Posted by Rhea Mahanta
A usual thing happened today. I got groped
while walking back home.
It was drizzling and dusk had set in.
A bunch of guys on a bike were speeding towards me from the opposite direction
while I was struggling with my umbrella,
FOCUSING on avoiding puddles and muck from the tires of speeding cars.
Before I knew it, I felt a painful THUD on my chest
and more than a couple of hands grab my breasts
and toss me on a puddle, all within seconds, before speeding away
and screaming with exhilarating laughter,
championing a ‘SCORE’.
Not far ahead, three young girls burst in amusement
and tried to avoid eye contact with me as they crossed my path.
My first instinct was not one, but all the different pieces of advice that opinionated people have to offer.
I wanted to run behind them and BEAT THEM UP.
But that was emotions talking.
I wanted to do the intelligent thing and note down the bike number
But of course, it was too dark and there were no streetlights.
Another voice in my head told me not to react and just keep walking
Like nothing had happened, to ‘Maintain my Dignity’.
The latter was the most pathetic of choices,
and the actual one that I made.
When I continued walking and my brain had the TIME
to absorb the incident,
my mind was rushing with questions that I would have to answer once I told anybody about it.
“WHERE WAS YOUR PEPPER SPRAY?”
“You were even dressed decently!”
“You STILL haven’t ordered a TASER GUN?!”
“You KNEW it was a bad area.”
“Why didn’t you run after them?”
“You SHOULDN’T run after them, these kind of boys are vengeful!”
“So you didn’t do ANYTHING?”
You see what happened here?
Suddenly, I become answerable for the entire incident, whichever way it goes.
For a moment, I contemplated lying
and saying that I tried to attack them with my umbrella.
But the truth is, I did nothing.
Not because I didn’t want to, but because I had no other choice.
The boys had sped away and the streets were too dark to take note of the vehicle number.
But you see, no one will tackle the important issues here, the external factors that contribute to such incidents.
No one will address the municipal committee as to
WHY THE STREET LIGHTS WEREN’T WORKING or
WHY THERE WERE NO CCTV CAMERAS
No one will ask the witnesses in my lane (and there were plenty)
WHY THEY JUST STOOD AND WATCHED, and did nothing to help.
No one’s raising the right questions.
Because society is conditioned (by whom you ask? Oh, you know, Patriarchy!)
to hold the victim (as much as I despise the word) liable for what he or she did, and did not do.
The question of how to catch the offenders is NOT EVEN BROUGHT UP.
Nothing constructive is done to ensure that incidents like these do not happen again.
I thought a lot about whether or not I should publicize a personal experience.
But the truth is,
it is far from personal.
The anxiety of answering to family/society
and the frustration of not addressing the real issue
runs through the minds of millions of individuals who experience sexual violence,
as if the experience itself is not stressful enough.
NOT TALKING about it
is no more different than SUPPRESSING the expression of our collective struggle.
We don’t just need to stop asking the wrong questions,
We need to RAISE the right ones.
Imagine what That could do.
More strength to all.
Rhea Mahanta is currently pursuing her Masters in Political Science and a Diploma on Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding from University of Delhi. She is a graduate of Lady Shri Ram College for Women and is an advocate of human rights, gender equality and refugee issues. Rhea is also a Pianist, public-speaker, chess player and an Indian Classical Dancer.