#MeToo prompts therapy

#MeToo prompts therapy

For many, the movement opened old wounds, and they are seeking professional help.

Sruthi Hariharan says her movie offers are getting fewer and fewer.

The #MeToo movement has had unexpected consequences, many of which remain unreported.

For one, many more women are seeking therapy after recalling the trauma of being sexually harassed.

“The number has increased after the #MeToo movement,” says Shreya Chatterjee, psychologist. “Women have now become accepting of their problem.”

The movement has made victims realise they are not alone. People, even those who didn’t know one another, are connecting for a cause and now have a community where they are not judged, she says.

“It is accepted that you can be harassed and abused and still talk about it only when you want,” she notes.

Pratima Murthy, professor of psychiatry, Nimhans, agrees that trauma,  when relived, can result in psychological distress.

“Women have become more open with regard to seeking help from mental health professionals after the #MeToo movement,” says Akanksha Pandey, consultant clinical psychologist, Fortis Hospital.

When dealt with professionally, the memories can be transformed to catharsis followed by relaxation, she says.

“Being heard in a nonjudgmental and non-critical manner in itself is a quite therapeutic experience for women who had to stay silent,” she says.


Men’s woes...

Shreya sees a negative side to the movement.

“I have seen a number of male patients who are falsely accused. They have not done anything non-consensually but the movement is impacting their mental health,” she says.

Fazil, who runs a UI/UX consultancy, says he is scared to hire women now.

“Imagine a scenario where a girl asks me for a hike and I say no, a decision I am entitled to. What if she goes around telling people that I have misbehaved with her? Imagine the consequences for me: I can’t prove that I didn’t do anything since most of such meetings are one-on-one,” he says.

He is terrified the media will go after him in such a case.

“I will be humiliated, my friends and family might leave me and I will have to be in and out of courts, spending a lot of money. Clients will stop giving me work,” he says.

Fazil says he is paranoid for a reason; he has personally seen his male friends go through unfounded allegations.

“One of my friends was falsely accused by a woman. He panicked and paid her the money she demanded but later, when they did a profile check on her, they found she had done a similar thing in more than one company,” he says.

Rajshekhar, who has just returned after spending a decade in the US and joined a company in Bengaluru, was advised by his boss to be careful.

“He said while I might just be friendly, there was a chance of its being misinterpreted, especially in the wake of this movement,” he says.


What we need...

Social media campaigns are not enough to bring these voices to the fore, and we need a legitimate forum where the problems are appropriately addressed, says Dr Monica Madvariya, head of medical services, Rainbow Children’s Hospital.

Dr Naveen Jayaram, consultant psychiatrist, Sakra World Hospital, says more women are talking about sexual abuse and the resultant trauma.

“But men coming and talking about their experiences of this sort is extremely rare,” he says.

He has a word of advice for survivors: “You have been brave enough to talk about it. Many of you would want to see the perpetrators punished but that will take time. Think whatever happened has happened, and you are going to start anew.”


State of the art...

The cost of speaking out is dearer for women than for men. Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the south Indian film industry. Many of those accused of sexual misconduct are back at work.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is in the cast of Karthik Subbaraj’s ‘Petta’, starring Rajinikanth in the lead role. Malayalam actor Dileep has just signed a film with director B Unnikrishnan. Arjun Sarja is acting in Priyadarshan’s big-budget ‘Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham’, with Mohanlal in the lead.

On the other hand, Sruthi Hariharan is hardly receiving any offers after she accused Arjun Sarja of sexually abusing her. Singer Chinmayi was removed from the Tamil film dubbing union after she named lyricist Vairamuthu.
Kannada actor Sanjjanaa Galrani had to apologise to director Ravi Srivatsa, whom she had accused of making her do kissing sequences without her consent.

In Malayalam, the women who formed WCC (Women in Cinema Collective) to highlight the rot in the film industry, have almost been erased from the industry.

All actors and directors who are part of the collective are critically acclaimed and have won awards.

Bollywood has taken a laudable lead. Artistes accused of sexual misconduct have been chucked out of projects, and suspended from unions.