What could be the psychological state of all women that are aware, urban, modern and, in actuality, survivors of violence but cannot dare to go to a police station, hire a lawyer or even think of a nerve-wracking court proceeding? What about those who decide to not tell their stories for the safety of their loved and dear ones? Through the borrowed inspirations from many celebrated writers and feminists, I think it can go like this, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. When we as an individual or community dare to dig out the truth we are seen as lunatics if not lesser moral, patriotic and culturally appropriate. We accept our madness with grief and humility, to see life as it is, and not as it should be!” The global pandemic COVID-19 has unintentionally further exposed the cruel realities of misogyny, patriarchy, gender-based constraints, toxic masculinity and collapses of different origins that could only be understood when we become too honest with ourselves. So honest that we become ready to credit all stories of VAWGC and contribute towards the elimination of a mentally disturbed and apathetic society. “Living” with personal tragedies and failing to stop an endlessly questioning mind is not a wonderful experience anywhere. The existence becomes even riskier when in a society, a young woman or a child (as young as two years old) is raped, tortured and killed. Yet, people do not STOP asking what was she wearing and why did she go out? In February 2021, I authored a report owned by Aurat foundation & SAP-PK and supported by Global Affairs Canada. The data (gathered through the hard work of dedicated team members and dynamic leadership of these organisations, on reported cases of violence against women and children from all provinces of Pakistan) found that 2297 cases of VAWG were reported in 25 districts in 2020. Does this number shake anyone? Do the stories that capture harassment at workplaces, failure of institutions to protect the empowered women who experience rape, abduction, incest, unwanted pregnancy, teenage girls giving birth and being forced to carry out-of-court settlements bother anyone in the corridors of power and politics? The answer is a sad No. “Living” with personal tragedies and failing to stop an endlessly questioning mind is not a wonderful experience anywhere. The hard-hearted reality is that such valuable but non-sensational research work does not receive the required response and attention. Such reports are “reduced” to a milestone for a donor-supported project. Now, look at the other side, the world of Twitter and social media that convincingly keeps on assuring, even older folks like myself, that finally there is a forum for achieving equality, and eventually all marginalised voices will be heard. Without disregarding the amazing power of these communication platforms and the decibels of noises there, I would still suggest mindfulness and escaping the trap of any deceptive optimism in that regard. Women, irrespective of their class and calibre, experience abuse of different forms. In General Zia’s time, I read in an Urdu newspaper that the poorest of the poor women were paraded naked in Nawabpur village. In 1998, one of the most inspiring seniors in my college, Nina Aziz, was found murdered brutally, and in 2021, I am grieving for Noor Muqaddam. Besides these names, there are countless cases of women femicide that go unreported. The newsworthiness of the VAWGC and how it is handled on media needs exploratory studies and serious rounds of indefinite and informed dialogues. Imagine VAWGC becoming important enough for setting emergency meetings of our legislators, heads of academia, doctors’ associations etc. My learnings so far are; 1) law is a darling of the accused, 2) there is a void beyond hashtags, choreographed activism and carefully articulated statements by the influencers, 3) beyond the optics of freedom (girls on bikes, modelling on ramps and climbing the mountains) is the land owned and captured by structural and systemic patriarchy, misogyny and arrogance, 4) Elite victims are purposefully forgotten and those from non-elite backgrounds never gather much attention until and unless some renowned activist or NGO takes notice. Unfortunately, the reason behind all the gender-based crimes largely remains the honour of the family. Why is the body of a little girl and a grown-up woman bear the huge responsibility of protecting the honour? and 5) Pakistan ranks 153rd out of 156 countries on the gender inequality index, which is a case of mental health assessment of all institutions and individuals. Somewhere, something has gone wrong and we, as human rights defenders, active lawmakers, politicians, police, doctors, teachers, lawyers, thought-leaders and parents, are definitely missing it out. That something could be our loss of values, failure to understand empathy, not setting social justice as the prime purpose of governance, our ability to walk with pride despite being hypocrites (where people actually do not fear Allah/God/Divine but abusive powers) or staying in offices despite observing silence on violence or selective advocacy etc. The truth is that everyone instantly or eventually surrenders before the mighty in society. How many times has anyone heard of any easy prosecution and exemplary justice? No friend, even no women friends will come forward to rescue any female in a bad place or even pick their phone. No one should even expect that the security guards (poor souls hope the readers know their salaries), office colleagues (past or current) will dare to protest for any woman in crisis. The best outcome in any setting according to popular and pragmatic parameters remain to be walking out, vertically. Yes, it is absolutely better than being taken out horizontally. The wounds on the souls are intangible and the law cares about evidence only. Trust me, no social media or actual space champions of women rights will provide victims with the protection (exceptions cannot be generalised). Until a definite diagnosis about our collective deterioration is made, I can only request the vast majority of our powerless women and girls (mostly non-celebrities) to continue striving for a better life for themselves with their resilience as no one will help them. The writer is a social entrepreneur, activist, gender expert and former TV anchor and producer. She tweets @dr_rakhshinda and can be reached at email@example.com.