Seven years after she was allegedly abducted and sexually assaulted, the Malayalam actor who has accused popular star Dileep in the case said on Sunday that she now identifies herself as a survivor and not a victim. The woman, who has been the subject of intense scrutiny and many headlines, said she was fighting to get her dignity back, and to overcome tags such as "assaulted actress" and "victim" that were thrust on her. Dileep Files Petition To Quash the Ongoing Case After Getting Bail in Sexual Assault Case.

Speaking out for the first time on camera, the actor, who has worked in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films lashed out against the victim shaming that she was subjected to. "I was blaming myself. Every time I think about this incident or what happened after that... It was like a loop. It happened to me, it's my fault," she told senior journalist Barkha Dutt. Malayalam Actress Assault Case: Kerala HC Grants Anticipatory Bail To Actor Dileep.

It was February 17, 2017. She was abducted and alleged assaulted inside her car for two hours by some of the accused who forced their way into the vehicle and later escaped in a busy area of Kochi. The entire act was filmed by some of the accused to blackmail the actress. There are 10 accused in the case. Initially, police arrested seven people. Dileep, the eighth accused, was arrested subsequently and let off on bail later. He has said he is innocent.

Visiting the court for 15 days, the actor said it was "a whole different level of a traumatic experience". "My trial happened in 2020... I came out of that court on the last day feeling like a survivor. That's when I realised that I'm a survivor. I'm not a victim anymore. I'm not just standing up for myself but also for the dignity of all the girls who will come after me. My mind finally convinced me that I'm a survivor, not a victim anymore." The actor recalled wondering if things would have been different had her father been alive.

"I thought if my father was alive, maybe this wouldn't have happened to me. Maybe if I didn't have the shooting the next day, this wouldn't have happened to me. What if? "I used to think this is like a long nightmare once I get up in the morning everything will be back to normal. There were so many times I desperately wanted to go back to the time before it happened. So that I could change everything."

Calling the journey a "very difficult" one, she said she received support from many people, but there was another group of people "who were so comfortably sitting in some channels and talking about me". The fact that her detractors were insinuating that she had "staged" the incident had a "devastating" impact on her. "Some random people said things like 'She shouldn't have done that', 'She shouldn't have travelled at night', and it's just 7 o'clock in the evening we are talking about. They were sort of accusing me for what had happened.

"At the same time, there was some kind of negative PR or propaganda happening on social media that said that it was premeditated. That I staged this, it's a fake case, and that I made it up. That was very painful to see, to listen to, to know. I was devastated." While she was trying to pick up the pieces of her life, there were elements who were pulling her down, she added. "They were very hard with their words. I wanted to scream on top of my lungs to these people, saying that my parents didn't raise me like that. That was like an insult to my parents, my family. I'm not a person who will do such a thing. I'm not an evil person. My dignity was already snatched away from me yet I was victim shamed," she said.

It wasn't easy to soldier on as she wanted to quit "many times", she said.

"Sometimes I feel I shouldn't have spoken up... I have told my family and friends that I can't do it anymore. And I wanted to have a normal life. But I think it is my will to keep fighting and prove that I hadn't done anything wrong. My family, friends, WCC (Women in Cinema Collective), so many people are standing behind me and giving me enormous courage. I am fighting to get my dignity back."

She has received support from actors like Parvathy Thiruvothu, Mohanlal, Mammooty, Konkona Sensharma, and Richa Chadha, and filmmaker Zoya Akhtar, among others. "I have to thank my family, my husband, friends, and audience. I will continue to fight this until the end..." The survivor, who spoke out in public about the case for the first time in January using her Instagram handle, also addressed why she used social media to put out her version of the story.

"I just wanted to put it out there to let people know that this is what's been happening in my life. I'm so grateful to those who stood by me and when I put it out there, it was very, very cathartic." She claimed she was denied work before the 2017 incident, but afterwards many insisted she came back. "Aashiq Abu, Prithviraj, Jayasurya and others offered me work but I turned them down because I couldn't come back to this industry and work as if nothing happened. I was not in the right state of mind. I worked in other language films. Now, I have also started listening to Malayalam scripts," she said.

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