** Trigger Alert !
His hands slid down his brief case and before I knew it, they were on me. He pressed and pushed and groped. I sat stunned, unable to move. Praying for my bus stop to come. In a bus full of people, I was paralyzed. Voiceless. The bus stopped, finally. I rushed out of there, went home and told my aunt what happened.
Her response, “It’s your fault. Why didn’t you just get up?!”
I felt like I had been slapped. Why didn’t I get up and leave? What had been stopping me? Nothing!
After this, I knew better. I would get up when I sensed a man reaching for me. Before long, I would turn around and snap at the people next to him. Or just turn away. Or worse, ignore and walk way.
From an innocent 17, I went to a 22 year old expecting men to assault me wherever I walked. In India, it’s a silent acceptance that this is a regular occurrence.
There is anger but NO surprise when men touch your inappropriately, lech at you, cat call or even masturbate in front of you.
This blind acceptance is one of the roots of all sexual assault. It is accepted. And so when such incidents happen, some people think, “It happens. Deal with it.”
It is only after I’ve had a daughter that I have come to accept that a teenager, unless told how to handle a situation will not know how to react in any sexual situation. Be it assault or otherwise. My call to action in such situation was tell dad and mom, and that is what I thought I would do. That THEY (our guardians) would take action. And it is only recently, that I have come to question this blind acceptance.
No one says, THIS SHOULD JUST STOP.
Every group of girls sitting around has war scars of being assaulted. There are a lot of hows, but no whys. Moreover why is it that us girls are blamed for what happens to us?
Our skirts. Our attitude. Our behavior. Our choices.
Of all these, the only true reason for victim blaming is denial. Girls who are assaulted are blamed or not believed is because those who are doing the blaming are thinking, “This would NEVER happen to me.”
They are sitting on their high horse, thinking they are above it all. Either they have been through it, accepting it as something that happens naturally OR they have never experienced it, secretly hoping they never DO. For they are following some set para-dimes that they feel will keep them safe.
Whereas the one and only solution to this is raising men with awareness. Raising women with empathy.
Today I understand that my aunt having two sons and being of a certain age had maybe forgotten the shame, desperation and disgust a girl feels.
I never forgot what happened. I also never forgot what was said to me after. About me. How it made me feel so much worse. For what the man had done was natural to him. But I had thought my aunt would be the one protecting me.
I never forget. Not because I have a girl.
But because I have a boy, who is going to go out in the world. I have the responsibility as a mother, a woman and most importantly a human being to protect those around us to the best of my ability. To teach my son what it means to treat girls/women with respect. To tell him, what it means to be a good boyfriend. A great husband.
PASSING THE TORCH
A couple of weeks ago, he (now 7) said, “I don’t want to get married because I don’t like kissing girls. I don’t know why people have girl friends.”
I responded, “The best age to have a girl friend or boyfriend is when you are 20 because by then you have some understanding on how to be a good boyfriend or girlfriend. You have to care for them like dad cares about me. They are your responsibility.”
“Then why do teenagers have girlfriends?”
“Because some people think it is a matter of being cool. Sometimes you just like someone, and want to be around them more. But if you want to be a GOOD boyfriend, you have to know it is work, just like studying or being married. You have to be kind, gentle and loving.”
“Yuck! I don’t want to do all that with girls now. I think I will wait for when I’m old enough. “
Yes, there will be those out there who tell me he’s too young. But it is these very conversations that add up to a mentality in a society.
The only way to stop the vicious circle of sexual assault & victim blaming is to understand, that is is someone’s child who is going through something. It can happen to anybody. And this is not something that ANY VICTIM just forgets. It haunts them for the rest of their lives. And shows up in subtle ways.
So, there is certainly nothing wrong when it haunts the person who does the assault either. That is what is called justice. We need examples for our children, that we can say, THIS is what happens when you take scar someone. And THIS is absolutely why when we put men in power who have disrespected women or stay silent when another is being assaulted/harassed, we exemplify this horrendous behavior which seems to have No consequence.
It is up to us, to be a gentle world. To believe. To act. To empower the children of tomorrow with kindness and respect.
To stand up and say, “No MORE!”