The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Two women share past and inspiration
- Youth speaks of trauma of rape, experience shows way forward

Chennai, Nov. 2: There were two — not one.

As the lights came on in a hushed auditorium that had just watched One Among You (Ungalil Oruthi) — the document of a young girl’s gangrape and the beginning of her journey back to normal life — Radhika Srinivasan stood up to tell her story.

Last evening, Radhika revealed how years ago she was raped in custody in Delhi — a past that she had been able to “completely leave behind” because of a “great husband” and two lovely children.

The writer-cum-artist, living in Chennai for the past two years, strode briskly up to the younger Rita Mary, seated two rows ahead of her, and held out a hand that shares the same reality of suffering.

“I will give her (Rita) all the help to study and to get married later, so that she can completely forget her past,” she said, patted the girl and walked out, leaving in her wake a stunned audience of about 150.

With Rita — whose memory of being gangraped in judicial custody about a year ago is still too fresh — she left an example that it is possible to put the past behind.

Yesterday, confronting the public with her story in a documentary-drama directed by former TV journalist R. Revathy, Rita stepped into the future where the first step is to write the eighth standard public examination, the elementary school leaving certificate in Tamil Nadu.

She intends to do that next year — in early twenties, age is on her side.

Rita left home in Erode after a tiff with her sister in 2001 and walked unsuspectingly into a prostitution racket when she tried to sell some jewellery to raise money.

She was drugged and raped in a brothel in Salem district before being “sold” to another in Villupuram district.

She chose as possible benefactors four truck drivers, who visited the place and responded to her appeal to rescue her. But they ran into a police-pimp nexus. False cases were foisted on the drivers and Rita was remanded in judicial custody in Gingee sub-jail. In her cell, Rita was gangraped.

“I died that dark night,” says the actress who plays Rita in the documentary.

Rita’s journey back to life started when an advocate, on hearing of her suffering, filed a public interest litigation in Madras High Court, which ordered an inquiry by additional director-general of police Tilagavathy.

Yesterday, the police officer sat with Rita and her mother in the front row as the story she knows all too well unfolded at the screening organised by the Network of Women in Media.

“Rita deserves all praise as all through she never succumbed to pressure or gave up her sense of family value,” she said.

Tilagavathy followed the trail of Rita’s agony — from her guilt-ridden sister to the jail cell — and wrapped up her investigation in a fortnight. Four warders of Gingee sub-jail were arrested.

Rita is picking up the threads of her life from a flat the Jayalalithaa regime gave her, along with Rs 5 lakh as compensation. “It was Lucy (a woman activist) and my mother who helped me a lot in my recovery,” a smiling Rita told reporters, unafraid to take questions about herself after the screening.

A while ago, Radhika had said about her own experience: “It helped me to take an inward spiritual journey.”

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