By Ram Khatry, Sydney
2 August 2017
Aastha Kumari Karki was one day talking to a “fellow-musician” when the latter shared a heart-rending secret. Her friend, also a Nepalese living in the US, was a long-suffering victim of rape who had to live with the traumatic realisation that her rapist was still a free man.
This enraged the 27 year-old copywriter because her own story was an uncomfortable repetition of her friend’s terrible revelation about being raped when only 13 years of age. She, Ms Karki, too had been suffocating for almost two decades with an untold and unshared story. The burden was too much. She was ready to break free. Her friend’s story became the catalyst.
Angry and feeling rebellious, she did what not only Nepalese but many victims even in the developed western countries do not usually do: she came out public with a full account of what had happened to her. She wrote an eloquent note and published on her social media immediately drawing huge support internationally, from friends and unknown people alike.
“That made me very angry as to why are we the ones who are silent and carrying this painful secret while the perpetrators are free,” Ms Karki questioned when asked what was it in her friend’s story that angered her so much that she broke all “boundaries”.
Media reports about rape victims always affected Ms Karki, she confided during a Facebook chat with southasia.com.au. The angry New Yorker believes that most perpetrators go on living a free life for so long that they probably don’t even remember that they once took the most precious thing from a young women’s lives.
Although similar, Ms Karki’s story was much more painful than her friend’s in that her perpetrator was within her clan due to which she had to often be in his presence and he would act as if nothing had happened between them. That was the hardest bit for her.
It is not that she did not give the accused a chance to own up to his guilt and save his skin.
“I gave the perpetrator, who is my cousin, two years to confess it to my family. He didn’t. He said he would. The very guts of how confident he was that I would never share this with my family had made me question about the status of women in our society where people still think it is a victim’s shame to share such things,” she told southasia.com.au.
The Facebook note she published on July 4 was not her cheap shot at popularity, she claimed in an earlier post. The copywriter for a diamond company keenly believes that only by encouraging victims to speak out that the heinous crime of rape can be tackled. Silence on the part of the victims will only encourage the process of perpetration.
Ms Karki moved to US in March 2009 and has since been living in New York. She is an avid “musician, photographer and producer” — things that are part of her coping mechanism against the infliction of a man dealt since she was just 6-year-old. The ordeal went on until she was 12 when the accused perpetrator’s family moved out of her family home.
“I always try to make myself a better human being and try to write what I have learnt from the experience and how I see the world now. Curiosity always helps! And the love and understanding that I got from my parents and people who I’ve met along the way has made me stronger,” Ms Karki said.
The perpetrator is still in Nepal, southasia.com.au has been told, “My close family members are keeping an eye on him so that he doesn’t get out of the country. But my extended family are still not sure as to why I did that and have chosen to stay silent.”
Ever since Ms Karki made her story public in the first week of July, the backlash has apparently been “strange”.
“People have asked me to take down my story because it makes them uncomfortable or it is a naive thing to do to share my own personal story. Many think this is too private for me to share publicly,” she said on Tuesday.
However, the keen musician differs from those who have sought to discourage her against going public, “I do not understand this. Because I think rape is not private. It is a crime.”
For Ms Karki, not sharing your story about being raped publicly is absurd. “Wouldn’t someone share their story of getting robbed? Do they ask them all the proofs if they were robbed? Why is it different when someone has robbed me of my privacy. Many people think I’ve brought a bad name to my family. But I do not think so. My family is an example of what they should do when a daughter of a family is raped by their own family member. I’m proud of my dad and my immediate family members for supporting the right thing,” the unmistakable strength in the survivor comes out in her questions to the world.
As much as her poignant story, her mom’s death immensely affected Ms Karki as she “couldn’t see her for the last time”. Then again music and her habit of reading helped her cope with the pain.
While she has received huge support from across the world, the friend who originally ignited the fire in her did not go public to name and shame the accused perpetrator.
Something that immediately strikes browsing through Ms Karki’s posts is the ease with which she writes and expresses herself. She is not an ordinary Facebook user with error-ridden English, hers are fine posts because language is her day job as she works as a copywriter, she said. “I’ve been writing daily journal since I remember and that helped me when I didn’t have anyone to talk to. But I do have some blog entries that are still private.”