Thursday 27 March 2014

Lesson for Blackmailee

Here is a case of yet another rape by Atul Bhatt, a fifty-year old senior officer in Gujarat Government’s Social Welfare Department He was alleged to have raped his thirty-year-old woman employee.

Newspaper reports are notorious for inaccuracies and one-sidedness. We can’t jump to any conclusions based solely on newspaper accounts. Here, however, is the story, put together from three different sources.

Bhatt had hired Rupal (name changed), mother of two, in June 2011 as a peon in the office of an NGO that he runs in Ahmedabad. On June 19, 2011, he gave her directions to his house and asked her to go and work there after lunch. By the time she reached his house, he also arrived there. There was no one else at home. She asked him for water to drink. She fell unconscious soon after drinking the water that he had given her.

When she came round, she realised that she had been raped. When she returned home, she didn’t tell her husband or anyone else about the incident because Bhatt had told her that he had captured the rape on a CD and threatened to make it public if she told anyone about the incident.

Bhatt raped her several times during the following months. He even persuaded Rupal’s husband to let her go with him to Mumbai on ‘official’ work. Bhatt raped her there also.

Unable to carry on, Rupal swallowed poison to end her life. But she didn’t die. Although she tried to tell everyone else that she had taken the poison by mistake, her husband wasn’t convinced. Under persistent but sympathetic questioning from him, she broke down and narrated the whole story. With his help she lodged a police complaint.

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How could this man keep having his way against her wishes and yet gag her effectively for so many months even as she led an apparently normal life?

Bhatt’s success was built on smart framing. Rupal was asked to look at the terrible consequences she would face if she defied him. That frame was so overwhelming that she didn’t for a moment think of the worse consequences for her tormentor. Being a senior government official (with two children – one a practising doctor and the other a student of medicine), he had a lot more to lose than Rupal if the CD was made public.  He could lose his cushy government job and spend the rest of his life in jail if she filed a case against him. If she had been raped when she was unconscious, it shouldn’t be difficult for the investigators to conclude that it was not consensual sex.

We’re too easily persuaded by blackmailers of all colours including certain bosses in organisations because we are overwhelmed by the way they frame the troubles we will have if we defy them. We can be smart ‘blackmailees’ and call the blackmailer’s bluff if we reframe the issue in such a way that we focus on the troubles they will have if we defy them. The only time this may not work is when we are blackmailed by someone we don’t know.

How do you deal with attempts by your bosses, co-workers, subordinates, or even customers to do things against your will?
Rushiraj Waghela

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