Whose Fault was it?
Anonymous | Mar 07, 2016
It was just another ordinary night when I was walking back to my hostel, late. No, I wasn't alone; I was with a big, loud group of giggling friends, constantly making jokes and merry. It unnerved us a little when we ran into a group of unruly boys who tried to catch our attention first by making lewd comments, which we tried our best to ignore; they finally resorted to whistling, clapping and obscene gestures. I didn't really think they were interested in me particularly, till they started following me. The stench of alcohol on their breath, and the recklessness in their gait made me break into a cold sweat. I put up my bravest face and tried to act like I didn't care.
It doesn't matter what the exact nature of their comments were, it doesn't matter if I knew these people on a personal basis or not, because at that moment their eyes burned into every inch of my skin - clothed or unclothed. As a girl who's grown up in a society that blames the victim in such incidents, one would imagine that we had been conditioned to tolerate such incidents. However, the audacity of these boys who compared me to a sex object, and tried to touch me scared me like it was the first time. The road was silent, and my peers were as confused as I was. I employed all my faculties in reaching the hostel safely, and shutting away their voices and laughter.
Looking upon this heinous incident that just took place, I was left with three choices to consider:
- Lodging a complaint with the competent authorities leading to appropriate punishment for the perpetrators, thereby, curbing such incidents in the future.
- Supressing the matter, fearing being labelled as a victim. This would allow the perpetrators to walk free and encourage such incidents in the future.
- Resolving the matter internally by punishing the perpetrators in a kangaroo court. This penalizes those responsible for the crime but fails to set a precedent for future crimes.
What's funny is, that I'm sure this is not the first time something like this happened with me, and definitely not the first time it would have happened to one of you, either within the protected bounds of this haloed Institute. I was outraged, my modesty and self respect a little shaken and permanently scarred by the memory of such a horrific night. But just like you, I let it go. The next morning when I woke up, it felt like a nightmare and I didn't have the courage to take it up with the authorities. I didn't have the guts to explain the situation to anyone else, lest I have to relive those moments. I feared being stamped a victim and looked upon awkwardly by others. In the light of my great, uncertain future, I decided to make a sacrifice - to let this incident go. I decided to forget about this incident and erase it from my memory.
When I walk through that road again now, the incident always manages to crawl into my subconscious. I find myself repeatedly asking the same question - whose fault was it, mine or theirs? Was it their fault for having the audacity to humiliate me and objectify me? Or was it mine to keep mum and allow them to roam scot free? I often wonder if by suppressing this crime I emboldened them to go forward and repeat their misbehaviour. After all, the punishment meted out to them by common friends and seniors could hardly have created an impact or set a precedent. I feared that I would be ostracized by my peers, or labelled as a victim or be responsible for ruining their futures; but I will never be able to face myself truly, for condoning such ignorance and cowardice; for allowing such culprits to exist in our midst and breed such ill thoughts.
You either choose the easy way out or the right way. Unfortunately, I chose the former and must live with the burden of it for the rest of my life. You might argue about how this is a security issue and by restricting the movement of girls in different parts of this campus, we might be able to put an end to these situations. This will only further strengthen the roots of our already patriarchal society and prevent girls like me from standing up for themselves. My humble request to all of you is to create a sanctified circle of peers and seniors, whom you trust, and who will not dismiss the matter but in fact help you to take it further and seek proper redressal. As strong, independent women of the 21st century, we should not be afraid of eve-teasers, but we should fight them with the rights and resources that we are entitled to. If you don't take responsibility for yourself, nobody else will. Don't be a mute spectator and regret it for the rest of your life, like I did. Stand up for yourself, and for others who could be in the same situation like you.
MM Note: How do you respond to such situations?
To keep a check, there is a committee against sexual harassment in NIT Rourkela which considers complaints of sexual harassment in the institute and also recommends remedial measures. It is a five-member committee with Prof. Susmita Das as the chairperson, Prof. Bhojaraju Gunjal, Prof R.K Patel, Prof. Madhushree Kundu and a Deputy Inspector. So whenever you encounter such harassment cases in our institute, the first and foremost step is to lodge a complaint with the chairperson, Prof. Susmita Das . The case will be inquired upon without disclosing your name and identity to the public. Also, there might be circumstances wherein your friends will be taken in the loop to act as witnesses. Therefore, to seek proper redressal, gather support of your trustworthy friends and seniors who can help you gain justice. On an ending note we request you to gather voice of support and stand up for yourself so that such menace does not occur in future.