I, Grope, Rape, and the Indian Police

The first time I was touched, I was all of six years old. My then-best friend used to go back home in an auto rickshaw, and I, in a van. We used to play outside school while we waited with the other kids to go home. One day, my friend told me that her auto driver wants to see me. I, thinking it was some sort of an adventure, accompanied her. He sat in the auto and made us sit on either side of him. Then, he kissed us- no jammed his tongue down our throats- in turn and asked us to go away. I was confused. I knew something felt wrong, but I couldn’t understand it. I knew men liked touching women, I had seen it on TV. But those women had breasts and thankfully I still didn’t. My mouth stank of cigarettes. My friend offered me water from her water bottle and taught me how to clean my mouth the way she did every time he had his fun with her. I went home and told my mom about what had happened. From the very next day, my friend was coming home in the same van as me. I don’t really know what happened to that man.

The second time, I had breasts. And my uncle’s car driver knew it, because that’s what he was touching. I was wearing a full salwar kameez, complete with dupatta. It didn’t take him super human effort to brush aside the dupatta. This time, I knew exactly why it was wrong, he was fired within the next hour. Then, when I used to travel an hour by train to college everyday, I’ve had men in the crowded station grab my ass, pull my arms, try to trip me by putting out their leg, fall on top of me with their lips somehow accidentally ending up on my mouth; men who bump into me in the general compartment of the train with such force that I end up falling into the lap of other men who were sitting, and once, a very muscular boy who was five years younger to me, grabbing me by the waist and hoisting me up in the air. I’m sure my tiny pummeling fists had no effect on him, but the bus conductor’s punch on his nose did. My mom used to tell me to carry a safety pin in my hand to scratch any man that tried to touch me, because a girl always knows when she is being touched without her consent – even if it is on her arm.

I have countless number of female friends who have gone through very similar experiences. I once had a neighbor whose daughter, back when they lived in Delhi, was “kidnapped” by two construction workers and taken to their huts two blocks away so that a third could profess his love for her. That, at the end of the day, was harmless and did no damage. But I know of a girl who was raped repeatedly by her father’s boss’s son from the time she was ten. I’m not giving away prizes for guessing which city that was in. This girl came from a very conservative family and I do not believe she owns a pair of jeans to this day. I also know of one other girl who was so brutally raped 10 years ago while she was walking back home at 5.30pm from her coaching classes by a bunch of drunk college men, she didn’t speak for a month and has been so scarred, that to this day, has never been in a relationship and intends to remain unmarried and adopt a daughter.

Majority of women, all over the country, have been victims of groping and fondling at one point or the other. I realize ‘majority’ is a strong word. But when I confided my stories to female friends for the first time, I got to hear more stories, and many that were more horrifying than mine. The point I want to make here is, men who rape don’t look at clothes or age or what time of the day it is. They don’t care much for sobriety either – theirs or the woman’s. Today, I can deliver a fully powerful round house kick to the toughest of my friends, but not all women are capable of even building up the psychological strength to resist. Do you know why? It’s because women aren’t taught how to attack men who attempt to rape them; we are taught how to avoid getting raped by covering ourselves up.

The first time I was groped, I was wearing a pinafore with socks pulled up to my knees and I stood barely taller than the guy’s hips. The second time, the only part of me that wasn’t covered was my face – I had full sleeves on. The multiple other times men have hooted, whistled, grabbed and pulled what they could hold, I’ve worn a salwar, a saree, and mostly jeans. I’ve constantly been teased for being too fair by Indian standards, so I’ve always been conscious of putting my legs on display, so I almost never wore skirts or capri pants or shorts.

Indian society today has such confused idealisms and opinions about sex that it is becoming increasingly difficult for teenagers and uneducated citizens to understand just what and how much is acceptable. On the one hand, we outrage against rape, and on the other hand, we glorify different kinds of sexual acts in our music videos, words and imagery that leads young men to believe women enjoy being treated nastily. This is where the educated adults of the society step in and teach their children and spread awareness about what is right and wrong. Women dressing how they want drinking alcohol and dancing with men they like of their own volition is not something to be judged, but men harassing women who have no interest in them by singing and dancing and chasing them against their will is. There’s no two ways about it — it is blind and wrong to encourage men chasing after unwilling women in movies, it is foolish to tell women to cover up to be safe, and it is highly irresponsible to not teach daughters how to be safe and sons how women are not safe.

