The leaders acknowledged that the government and the police had failed.
Some of the things we already knew were spoken out loud.
After graduating from Bard later that year, I went on to work at a private boarding school in a small city in New England as a high school math teaching fellow.
The program was a two-year fellowship, through which I earned a master’s degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.
I felt anxious when I flew in that direction, and relieved when I flew back.
When I made it past the mean but mostly bored Customs and Border Protection employees at JFK, I breathed. The last time I flew back to India, almost six years ago now, I was a senior in college, about to graduate. I didn’t know that I was going to be fine, but found myself saying so in a small voice anyway. I looked out of the window, onto the familiar streets of the city I was born in, a city I once loved.I grew up accepting that I would have to adjust my lifestyle around men, their advances, their violence. Women were brutally raped, assaulted and killed on a daily basis, sometimes in cities, many times in remote, isolated villages and towns. The police and government participated and enabled.It was terrible, but no one wanted to become a statistic. After Nirbhaya’s death, there was a public outcry for change. The maximum punishment for rape became the death penalty, instead of life imprisonment.I watched with the rest of the country, and soon enough the rest of the world, as the gruesome details of the incident unraveled. Then there were the anti-protesters, the ones who blame women, the ones who think nothing is wrong.When Nirbhaya died a few days later in a hospital in Singapore, we were all stunned into silence, but only for a minute. People took to the streets across the country and asked the bigger questions—how could we live in a place where the circumstances allowed something like this to happen? That’s a lot of people in India, and the world, unfortunately.My coworkers were smart and kind, my students bearable on most days, and the opportunity almost too good to be true. The truth was that I had accepted this job because it kept me out of India, not because I wanted to teach.The school worked with me to extend my visa, and I was grateful, as this meant that I was not buying that one-way ticket to Mumbai. When it came time to apply for jobs the fall of my second year, I applied for teaching jobs again, because this just made sense.”When I sat in my parents’ shiny new Honda that they were so proud of, they asked me about my flight, and then asked me if I was ready to get married. My parents didn’t allow me to leave the house alone after dark, because India was not safe for women, and I didn’t know my way around the city.Sexual assault and violence against women was a well-known fact in India, and it was about to become a world-famous fact too. Not by my parents, but by the weight of being a female in a country that didn’t know what to do with its women.Access to society journal content varies across our titles.If you have access to a journal via a society or association membership, please browse to your society journal, select an article to view, and follow the instructions in this box.