Why I Didn’t Report Sexual Harassment And Probably Never Will
It starts before you can fathom what is happening with you.
It starts before you can fathom what is happening with you.(Photo: Erum Gour/The Quint)

Why I Didn’t Report Sexual Harassment And Probably Never Will

A recent slew of incidents have reignited the debate of #Me Too and ‘Why I didn't report?’

Why didn’t I report? Because it started before I could even spell these words out. Why didn’t I report later? Because I was scared of everyone, but mostly of victim-blaming. Perhaps I was also worried about what my parents would think.

This is the first time I am talking about these incidents and it feels great – like a stone being lifted off my chest. I know I can’t go to anyone. Most of these perpetrators might not even remember what happened. I, however, am going to keep it with me, probably till I grow old and senile.

In many cases it starts at home and I feel parents should sit children down and have the ‘good touch/bad touch’ conversation as early as possible.

Also Read : “She’s Quieter Now,” Says 8-Month-Old Rape Survivor Chhutki’s Mom

He Masturbated at an Eight-Year-Old Me

I remember a day – when I was about 8 or so – and was in Janpath, a very famous market area in Delhi, with my aunt and a younger cousin. A man, who must have been in his forties and had one arm, was looking at me. I did my best to ignore him, but my aunt was buying something and I had to be in that shop. When I looked again from the corner of my eye, I could see that he was rubbing his crotch. I felt ‘dirty’ but could not fathom what was happening.

It starts before you know.
It starts before you know.
(Photo: The Quint)

The man kept following us whilst looking at me and rubbing himself with the one arm he had.

Years later, I realised he was masturbating at an eight-year-old me, in a public place. Years later, when I understood what exactly happened. I felt like I owed the eight-year-old me an apology, an apology for letting the little girl feel ‘dirty’, for no fault of her own.

For people who say women “ask for it”, I have one question, how did an eight-year-old “ask for it?”

Also Read : Nine-Year-Old Alleges Molestation by Senior Students in School Bus

When Everyone Fails You

But what really broke me was when my school failed me. There was a classmate who molested me everyday for two years when I was in the ninth and tenth standard, but no one did anything. My teachers never made me feel safe enough to walk up to them and talk about it.

The constant victim-blaming made me believe that ‘they’ will say it’s my fault. So I just endured. I endured when that boy touched me, I endured when he said filthy things to me. I endured when he told all the boys in class that I was the slut who has lost her virginity to him. This is before I even knew what virginity is. What a piece of sh*t.

Image used for representational purpose only. 
Image used for representational purpose only. 
(Photo: The Quint)

I do want to report this, to call him out but I don’t know how. Our system works on witnesses and evidence. And I have neither.

When Tanushree Dutta’s story broke and there were people demanding to know if she has any proof, I realised my assumption was right. A survivor’s word is not worth two dimes. You need a detailed eye-witness account, preferably with video proof, for your story to even be believable.

Also Read : I Was Raped at 16, Kept Silent: TV Host Padma Lakshmi

He Followed Me and Waved Goodbye

Another incident that happened a few years back shook me to the core. It is also the one that I kept replaying in my head and cursed myself for not doing anything about. (This has been the hardest one to write too)

It was a January morning. I was getting late for drama practice. At Rajiv Chowk metro station, I squeezed myself into the choc-a-block general compartment. I was at the door and suddenly I had the feeling that someone was rubbing himself against me. For a minute I ignored the sensation, thinking it was an accident because of the rush. But when it continued, I turned around to see there was a man right behind me – who must have been older than my dad.

And he was having the time of his life. He looked me in the eye and smiled. I don’t think I ever felt as disgusted as I did in that moment.

I tried changing my posture so that he would get the message that I wasn’t liking it, but it didn’t stop him. After five minutes when some people de-boarded, I moved and stood at some distance. When I got off, I looked over my shoulder – the man had the audacity to follow me to the top of the stairs and wave at me.

Most of you right now would be like, “Why didn’t you shout?” or “You should have slapped him right across the face”. Believe me, only I know how many times I’ve pictured slapping that bas*ard.

Over the years, I’d tried getting over that incident but could not – the feeling refuses to leave me. I felt ‘dirty’ and beat up myself for not raising an alarm. But I was numb. Too numb to shout.

But over time, I have also tried to forgive myself because I read and heard other survivors talk about how they also went numb when they were harassed and it was normal for that to happen. You don’t have to blame yourself for it.

After that, whenever I have felt uncomfortable in the metro because of someone's proximity to me, I have asked them to back off. Sometimes, this has made me wary of well-meaning people too, but I cannot help it because of what had happened.

Also Read : West Bengal Man Sexually Assaults Minor; Act Caught on Video

Desperate Need to Believe Survivors

Working in a newsroom can be hard sometimes, especially when there are reports of rape, harassment, assault everyday, sometimes every hour. Working with social media more so, because you are constantly aware of what people think. You can no longer live in your own sweet bubble.

When the news broke about Tanushree Dutta levelling sexual harassment allegations against Nana Patekar, it was like any other news day – or so I thought.

As soon as the news went viral, social media was flooded with comments from random people asking for proof, saying that it was being done for publicity and “why didn’t she speak for 10 years?”.

#MeToo has currently transcended countries, communities, places and spaces.
#MeToo has currently transcended countries, communities, places and spaces.
(Photo: Harsh Sahani/The Quint)

I just have one thing to say – stop judging and listen. A woman deserves to be heard, no matter when she decides to speak. It’s not because she wants something out of it – except for justice.

It’s hard. It’s hard, accepting something terrible happened to you. It’s hard, feeling uncomfortable and cheap for no fault of yours. It’s difficult knowing that you didn’t do anything. The hardest part is forgiving yourself for “letting it happen”.

My message to all the survivors – it’s not you. It’s them. Harassment is not justifiable. It’s okay if you did not speak up, you had your reasons and it’s more than okay if you decide to. More power to us!

Also Read : Why Tanushree Dutta and Padma Lakshmi Are Speaking Out Now

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