The way women are respected (or not) and treated is a direct reflection of the society we are growing up in. In the recent years, we are seeing sexual harassment cases steadily on the rise, in India. One study in 2012 had revealed that 7 in 10 Indian women were sexually harassed at least once. By 2014, another study estimated that at least 848 Indian women were harassed, raped or killed daily. It therefore comes a shock to all of us that, despite being so prevalent, harassment is hardly reported at all. Statistics show that over 90% of the cases go unreported, since majority of the victims are usually unsatisfied with the response received.
Perhaps the biggest reason for this is that sexual harassment being one of the most traumatic experiences, can also be extremely overwhelming in nature. Often, victims may feel powerless and unable to do anything to change their situation for the better. Even people who support the victims may feel empathetic towards the victim but not brave enough to speak up, for fear of their futures/lives being at risk.
This situation is made worse if the perpetrators turn out to be the so-called ‘intelligent and educated’ class of society where future minds are to be groomed. One can only imagine, if the educated elite of India undertake such practices, what bearing will it have on the masses?
The incidents that have been playing out over the past few days in the media, has brought to the fore two very brave women (these are two separate cases, in case you didn’t know!) who took a stand to break their silence against sexual harassment and victimisation. It was a testimony to their courage that they chose to speak up even when they knew that it was a monumental task to beat the odds that stood against them.
This is where the victims turned the story on its’ head, by transforming a sordid tale of hapless victimisation to one of courage, hope and inspiration; becoming champions for other women instead who suffer such fate. Their story is my story today.
The first of the two incidents took place on the 23rd of July 2016, when an undergraduate student of Jadavpur University was exposed via Facebook for sexual harassment of over a dozen women, including minors, via texts, online messages and molestation.
After three years of suffering, it was the courage of one of the survivors who broke the cycle of silence and almost immediately, dozens of victims came forward to reveal the abuse they had suffered over years, at the hands of the same abuser. They spoke out, sharing screenshots and verbal reports of the abuse. Accounts ranged from sexually explicit messages that continued despite repeated demands to stop, to physical assault. At least two of the victims were underage, being fifteen years old at the time of their horrific experience.
What was shocking was the sheer number of survivors who were afraid to speak up, fearing not only disbelief but the systematic online harassment that one of the survivors had to go through. A female friend of the accused was also accused, with substantial proof, of spearheading an online and offline smearing campaign against the survivor who first spoke up.
The JU student’s post was also removed by Facebook, along with the 1000 shares: But, this time, the original post was re-published by the thousands who had taken screenshots, making her story go viral. What was truly laudable was that the entire community stood behind these women. While the Facebook posts were being deleted for not fitting Facebook’s “Community Guidelines,” there were students who were still sharing the message, letting the women know that they weren’t alone.
All this was possible because of that one voice that first broke the silence. As of now, the victims-all 13 of them, have come out and put up a joint statement against the accused, calling for immediate action. On July 28th, the accused was finally suspended by Jadavpur University. One can only hope that he is not let off the hook as easily but is suitably dealt with, given the severity of his crime.
Almost days after, on 25th July 2016, an ex-student of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, put up a post on Facebook detailing the ways in which she was continually sexually harassed by a Mumbai-based musician (also an ex-student of the college) with inappropriate and lewd messages. Soon after, a number of women commented on the post, sharing similar experiences. One even shared several screenshots which has further acted as vital proof against the culprit. However, the woman’s post was reported by the brother of the accused and taken down the very same day. Though she put up the post again, the testimonies of her friends, including the screenshots, have been lost. Yet again, Facebook took her post down. This time, she was also barred from publishing new posts or messaging anyone for the next twenty-four hours.
Since the original post was published, three other women have told her they have been harassed by the same man– they just didn’t have the courage to speak about it until now.
Both these cases highlight one thing -how misogynists rule over our university and college spaces. Nailing the culprits would have been next to impossible had these women desisted from speaking out especially when the perpetrators happen to be popular figures- one being a much admired debater and the son of a professor at that very university, and the other a well-known musician.
I’m glad to say that sometimes all it takes, is that quiet voice within you that says enough is enough’. It takes just one person to turn the tables! When one voice speaks up, it gives strength to thousands more who are facing similar, if not worse situations. One woman who speaks up, makes it that much easier for others to do the same. We can all hope that this will set an example to the many who have been silenced before.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Sometimes all it takes, is that quiet voice within you that says enough is enough. via @eshamdutta” quote=”Sometimes all it takes, is that quiet voice within you that says enough is enough.”]
Courage, they say, is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears.
What would you do if you were to be a witness to such incidents or if it happened to someone you know? If, for instance your life was at threat, would you still speak up and report the incident, and bring the guilty to book?
Do you have a positive and inspiring story that you would like to share with us today? It may be an old post, or one that you are inspired to write today or over the next few days.
Add your post to the linky below and read, comment on and share the posts of others. The linky will be open until our next #InspiringStories post is up (August 27).