Situation: Rush hour, pfff, groan. Creased attire. Hurting ankles, why did you wear heels? Yet you manage to squeeze into a jam-packed train. Sweaty bodies, a swerve to the left and a sea of human contact; swerve to the right and the same. A 'man' lets you hold on to the bar to get a grip. You thank him and heave a sigh of relief simply because you won't collapse onto the sea of humanity when the train swerves again. You're thinking of how well the day went, of the hot cup of Darjeeling you'll make as soon as you kick these darned shoes off, your TV shows to download and watch over the weekend. And that's when you feel it! That uninvited human touch, creepy and and forced. You've felt it before so many times, on your thigh crawling up. You look around you, it's the 'man' you thanked for some bar space, you stare furiously to ward off the creep. It stops for a few seconds. Sigh of relief tinged with humiliation. A new stop for the train, few commuters get off and more storm in. He didn't get off. He's right behind you now. Will it happen again? Minutes go by. It does. This time he aims higher and you feel that prickly touch on you bottom. You turn around, angered and yell. But what comes out of your mouth is a simple "Are you trying to grope me!". A few people notice and the 'man' slithers away unapologetically. Sounds like the everyday story of a woman commuter in Bombay right? Yes. But surprise! this happened in Paris. To me.
Post-situation : On reaching home, angry at myself
a) for allowing a stranger humiliate me again.
b) for not having done anything to change how I felt, e.g France being a country controlled fervently by strict rules, I know I could have had justice if I took the ‘man’ down to the gendarmerie.
c) for having let down all the other voiceless women that this man will abuse in the near future.
At home I told Monsieur S. about the incident and his first response was « maybe it was an accident, people fumble in crowds you know ». Flashback to when I told my mum a few years ago about a similar encounter. « Maybe it was just an accident, forget about it. You can’t do anything about this menace. » ha ! That’s when I realized, I have been wired to accept a treatment like this. I am conditioned to be victimized and the people around me find excuses to overlook it. Me and millions of another women across the planet face this plight. I took to the internet to diagnose the mind of a groper and his victims. I wasn’t surprised to find hundreds of fetish videos and a meager number of victims talking about this. What I failed to see is action being taken against the offenders.
Diagnosis : Sitting at my desk now, brooding over my fifth cup of Darjeeling tea, I’m trying to come to terms with what happened. With me and the ‘man’. Note that I have used quotation marks for the word ‘man’, to indicate the irony of this word. Man is defined as a human being, a person, in the dictionary. A person is distinguished from an animal and his behavioural patterns are conditioned by society. Sex offenders look to humiliate, anger and endanger their victims. There is no society that aspires such hazards for its members. Hence the sex offender is present in society but devoid of behavioural patterns. He is nothing but an animal. Like any animal, he is looking for a prey.
How did I become easy kill ?
Primary reason is that society failed to lock up this dangerous animal in it’s cage. Think about it, how many sex offenders are roaming the streets right now. On trains, buses, school grounds, waiting to molest, rape, grope your sister, your brother, your daughter, you ? Are our laws strict enough ? The rate at which this incidents take place, has assured us that they aren’t.
The second reason is me, the victim. I knew exactly what was happening to me and I knew I didn’t like it. Yet I kept mum. After giving this deep thought, I realized that courage is a cultural issue. In India we have a twisted belief that a woman has to respect the ‘man’. We are definitely outgrowing these beliefs but are we developing courage ? I, like millions of strong (I’d like to belive) Indian women, readily gave up these outdated and untrue customs. But I forgot to insert candour and courage as a replacement. Thus I was able to clearly identify the problem, understand that it was unwelcome, know what to do about it but not how to act.
The final reason for being victimized is the lack of communication. How many women speak about this ? I'm not talking about spur of the moment emotions, screaming at the ‘man’ and slapping him. I mean talking about how you’ve felt about these incidents, days, months or even years after they’ve happend to you. How many of us let these animals strip us of our dignity for a moment, for years, for life and then do nothing about it ? Why do we continue to think that it’s okay to keep quite and ashamed about this ? That like our boyfriends and mothers, force ourselves to believe that these were accidents. Some dare say that they we were the reason this happened e.g "you shouldn’t have worn a skirt", "you shouldn’t have laughed so loud on the bus", "you shouldn’t have been walking so late at night", you shouldn’t have.. lived your life ?
This stops NOW ! Simone de Beauvoir said « One is not born a woman, one becomes one ». Noone should tell you how you have to be ! You know or will decide that for yourself. What you wear and what you do in YOUR life should not be a reason to discriminate or humiliate you. We need to realize that these animals are playing out a fantasy in their head. A simple sex offense is infact a means to an end. It will lead to rape, torture and ofcourse murder if that the fantasy is not played out in it’s full lusty glory. The groper is never apologetic, and your furious reaction will only stop him for a while or excite him even more. In my case, the ‘man’ tried to molest me twice and if I hadn’t said a thing the second time who knows what he could have done. I genuinely regret not having taken advantage of France’s justice system. I could have saved a few other women from a similar traumatizing experience. My advice to all women is speak up. Act. React.
Carrying candour around is not easy but I know I will try along with the rest of humanity. What you do, directly affects those around you. Hence in the future, I will
try to stand up for myself, even if it means making a scene. I read this quote in the book Hope against Hope by Nadezhda Mandelstam and I think we need to apply it to our lives. « I decided it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity ».
You have the right to!