Posted by Tarini Gautam
Trigger Warning: Child Sexual Abuse, Sexual Harassment
You start losing hope for a better tomorrow when those you trust deeply turn out to be perpetrators of a crime. When I was 6 years old, I was extremely unaware about the challenges women have to face and how they always have to be extra careful. I didn’t know about the various societal evils, I was happy and carefree, no one was ‘bad’ in my eyes except my teachers sometimes who would scold me for talking in the middle of a lesson or my mother who would put me to bed early and not buy that toy I wanted or my dad when he refused to take us out during the weekend.
This feeling of innocence was obviously temporary.
Girls always have to grow up fast – they have no choice in that matter. My little brother is 14 years old and still blissfully unaware about just how dangerous the world can be. That wisdom was imparted to me when I was only 6 years old. My mother would stop me from staying out late and playing in the evening with my friends, I would feel so angry because the rest of my friends didn’t have these restrictions. I didn’t know why I was told to come back home as soon as the skies would become dusky. I wish I had listened to my mom.
One evening, I went to my friend’s place instead of heading straight back home. Her uncle was always nice to me; he was sweet and kind and would accompany my friend to the park all the time. I never considered him a threat. I didn’t even know that people could be this sick and evil. That evening I was molested by my friend’s uncle and at that tender age of only 6, I didn’t know what was happening to me but I felt dirty and uncomfortable. I went home and told my parents. My dad apparently blasted that heinous man but didn’t report him due to ‘embarrassment’. Uncle stopped coming to the park, he was safe and sound in his own house. I was scolded for staying out late.
We live in a world where women are sexualized and objectified from the very moment they step into this world. It’s always our fault. We are the ones who give out the wrong ‘signals’, we dress provocatively because we are ‘asking for it’. The sad part is that we women have internalised patriarchal norms so blindly that, we put each other down instead of supporting each other and giving each other strength. Shaming women has become so inherent in society that we all have been brainwashed to put the blame on each other. When will the men be held accountable for what they have done to us? When will we stop living by the rules laid out by them?
Recently, I was taken advantage of by my own friend. Again, it was someone I trusted and respected. This was a person who works for women empowerment, loudly belts out song full of slogans against the unfair standards that society sets for women. Apparently, it is my fault to have trusted someone. I was told to not report the case reason being, I had had a few drinks with him and was alone with him. Another friend walked up to me and confidently said, ‘You asked for it‘.
To put this incident behind me and move on, has been difficult. Girls and guys alike have harassed me and judged my character. They blamed my upbringing and lifestyle. Through such personal experiences, one can clearly assess, the mentality of one’s peers. I now wish I had known better, I wish, I knew just how much he respected me and my boundaries.
In order to disregard the blatant propagation of patriarchy and male privilege, we put the blame on women, ‘she’ is always wrong and ‘she’ should have been careful. Whether it’s a young person or an old one, whether she’s in a shorts or a burkha, it doesn’t matter. People are assaulted regularly. 11 month old babies are raped brutally. One can’t possibly be deluded enough to blame little babies for what happened to them? Instead of imposing these bigoted standards of living on young girls and women, why don’t we teach men to identify us as their equals and treat us with the dignity and respect we are entitled to.
Putting the blame constantly on women, is creating a culture of rape. We are indirectly encouraging harassment and assault and preventing justice from the victims of harassment. I hate looking at my ‘friend’ in the hallway, all happy and carefree and confident, while I walk with my head down, embarrassed and humiliated. All I ever got was an apology and that’s supposed to be enough! People still believe what they want to believe and will continue to do so, they will still give speeches about the worth of a woman and sing those songs which make my eardrums bleed and if something like this happens to another girl again, they’ll tear her down.
The trauma of sexual harassment made me question the gossiping and judging that I encountered on a daily basis. The character judgements and generalisations we make casually are inappropriate to say the least. What an individual is going through is unknown to a passerby. Such generalisations and judgements do nothing but reflect the mentality of the commentator. No one judges a man for having a few drinks or sleeping around, all spaces are safe for him when we have to think twice before stepping into crowded place, men sit with their legs wide apart but I am scolded by nuns if my bra strap is visible.
Also Read: A 101 Introduction To Internalized Misogyny
The way a woman’s sexuality is increasingly being controlled is suffocating and scary. It’s alright if she loves wearing skirts, it’s alright if she’s sexually empowered, it’s alright if she drinks, it’s alright if she laughs loudly. Let her be. What’s wrong is your mentality which forces you to think that she’s offering you to herself just because she is unapologetic about herself. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll realise she lives just like you.
Featured Image Credit: Midlife Mommy Adventures
Tarini Gautam is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in social work from Nirmala Niketan. She is passionate about working for the empowerment of women, children, the differently abled and mentally ill. You can follow her on Twitter.