Diaries Magazine

Years of Overcoming Sexual Harassment

Posted on the 14 April 2019 by Sani09 @sani09

Most evenings tension lines form on my forehead. Most nights I can’t sleep well. I make sure the door is locked, I make sure the windows are closed, the curtains are drawn, and one or two lights remain turned on.I don’t know if growing up means living in fear because you know too many truths about how the world works. I am not sure if I can call myself very practical or a little paranoid. They say a child knows no fear and they only acquire it as they grow up through various environments. It would be fair to blame it all on my environment- toxic, untrustworthy, full of criminals. But I seldom find any solace in being blame-free. I would blame my own fearfulness as much as I would blame the environment. It was easier as a child to forgive myself, mostly because I thought when I’d grow up I’d be perfect. That there would be no mis-happenings, if that’s a word.
*One really cannot blame a thirteen-year old coming back from school in public transport, wearing a decent uniform, pressed crisp by her mother in the morning who was groped by a man in his forties. One cannot blame her that she gave him the benefit of doubt that he must have done it by mistake. One cannot blame her that she didn’t say anything to him and by the time she decided to say something the bus had reached her destination. When she reached home and told her mother, she knew she would be forgiven- it was not her fault that the man groped her, it was not her fault that she couldn’t muster the courage to throw him out of the bus or ask him to stay away. “But next time, don’t let this happen to you,” mother’s words still ring in my words. Would I let it happen to me? I wouldn’t. But if something happened, I am supposed to put an end to it. Do I have that kind of courage?
*I was seventeen when it happened again in a public transport. I was lost in my thoughts and had fallen asleep after attending extra classes in high-school. By the time I woke up and realized the hand on my breasts, the man sitting next to me had taken them away. I couldn’t utter a single word. When I reached home I didn’t even tell mother.
*I belong to a family of strong women but I mustered strength very late in my life. I was twenty-one and habituated with being lost in thoughts every time I traveled. I was on a public transport and the man sitting next to me had very casually placed his hand on my lap working his way close to the zipper of my jeans. I looked around and the bus was almost empty. I didn’t shout or scream. I was not angry. I was confused why he would do that. I said to him there were so many seats empty and why should he sit beside me on the seat reserved for ladies only.I didn’t know the strength in my meek voice until I saw him jump off a moving bus. And I didn’t even have to raise my voice. That day I felt I belonged to the family of strong woman whom I always admired. I realized nothing can break me. I had the narrative of victory in my head. It was an answer to all the previous incidences of my girlhood.*I was twenty-five and a lover of spa massages. I was getting a hair spa when I had dozed off. It was a male hair-stylist and usually they massage your shoulders and back a little from above your clothes. I realized what he was doing only when someone else walked in the room and he quickly removed his hands. The liquid put on my hair had almost dried out. He walked away asking someone else to get my hair washed.I returned back to my hostel petrified and never trusted a male hair-stylist again. I also blamed myself for not noticing the act early enough. My heart craved for revenge but I believed I couldn’t do anything. I don’t even remember the name of the salon now.
*I should grow stronger as I grow older. I am not sure I am growing up the right way.I remember my moment of utmost strength. I was twenty-seven and I dived into action so fast as if I was made to do that. It was when people complimented me for my bravery and strength that I felt weak. I felt sympathy for myself for having faced something and trusting that the world will stand by me. I felt weak in my knees for calling the offender out and making the world known that I have been a victim. Instead of the offender feeling the shame it was me who felt the shame. It was not my fault but people often asked how I “let” something like this happen to me. There were all sorts of rumours.
But I’d always be thankful to my instinct of solving the case. I was filmed at my own house from days through the window, from the end of a balcony that wasn’t easy to climb, by a boy I didn’t know who lived upstairs. When I finally saw it happen I was in a state of shock for a couple of seconds but I immediately dashed outside to catch the offender who had vanished by then. I with the help of my friends checked out the CCTV footage of the building and found out his flat number. We checked with the security and found out his name, his workplace. He made sure he left the building as soon as he was caught. I made sure he left the organization that very evening.
I was afraid for my own safety for days. I have finally left that place.
Most evenings I am afraid of men around me. Most mornings I am glad I could do what I did.

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