least two posts every day.
And, not all of the stories are bleak. Sure, it’s dominated by heart-breaking stories. But there are also stories of hope, and of people who stood their ground and fought for justice. For instance, a post by a man whose wife was raped by her friends, and their legal battle for justice. “Today, we are happily married. I often think that we got through it together, but the truth is, she fought it all alone,” he says.
“The good stories are important and necessary too. They offer hope, and confidence to others who are still scared,” says Urmila.