The horror of eve-teasing first hit me at the age of thirteen. I was in the middle of a crowded market, when a man walking towards me tried to squeeze my thigh. I elbowed him in the stomach with all the strength I could muster, and he walked away quietly, shamefaced. Yet I suddenly felt sick, petrified and edgy, afraid that what had happened once could happen again. I also developed a dislike for crowds
Then dawned the realization that this was not my problem alone. Talking to friends and classmates I realized that that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach that happens when one is forced to be in a congested place is something most young girls and women share.
A piece of advice given to most of us was that as long as an eve-teaser is at a physical distance from you, ignore him and his comments. “Don’t go looking for trouble. If someone is staring at you, pretend like you haven’t noticed. If there are catcalls, let them go. You never know what someone might do if you respond with anger or annoyance.” Does it sound like something you’ve been hearing too? If you’re female, and anywhere between 15 and 50 in age, chances are that you have, more than once.
The biggest problem with eve-teasing and molestation is that victims seldom report incidents, so the perpetrators of these crimes are rarely prosecuted. This leads to a belief amongst them that no action will take place against them, and so they continue to sexually harass women. To understand why many victims don’t speak up, take action or file complaints, one must first understand the psyche of community at large. Instead of pinning the blame squarely where it belongs, on the shoulders of the eve-teaser or molester, it views the victim critically. It alleges that her clothing, gait, behaviour or character was provocative and “immoral” and thus she was asking for it. Often, the victims too blame themselves and believe that some flaw within them led to the molestation. This attitude leads the victim to a sense of shame, and she feels that perhaps it is better to keep quiet about her trauma.
Another problem is that amongst those who witness such incidences, there is a reluctance to rescue the victim or become involved in any way. This attitude of turning a blind eye to any problem one doesn’t consider one’s own further compounds the victim’s dilemma about speaking up, as she can never be sure whether anyone will come to her aid or she’ll be left alone to tackle with the unpleasant and perhaps even dangerous molester.
I could tell you hundreds of stories I’ve heard from dozens of women; of having to hear lewd comments from men zipping by on bikes as you walk on the side of a road, of the frustration of them zooming ahead before you have a chance to yell back, of being groped in the Metro, of lewd stares from men in cars or on bikes when your car or auto stops at a traffic signal, of people ‘accidentally’ pushing up against you in a DTC bus. But chances are, you may have your own story to tell. Don’t let it remain just a story. Women – please, speak up now, don’t be mute sufferers. Men – please treat women with the dignity they deserve, and stop being mute spectators when a woman is being harassed. Everybody – do not accuse the victim of having brought it upon herself. No woman asks to be attacked, physically or mentally. We want to be able to live without fear, to go to work, college or just a market, without feeling abused. Join our struggle and help all women, to help every woman you know.
[Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peeveeads/2442571538/]