- Akriti: The protagonist - a young girl in her early twenties
- Raman: Akriti's love interest in the beginning of the story, and later, her rapist
- Seema: An advocate who fights for Akriti's rights
'Rapescars' begins with the description of a girl's (Akriti) state of mind when she is left to her own elements after being ruthlessly raped. The story then proceeds in flashback and takes the reader to the very beginning of how the victim met the perpetrator of the rape. Akriti and Raman are college students who travel to their respective colleges in the same bus. Over the period of a few months, Raman manages to attract Akriti towards him and convinces her to raise her level of comfort and agree to various intimate rendezvous with him behind closed doors. Akriti's world comes crashing down when on one such occasion she is filmed, by two other boys, having sex with Raman. Those two boys turn out to be Raman's friends and they take turns to rape her as Raman abets the crime. Akriti is shattered at this juncture.
The girl, however, is a brave one. She promptly tells her mother and her parents take her to the police to file an FIR. There begins the long and arduous journey of this rape-survivor who is made to revisit her trauma again and again as she is repeatedly questioned by various people who will supposedly help her - the police, the doctor, the lawyers and the judge. The book details every stage a rape victim is made to go through, right from having her medical examination done to getting the criminals punished. All the hurdles that a victim has to endure just to prove the genuineness of the crime is simply enraging! In New York, victims have to undertake the two-finger test (to determine forceful penetration in the vagina). At many hospitals, the victim does not even have the right to a female doctor for the medical tests! The court proceedings progress at a snail's pace and it takes ages for justice to finally be delivered.
The book effectively captures what goes on in the family of a victim - how the neighbours and relatives take pleasure in picking at their wounds and revisiting the story on the pretext of offering condolences. Fingers are first pointed at the victim for her dressing and "culture" and the inordinate amount of "freedom" enjoyed by her. Narrated largely through the perspective of Akriti, the book has an unpolished tone.
Besides the victim, Seema is a strong character in the novel. Seema is Akriti's lawyer who first counsels her and prepares her mentally for the impending court-hearings, and then fights ferociously in the courtroom to seek justice on behalf of her client. The story takes a sharp turn while Raman is at the brink of being imprisoned. After the long court battle, Akriti asks the judge not to imprison him. She decides to impart Raman a lesson he will remember forever! And here begins an unusual journey that Akriti scripts for her offender... The story's twist has a strong justification. What remains to be seen is whether this new method makes Raman repent or not.
Gaurav's style of narration is inconsistent throughout the book. He attempts to speak through the voice of a young lady in some parts, and switches to a more professional discourse at others. The book is littered with grammatical mistakes and misapplication of words and idioms. The story proceeds smoothly, but the pace is perhaps too quick to deal with a sensitive issue such as rape.
Nevertheless, I salute the author for taking up this subject and succinctly educating the reader about all the steps one should take if (God forbid) one finds herself (or himself) in a similar horrendous situation. One very important takeaway for me is to not wash the victim's wounds (to allow the doctors and police to collect ample evidence of the heinous act) and to not delay in reporting the crime.
I give this book an overall rating of 6 on 10 for effectively handling the complete story from start to finish, and teaching the readers a lot in the process. Unfortunately, the author fails to impress me on the literary front. Irrespective of my rating, I urge all of you to use this book to educate yourself about rape and how to help a victim.