There are two issues that need to be addressed here. Firstly, rape is WRONG. As someone who understands the distinction between consensual sex and rape, it is our responsibility to stop rape if it occurs. It is also our duty to push for the government to understand that what women wear and which part of the sky the sun is at are not factors that govern a rapist’s mind. It is also important for individual women to accept that very fact, which brings me to my next point, what women should be taught if you really want to teach them to prevent getting themselves raped. Women need to learn how to defend themselves, irrespective of what they are wearing. It is our responsibility, man or woman, to encourage women around us to learn some self defense and carry a pepper spray. Look for self-defense classes in your area. You can get a mace or pepper spray at Amazon or eBay. I never carried that safety pin because I was afraid I might get in trouble for hurting someone. But I’m not seventeen anymore and I am not afraid. Public brawls in India are perfectly legal, if you go by what you see around you, and hence a woman hitting out at a man in self defense is NOT wrong. Techniques like the ones in this short video are very powerful and easy to learn:

There are isolated cases where the man comes back with more thickheaded trolls, but that is (as far as I know, please feel free to tell me if I am wrong) an exception, and it always gives you time to be better prepared. I am writing solely for the women in cities who have the capability to read this off their computers or phone screens; and not for women in villages who run the risk of becoming an acid-attack victim if they defend themselves. I have not lived in a small village, and what I write does not apply to girls who’ve been working as laborers since they were fourteen, or women who are stalked by spurned lovers and ex boyfriends. Educated Indian women are constantly asked to build themselves up to be dainty princesses who will one day be whisked away by their NRI prince. If women’s equality applies to working rights, it equally applies to the capability to protect oneself from getting raped, no matter how they are dressed. Women in cities have many self defense classes and products at their disposal, they just need to be searched for and bestowed attention upon.
And Delhi and Gurgaon are definitely cities- cities where men are still not afraid of raping. If rape was prevalent in cities only after 8pm and only women who wore short skirts, went to bars and drank alcohol were victims, I’m sure women would have learned years ago and there would be virtually no rapes today. Women need to help prepare themselves and men who rape need to be stopped. The point is not open for debate. Preventing women from going out would be counterproductive, if one goes by the police’s argument. If rapes occur after 8 and you ask women to try not to be outside after 8, the few women who still are outside are at a higher risk of getting raped. The reasoning, while in good intention, defies all logic. The police could increase their own employment rate by increasing women’s security after 8pm. And to the Delhi and Gurgaon police who still refuse to see reason, I ask, “Aap ki maa behen nahi hai kya?”

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21 comments on “I, Grope, Rape, and the Indian Police

  1. Karthik Ragubathy

    *sigh*

    This is wrong on so many levels. Every time I used to see such news on TV, I would feel pity for the victim and be thankful that no one close to me has had to endure this. But after the recent cases, I have come to understood that many choose not to reveal it.

    I don’t know what to say. You look at the reactions and you wonder what country you are in. Police men ask women to cover up and be in home before 8 pm.

    All I can do is *sigh*

    1. admin

      The tricky part is, no solution works. Every single problem our country faces goes back to corruption. If the law enforcers and government is more effective and stringent(including providing education, safety and social acceptance), we would be in a much better situation. The best thing to do is take the situation in our own hands, individually.

  2. Tejas

    I have read a bunch of reactions to the recent events on blogs. This is by far the best!
    Very very fair! *doffs hat*

    1. admin

      Thank you, Tejas. I feel the most practical thing to do, instead of shifting the blame to one sex or another, is to deal with the situation effectively, seeing the government isn’t helping effectively.

  3. Tejas

    Absolutely! Self help (if one may use that term) is the best help here – our cultural degradation has been such that the Police are always going to shove the blame on the ladies and ask them to stay indoors. Let’s at least start with pin pricks on anyone who dares to grope.

    I’m glad that such reasonable heads exist. Some of the reactions have been downright appalling.

  4. Male-O-Drama

    I was googling incidents of groping and rape in india and that’s how I stumbled on your post. Though I have not personally witnessed any incident of groping, there is no denying that girls experience such undesired incidents. I agree with you that no solution works because:
    1. Girls are taught to cover themselves up, to protect themselves from such incidents, but not to fight back thr criminals.
    2. Corruption in the administration and faulty policies.

    Here at West Bengal, Hon. CM, Ms. Mamata Banerjee has declared a scheme of Rs. 30,000/- to every rape victim. And I am confused because I don’t have any clue how this amount is going to save a girl from further rapes. Wouldn’t it have been better to ensure that school girls receive free self defence trainings like karate, to make them physically strong?

