Should he rape me for you to speak out?

A first-person account of a young Bengaluru-based journalist's harrowing experience of having her safety threatened in the heart of the city this Monday night

What does your peace of mind mean when my security is in a shambles? Photo/AFP

“I’m scared,” said the veterinary doctor in Hyderabad on her last call to her sister, probably just before she was raped and murdered. Her story has brought to the fore what could befall women, simply because they are women.

For some time, I could not stop thinking about the prospect of her being saved by somebody around her. But what happened to me a few days after that incident put paid to the idea. For good.

This is what happened to me when I left office on Monday at around 9 pm to commute by Bengaluru Metro and then walk the one-kilometer stretch to reach home.

A man appears as I get down at the Metro station – in the heart of the city – and proceeds to ask me directions to a luxury hotel nearby. I pause to guide him – because who takes the advice, ‘don’t talk to strangers’, seriously in the era of Tinder and Bumble? But maybe I should have, it strikes me now, because it’s also the era of Nirbhaya and Disha and a number of women whose stories don’t make it to the news. 

The man continues walking beside me, and even though I've got my headphones on, he keeps asking me questions. “What I do? Where do I live?” It feels creepy, but I am not sure how to respond yet except notice fear slowly rising in my body.

Now his arms start touching mine and that’s when I finally yell. But my voice gets lost in the din of passing cars and people walking on both sides of the street.

The man now moves at a distance, but he is walking parallel to me. I stop and he heads forward, turning his head every two seconds. Alarmed, I cross the road and start walking again. I see him following me.

I confront him; scream at the top of my lungs. Maybe I wasn’t loud enough, because the people around me did not seem to get what was happening. Maybe they were puzzled, maybe they didn’t care or maybe they were just spineless.

Did he have to rape me for them to speak out, to do something to stop him?

I was shaking with anger, fear and disgust. I was appalled, not as much at the creep, but at the people around who saw everything and chose to remain quiet. The people who supported the unacceptable conduct of a potential molester, just by holding back.

I thought over what could be the reason for their silence later but couldn’t fathom their rationale. They had failed me. They failed my sister, whom I had called in panic, and who had faith that it would be better for me to be surrounded by them.

I shared what had happened on a social media platform with the idea of letting people know that social media activism would not do anyone any good if wasn’t backed by action when needed.

You decide now, I said, if you want to be someone who does something when an incident like this happens – this includes a 'harmless comment', a gesture, stalking, staring which happens every minute some place or the other – or you want to be a mere spectator?

I received dozens of messages from women who have had similar experiences, asking me if I’m okay, and men, saying they were disappointed and upset. Thank you for being kind on social media. But it’s time we start being kind in reality, which is not virtual.

If it was a dark alley, someone would have told me I shouldn’t have taken those roads. If I was wearing a mini skirt, someone would have told me I should’ve dressed ‘decently'. But what will they tell me now?

There will always be someone to provide justifications, which is incomprehensible. But this is prior to the need for justifications.

My question is this: What does your peace of mind mean when my security is in a shambles? That could be your sister, your daughter, your wife, your mother tomorrow.  Your indifference means that there will always be potential rapists walking beside me and they will have silent permission to do whatever, wherever, whenever.

 

The only thing people can tell me now is that they are ashamed and they will do better when it happens to someone else. Because it will happen again. We, as a society, are damaged beyond imagination. But where we head from here only we can decide. 


(Samiksha Goel is a journalist with Deccan Herald)

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