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Radhika – India

I set up a Facebook profile and received a friend request from a man I didn’t know. I saw a few of my family were connected with him so I accepted. He got my telephone number from somewhere and messaged me on WhatsApp. 

He asked about my family and I told him I was still with my husband. My parents had four daughters and arranged for me to marry when I was ten years old to ease their financial burden. After a few years, my husband married another woman and I moved with my two sons to live with my parents. 

He made inquiries to others and found out I was a divorcee. He told me he was also divorced and that he liked me, my voice, and my photos on Facebook. A few days later, he called again to say he was in love with me. I told him that I imagined my future partner as someone who’d love my children but I wasn’t looking for a husband because I was happy with my sons. But despite my refusal, he kept calling. Eventually, as I thought we were from the same caste, I decided to talk with my sisters and they said I should consider his proposal because it would be better than being alone and he could look after me. 

So I told him I wanted to get married, not just be in a relationship. He agreed and made several oaths so I’d trust him. In secret, he gave me a mangala sutra (a necklace that a groom ties around a bride’s neck) and said now we are married. I refused and said I wanted a legal marriage, not a false one. 

He took me to his sister’s place and the first night I slept alone without trouble. He told me he talked with a lawyer and we went to the court and some temples but we did not see a lawyer or a priest. 

He promised we’d get married the next day and on the second night, he entered my room. He started getting close and I resisted but it was no use. I shouted for help and his sister and her husband entered the room and tried to convince me to go ahead as we were getting married. Then they locked the door and he raped me. 

In the morning, he dropped me at the roadside and switched off his phone. I tried calling many times and walked 20 kilometers home. I told my mother I was going to file a police complaint. She opposed this as she was concerned that our community would find out and it would bring me more trouble. But still, I decided to lodge the complaint because I felt he could do the same thing to other girls. 

First, I went to my local police station but was told that as the crime was committed elsewhere, the case could only be lodged in that area. So I traveled to where the assault happened and again attempted to file my complaint against him, his sister, and brother-in-law. 

The accused and his family tried to convince me not to go ahead and said he was ready to marry me. His parents spoke with the police and the police remained unwilling to accept my complaint. Eventually, they agreed but did not note down everything I said. I had phone recordings which strengthened my case but they refused to accept my evidence. The next day, I had to return to the station and speak with another officer, who made me repeat all the details again. His family offered money but I refused. His father also told people in my village and requested they talk to me. A few tried to force me to withdraw my case and kept coming to pressure me. 

Months have passed and I have literally begged the police to take the voice recording which establishes the truth but they are not responding and I cannot afford to keep traveling to the station. 

My mental state is very poor. Such an incident lives with you forever and the stigma never goes away. Now, I think “never believe what people tell you”. I feel like it is a sin to be a woman and only those with money and power get justice.

This story was shared as part of our 2021 report, Ending Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Women and Girls: A Call for International Standards.