    1. Sandrova

      I agree with you. Monetary compensation has no value in cases of rape or aid in preventing rapes in the future. Having self defense as a part of school curriculum should be as mandatory as having sports as a part of school life. Violence against women has been prevalent in our country for so long, and yet nothing’s changed. It’s a sad state of affair.

  5. rrr

    So true when you say majority of women have through groping at least once in their life… The first time spoke about My experience it was to a a bunch of female best friends… Surprisingly each and everyone of them had an experience to share, the only difference in my story and theirs was that was able to punch the guy square on his nose and make him run away.
    I completely agree with you..
    Trying to change millions of men is much more difficult than trying to educate billions of women about self defense…

    1. Sandrova

      I agree. While other solutions about changing the society and fixing the men take time, self defense is the easiest to implement at the moment. Like I said there, I’m really surprised self-defense classes haven’t sprung up at every street corner.

  6. Alien

    Yo there! humans are shit, Don’t worry i will end this world soon. Humans are just a stardust i hope everyone understands that.

    1. Sandrova

      Can’t wait for you to end the world, Nanu Sherlock. 🙂 Nice name.

  7. ravi

    I am ravi frm tn. I agree the girls are the major victims but at the same time even boys are. I have been sexually molested at my 3rd stnd by my aunts daughter. I dnt know even it is wrong or crct. I dnt even care to tel anyone.
    But now i am 21 , now i can tel how bad i am physcologically affected. I cant beleive any girl….i had a bad opinion towards everyone(girls). God gave me some beauty due to that during my teens girls frm my clas often stare at me and try to talk 2 me. Its a usual thing for everyone. But i thought their only intention is sex and i dnt even talk to them properly. Jst reply tats all. Even at my 19 i was groped by a girl may be 25 or 27 in bus while cmg frm chennai. I didnt yell bcoz i thought she wud get into a worse situation and felt pity..later i told the incident to my gf and she scolded me for not shouting at the girl.
    It took me nearly 10years to realize this and my god gifted gf helped me . She just made me realize not every girl or women are alike and most of the girl is like my mom and sis bcoz i love my mom and sis. Now i am slowly renewing my character . Stil i want 2 go a longer way to chnge completely. Even a small childhood molestation wud afect a child phsycologically.
    Thank god.
    I conclude tat not only men are molestors but women too but less since they are physically weak and afraid. If god has created women in place of men i cant guess how world wud be…

    1. Sandrova

      I’m very sorry to hear about your experiences. I agree that men are molested too. However, the incidences are very low (as far as I am aware) as compared to women being molested and raped. However, that does not take away the horror of such an experience. I’m glad you came out of it unscathed.

  8. VC

    Hi.. quite remarkable and unbelievable, did u write this before or after the infamous delhi girl’s fate?

    To your point, rather there aren’t any female schools coming up ! not true of the opposite gender

    Until girls rise up, come forward to boycott the indian traditional marriage system, no obliging parents would let their toddlers go for it either.

    @Alien, thinking destructively is so quick n simple.

    Human Challenge is to really come out with constructive solutions than give up

    1. Sandrova

      VC, I wrote this three years ago. The Delhi case just brought attention to a habit that’s widely prevalent in our society. Abolishing of arranged marriage, unfortunately, is not the solution here at all. It’s the patriarchy.

  9. anand

    hey what is the problem in groping?? you must understand that groping and raping is different…groping is done for only some time.. without sex ..and groping does not need any nakedness….it is a harmless fun upto a certain limit….but if it goes above the limit…it becomes a serious issue…

    1. Sandrova

      You’re kidding, right? How or why would it be fun for me to be groped?

    2. Komal Charan

      Would you like to get groped by an enuch? Tell the same shitty logic to urself when you are getting groped by them.

  10. Aditya

    Hi,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been recalling those incidents, let alone facing them. I had worked on translation of Police intervies a while back that mentioned very similar incidents. I feel there are a number of reasons why these things are happening and have been for a long time. Some are just down to shitty individuals who are born that way, no amount of education or parenting can prevent them in engaging in such acts. Some, as you correctly pointed out can be averted by proper parenting and upbringing, however, it’s blasphemous to even criticize any parent in India. There’s no clear solution to this problem. My point is, I want women to be safe. I have friends who work late, hang out late with coworkers, I always advice them to be careful, to avoid traveling alone, because you can’t change the world overnight, there are shitty humans and there always will be. I would advise the same regardless of every new incident that takes place in this country that continues to remind us that it’s not safe. And simple precautions may prevent some incidents. It’s sad that this has to be advised.

  11. Pingback: Sexual assault, immoral society, and the importance of self-defence

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