Why the #INeverAskforIt Movement that Fights the Culture of Blaming Victims for Sexual Abuse is Significant

Social Commentary

Why the #INeverAskforIt Movement that Fights the Culture of Blaming Victims for Sexual Abuse is Significant

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

In a country like India, where violence against women and sexual assault are persistent problems, any time is a good time to begin a conversation about how survivors of these assaults should not be blamed. So it is refreshing to see the hashtag #INeverAskForIt trending on Twitter, amid all the usual social-media mudslinging. The hashtag has seen women coming forward to share their stories of being assaulted or made uncomfortable, only to have their choice of attire take the blame rather than the culprit. What their stories make crystal clear is that there is no such thing as a “safe” outfit, and that dressing modestly or boldly makes no difference if your attacker has ill intentions.

The #INeverAskForIt trend is a spin-off of a project by the same name, by an activist group based out of Bangalore called Blank Noise. The “I Never Ask for It” project is engaged in collecting testimonies and exhibits of the clothes that survivors were wearing when they were assaulted. One of the group’s aims is to end the culture of victim-blaming in the aftermath of sexual assaults. “Every time somebody in a position of power is making a statement that justifies violence against women and sexual-agenda based violence through a process of victim blaming, they are enabling a certain kind of behaviour… They’re excusing violence,” said Jasmeen Patheja, the founder of Blank Noise, in an interview from 2017.

The conversation surrounding victim-blaming picked up after prominent journalists, politicians, celebrities, and influencers joined in.

AAP’s Atishi shared a powerful message on Twitter. “If sexual assault had anything to do with what a woman did, a three month old girl wouldn’t have been raped in a hospital & a 5yr old daughter wouldn’t have been assaulted in Kathua,” she wrote.

Singer Sona Mohapatra was one, who shared a story from her days as an engineering student.

Many others came forward with their own accounts as well.

Many survivors of sexual assault remain reluctant to come forward because of the stigma attached to the experience. Movements like #INeverAskForIt provide the perfect platform to fight that wrongful notion.