It was not easy to get back on my feet and do something for myself. I am struggling with a major level of depression that weakened my body, thought process and confidence. But in a bid to defeat the devil residing in me, I got up, wore my shoes and ventured out on the break of the dawn for a walk.
I had built a determination and tied up in a cloth hanging like a locket around my neck. I had determined to go for a walk every day and give some time and love to myself. As I was sitting by the bank of the river flowing through the veins of my town, everything seemed to fall back in order. But as I turned to walk back home, I collided with someone who loosened my grip on my determination and myself. I met the tuition teacher who harassed me regularly when I was a child.
Under the pressure of being a good girl, I had to touch his feet, greet him and start a conversation. I thought maybe after these many years, his mindset would have changed. But it didn’t even take a second to prove this wrong.
He insisted on accompanying me back to home and while walking he kept on brushing his hands against mine.
As if that was not enough to fuel the disgust and trauma in me, he came to my house, sat beside me and touched my thighs. At that moment I couldn’t muster the courage to speak up. I had already gone through a lot and was not able to believe that on the day I began to untangle the mess in my life, I came across another reason that tried to push me back to the darkness.
This incident made me think that I might not be the only woman who is unsafe on the streets. Every second day incidents of rape and molestation of women walking alone on the streets make headlines. On the top of my mind is that of a middle-aged woman of Badaon who was gang-raped while she was going to the temple in the evening alone. This case is stuck in my mind because, during the investigation of the case, a member of the National Commission of Women stirred the discussion of victim-blaming by saying that no woman should go out alone in the evening. Apart from this, there are many cases in which women have been targeted both by the perpetrators and the leaders. Another example is the Hathras gangrape in which a Dalit girl was brutally gang-raped and killed by men of upper caste. And how did the leaders respond to it? By pulling the thread of victim-blaming and undoing a whole mess of patriarchal restriction on women. A leader said that women of today lack sanskar and that families should inculcate that in their girls to avoid crime against women.
Living amongst such toxic people, how are women like me supposed to feel safe on the streets, at home or in public places?
How is it possible for us to not look back with every step forward under the fear that someone is following us or lurking around to harass us? Do we not have the right to go out alone without any fear of returning with disgust, stains of the wrong touch, and torn clothes?
I Met My Harasser During Morning Walk. Will Women Even Be Safe?
To be honest, when I was getting ready to go, my mother said in her sleepy eyes, “Beta akele mat jao. Papa bhi ghar pr nhi hai” But I ignored it because I was just not ready to stop myself because of the fear of someone. But the patriarchal society strangles the wick of every woman who tried to shine brighter. That’s what happened with me too. After that incident, I was forced to think twice before deciding to go on a walk in the eerie hour of dawn. I stayed back for two days.
But then, my friends encouraged me to not let that man affect my life in any way. They pushed me to be strong enough to take action if he misbehaves. Fuelled by the encouragement, I went out, alone, today.
But all went in vain when I saw another man who tried to forcefully kiss me when was a child. He stared at me with his guiltless eyes and I shuddered with fear due to the trauma that it brought back from the grave. I felt as if I was a candle stuck in the vicious cycle of being lit up and then blown off until it could no longer burn.
So my question is that just by being strong, can crime against women be prevented? Shouldn’t we rather change the way men’s mentalities are wired? Shouldn’t we have a stricter law and immediate action against molesters? Shouldn’t the process of filing a complaint be easier? Shouldn’t the cycle of victim-blaming be put under scrutiny? Just when are we going to stop changing women and asking them to adjust rather than penalising the patriarchal men who commit crimes against women?
Views expressed are the author’s own. Name removed on request