Sutapa Patra – When self-defense came to her rescue

“What an achievement for India. They are now the number 1 rape nation of the world.” These were the words of a reader after he read an article on a leading daily concerning the mass molestation that happened in Bangalore on New Year’s Eve.

Shameful and hurtful as it sounds, statistics have suggested that nearly 53% of children in India are victims of sexual abuse, out of which, most abusers were known to the child or were in a position of trust and responsibility. Most did not report the matter to anyone. Why? Speaking about sexual abuse is considered taboo in our society and the victim is unashamedly accounted answerable.

Sutapa knew she would be held accountable for the torments of sexual abuse, mostly by family members, that she’s faced through her life. She knew she’d held responsible for being a woman, for failing to say ‘NO!’, accusing her that she’d ‘asked for it’. When she tried to confide in her parents, she was told not to reveal it to anyone lest it brought a bad name for the family. Instead, she was told to avoid her abusers when they came around. She didn’t let these nuisances annoy her. Sutapa decided not to stay shut.

Determined, she learned Wenlido, a system of self-defence that involves physical and mental techniques in fending off attackers. The moves can help tackle sexual, verbal and physical abusers. It’s specifically designed for women. After she mastered the skills, she taught it to others and helped them fight abuse and violence against them. “A woman can be harassed anywhere,” Sutapa added. “It’s thus important for them to know how to defend themselves.”

What started as a journey to defend herself, turned into her extending a helping hand to others like her. The valiant woman has empowered hundreds of girls and young women by training them in the art of self-defence. Sutapa has set up Amader Prerana in 2008 with the vision to help girls and women stir a greater sense of value and confidence within themselves. Sutapa takes keen interest in the day-to-day activities of the organization as she helps women realize their power and capacities. Sutapa has successfully reached more than 700 women and girls, both urban and rural and changed their lives through Wenlido.

Sutapa says powerfully, “”In most cases of sexual abuse on young girls, the tormentor is someone from the family. I grew up tormented. So I wanted to help others so that they don’t go through hell like me.”

In the forthcoming year, she wants to work with 5 to 10 schools so that more girls can be trained. Sutapa dreams of a violence free world where women are viewed as equal citizens with valid claims to justice and freedom.