At the height of #MeToo revelations that unfolded on social media platforms a few months ago, when singer and dubbing artist Chinmayi Sripada, outed the well-known lyricist and DMK ideologue Vairamuthu as a sexual predator, all hell broke loose in Tamil Nadu.

Soon enough, at least three other women openly alleged that Vairamuthu had tried to misbehave similarly with them too.

Naturally, there was plenty of hue and cry over the developments. A bulk of Tamil mainstream media and a large cross section of social media users couldn’t control their outrage.

And they came down heavily on --- wait for it --- Chinmayi and others.

Chinmayi was castigated in every possible way. She was trolled with the filthiest of languages that targeted her sex, caste, religion, her family, her everything. The other women who also laid the same charges were also not spared, but the fact that they were relatively less well-known in the media meant they received lesser flak.

Since Vairamuthu also has party connections, the issue became political and the supporters of the party that Vairamuthu owes allegiance to also took cheap potshots at Chinmayi and others. One look at her and others’ social media timelines showed what hell they were going through.  

At that time, Chinmayi and many activists did point out that such concerted attacks on the victims of sexual crimes would only make it difficult for other women to lodge complaints against their predators in the future.

And this week, when a big gang of sex villains have been caught in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, the harsh truth that Chinmayi and others had spoken about came back to bite Tamil Nadu, as it were.

The thing is, in the Pollachi sexual scandal there were apparently around 200 victims. But only one woman eventually came forward to file a complaint against the perverts who were running a sleaze racket.

That around 199 women remained quiet, and endured untold misery in total silence, is the biggest tragedy.

The stigmatisation and mocking of victims like Chinmayi who had summoned rare courage to speak out against their villains seemed to have sent out all the wrong signals.

If this was the predicament of Chinmayi --- an upper caste, privileged, educated, city-bred, women endowed her own agency --- what hope was there for indigent, hapless women and girls in a nook of Tamil Nadu that in any case was a patriarchal fief.

“The Pollachi incident, sad and traumatising as it is, would not have been this big had the signals from the society been empathetic to women victims before,” says Salma Syed, a social psychologist in a research organisation in Chennai.

“These social cues work subconsciously and the stigmatization of victims in general would have doubtless preyed on the sufferers in Pollachi.”

Forget the victims, the perpetrators themselves were pretty much aware of how this stigma works and that is why they were able to repeatedly blackmail many of the women, says M Mahalakshmi, a women’s activist in Coimbatore. “The notions of so-called honour and purity were used by the depraved men to their advantage,” she adds.

As per reports, the gang of perverts, initially suspected to be numbering around 4, turned out to be a much bigger group of at least 20 men who used the social media platforms to lure unsuspecting women and girls and exploited them sexually in a couple of farmhouses in Pollachi. It was a den of sex and seduction. And it was also a porn factory, apparently.

Filming the depraved acts and using the clips to blackmail the women victims was one part of the crime. Sources in the police confirm that a few video bits from the criminals’ “collection” had been shared on porn sites. Apparently, “rape porn” is the biggest fetish for the debauched dudes prowling on porn sites.

As irony would have it, in ‘rape porn’ clips, it is the criminals’ faces that are blurred out while the victims’ image is not covered at all.

As one report put it, the louder the victims shouted in the clip the higher the demand for such a clip.

It indeed has to be a perverse society that shuts out the voices of victims in real life but prefers to listen to them on porn clips.