June 17: 17 year old girl allegedly abducted and gang-raped by four youths who also recorded the act and circulated it on social media in New Mandi area in Muzaffarnagar.

May 30: Minor girl raped by five men at a village in Moradabad; the act was filmed and sent to the father and relatives of the survivor after the girl refused to be blackmailed by the men. May 21: 16 year old Brazilian girl gang-raped reportedly by over 30 men; graphic video and images of the victim shared online.

The pattern in which I stated only a few of many recent ghastly rape incidents above, is similar to how I did the same in another article two weeks ago. The pattern of putting these cases together is not relevant. The pattern of the act of rape being committed by a number of men, followed by online circulation of images and videos of the same, however, is. Not only relevant, but also outrageously alarming and saddening at the same time.

Rape has successfully transcended the boundary of being an anomaly, it is now the norm. Details that emerge from almost every rape case constitute multiple perpetrators, unfathomable brutality and most recently, distribution of videos on social media. Perpetrators have constructed an edifice; rape seems to have been reduced to a ‘fun’ activity where they smile, show off while demonstrating their barbarism, film the act and shamelessly share the video with others. What is frightening about the entire scenario is the absolute sense of fearlessness that has developed among the men who commit such crimes. It seems to grant them the authority to not only violate a woman’s body but also make a public spectacle of their ‘accomplishment’.

Contrary to popular belief, rapists aren’t always strange men who lurk in shady alleyways since women are equally vulnerable to assault in public spaces by strangers as they are in private, by acquaintances or family members. There are reported instances of police officials harassing women when they go to file complaints, some even raping women. The precedence keeps deteriorating and we are still right where we started.

Mulayam Singh Yadav had gone on record saying that, "Rape accused should not be hanged. Men make mistakes." He had added that, "When their friendship ends, the girl complains she has been raped." Chhattisgarh's home minister Ramsewak Paikra had stated, "koi jan bujhkar nahi karta, dhoke se ho jata hai dushkarm" (no one commits rape intentionally. It happens by mistake). Chiranjeet Chakraborty, Trinamool Congress legislator had said, “One of the reasons behind the increase in incidents of eve-teasing is short dresses and short skirts worn by women. This in turn instigates young men.”According to Mamata Banerjee, CM, West Bengal, “Rape cases are on a rise in the country because men and women interact with each other more freely now.”

YES, we live in a country where numerous renowned politicians have made such asinine remarks about rape. Sadly, it is rarely ever about the nature of the crime but more about how it was either a ‘mistake’ or a result of ‘provocation’.

Skeptics always find a way to accuse women of false claims of sexual assault unless of course it is a minor or a victim who didn’t live to explain, various instances suggest. The focus is often seen to be directed more towards the victim than the perpetrator. There is the occasional “she should have not have stepped out late at night” or “she was wearing revealing clothes” among other absurd arguments. We have heard a lot about how the Stanford rape survivor should have been ‘more responsible’ and how six months in jail for the assailant would be a ‘steep price for 20 minutes of action’.

The entire conversation around sexual assault targets barely any attention to accounting systemic faulty lines and deeply entrenched misogyny as primary causes of the crime. Despite being at the receiving end of unprecedented and gut-wrenching sexual violence, ‘survivors’, I would call them, not just victims frequently do not qualify the criteria for being the “ideal victim”.

The process of objectifying, insulting, degrading women doesn’t end. This is an indispensable part of the whole problem.

So many women have internalized the fear that such incidents trigger. They are willing to compromise with their personal liberty and freedom for the sake of their safety. They are willing to adhere to ridiculous and meaningless standards of society to avoid being targets. Pushing women towards making attempts to avoid rape is only symbolic of how the society, at large, is failing them; one incident at a time.

Nothing compensates for the respect that women rightfully deserve. However, expecting even the least- social support and legal justice- comes at the cost of being blamed and shamed, all over again. The reckless abandonment of basic tenets of justice and the lack of deterrent precedence has contributed largely to the weaving of rape culture that many women from across the globe get entangled in, for NO fault of their own. Consequent embarrassment and victim shaming has only made it more complicated for numerous women, who choose to suffer in silence.

An instance of sexual violence occurs, garners ephemeral attention and gradually fades; another pattern. Public outrage to heinous incidents vacillates with being at its peak when grotesque information related to the case emerges and subsiding gradually after a period of widespread coverage. Any act of sexual violence does not require varying degrees of brutality or multifaceted dimensions to be taken seriously. Each attack is worthy of attention; none more or less than the other; enough attention to make it an antecedent that can’t be buried or even given a chance to be repeated.

Here I am, reiterating what several women have, on myriad occasions- No woman is ‘asking for it’ and it is NEVER a ‘mistake’. It is a heinous crime. It is driven by misogyny and a deplorable sense of entitlement. It is aimed at establishing dominance and control over a woman and ‘showing her her place’. That is all there is to any act of sexual violence. The need to take immediate necessary action through bringing about active intervention by the police and meaningful provisions in the legal system concerning the aftermath of such incidents has never been more prominent.

I refuse to believe anyone who claims that there has been significant progress in institutional procedures. I refuse to side with anyone who neglects the shortcomings of our institutions. It is a matter of shame that we have not been able to make enough efforts to even recognize the gravity of the problem, let alone tackle it. It is a matter of shame that certain people would rather teach women to be more cautious than teach men to simply be HUMAN.

We have definitely crossed the bridge where bringing up statistics would be expected to draw attention to this issue, so I won’t. Even the slightest knowledge of the sheer magnitude of sexual violence should be enough to stir up a reaction that leads to substantial reform. Condemnation and spontaneous reactions of pity should not be our preferred tools; rather sensitization and cognizance around the subject of sexual violence is what we, as a society, need to cultivate. We need to foster a society where women should not have to face the need to ‘protect themselves’.