I was harassed. An experience that is unfortunately common for many women. Some faced it when they stepped out in the world alone while others grew up with it. Some faced it at public and workplaces while others had the demon within their homes.
Though each experience was different, the oppression, silence and disgust that women faced were the same for all. What was it? Why did a man feel entitled to touch me without my consent and make me feel uncomfortable? Why wasn’t I able to speak up? Was it shock, shame or lack of support? And why didn’t people around me condemn it rather than sympathising and asking to forget it? Is it something that I can forget?
Resist sexual harassment: neither easy nor avoidable
Yes, many of us didn’t know how to react when we were harassed. Not only because it happened for the first time but also because we were always taught to bear with the world and adjust. We were told that it happens with every woman and the wounds will soon vanish. But of course, it wasn’t over. The memory was fresh in the mind each time that man walked in front of us, free and happy like nothing ever happened. It was fresh each time we were vulnerable in life. It was fresh each time we thought about its injustice.
But now it’s time to shed the silence. What we couldn’t do before, we need to embody it and pass on to other women. And that is resistance. So here are some ways to resist sexual harassment.
1. Resist as much as you can
To oppose harassment, women need to own their bodies. They need to understand that only women have rights on their bodies, its choices and consent. No one else can violate her bodily autonomy. So own your body and resist every attempt that dares to infringe it. It is not you who should control your words or actions but the perpetrator who needs to be penalised.
2. Register a complaint
Our constitution at least has recognised women as equal and respectable beings of society. We have the rights to not only resist but demand legal action against the molester since sexual harassment and molestation is a crime. There are provisions and laws against sexual harassment in private or public spaces. Don’t fear or hesitate in going to the complaint desk or Police station. It is your legal right to demand safety from law. And the molester is a criminal in the eyes of the law and his punishment is legal in all sense.
3. Talk to your close family or friends
Often the experience of harassment pushes you in such a shock and darkness that it becomes difficult to make your way out of it. In such cases, you might not be able to take instant actions or resist, and be overwhelmed by disgust and shock. And it is okay.
But you have to overcome your reluctance later and exercise your rights. I know it is harsh but not reporting harassment is equivalent to encouraging it and putting the other women in danger too.
You can always talk about it with your close ones to gain comfort and support. It is always good to have someone behind you when you are dealing with one of the most difficult times of life. Empathy is the greatest healer.
4. But if they don’t, fight it out yourself
Parents or friends often discourage women from speaking up against sexual harassment. They try to convince that silence and ignorance is the safest option out of the harassment that might malign the woman’s and her family’s reputation, force them to face harassment at the hands of system or put their lives in danger.
Do they think about the pain, inequality and injustice that the woman had to face? Do they understand that not raising voice against wrong is not just about putting a finger on the lips but about forgetting self-respect?
It is only unfortunate that we live in a society where rape culture is normalised but not speaking up against it. But dear women, don’t comply with them. Unlearn this patriarchal conditioning and internalise resistance as the immediate response towards harassment.
5. Don’t let the experience harm or stop your life
Yes, an experience of sexual harassment always stays with us. Especially when it has not been opposed. But the very aim of this sexual violence is to tear down a woman’s self-respect and confidence and render her incapable of defying and achieving heights.
So dear women, first of all, oppose any attempt that outrages your modesty and then rise back like a Phoenix to break the glass ceilings, excel and to encourage and inspire a generation of women. The world needs more powerful women like you who set up a role-model for other women to not only resist but also to never let any patriarchal oppression drain a woman’s defiance and dreams.