Who are we fooling?

It is sad, isn’t it, how we (by *we* I speak for us women) allow certain things to become a part of our life no matter how disgusting it is? Why do we do this? Why do we allow it to happen? Because from very early on we are made to believe, like gospel, that they are bound to be there and it’s in our hands to keep ourselves away from those things. We and solely we are responsible for ourselves. Those things aren’t in the wrong place. They are bound to be there you see! It’s us who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. And if something untoward is to happens to us, we have noone but ourselves to blame. Because they are bound to be there, you see! So we aren’t supposed to bring ourselves to a situation where they would just get attracted like ants would to sugar!

And time and again we are told this. Blamed for this. So we just ignore and move on and thereby allow those sickening behaviors to move along with us too.

Grope, molest, abuse..these are terms we have grown up listening to, and experiencing even. I think we’d be lying if we say that none of us have gone through it at some point in our lives. We have. Sometimes subtly and a lot of times in a pretty obvious and crude manner.

I have been reading on social media platforms lot of stories of abuse and molesting from fellow women. A lot of them have poured out in angst, many of them recounting their own brush with sexual harassment. Believe me, they brought some gory memories of my own rolling back.

I was 12 or 13 when this fellow, with a big shawl draped around him, walked towards me every morning on my way to school, and flashed at me every time we crossed paths! I was in my school uniform, and not some highly revealing clothes for that sicko to behave in such a manner. I hadn’t asked for it in any way. He had flashed, repeatedly at that for days, out of his own dirty will.

On another occassion, while walking to a friend’s place, a biker zoomed past me squeezing my breast! All I could manage to let out was a screech which I am pretty sure he didnt even care to hear.

Then there was a man, who kept groping me from behind my seat in a bus. I couldn’t raise an alarm because I wasn’t courageous enough. I kept kicking him with my elbow till the time I heard a yelp out of him. I had hurt him back.

Then, once a neighbour, in his 60s, came over to my house at a time when he was fully aware that my parents weren’t home and started giving me sex education!

Another time, on my way back from work, a man kept touching himself while looking at me in a DTC bus. I felt naked and utterly disgusted to say the least!

I’ve lost count of the number of times a hand out of nowhere has brushed against my body in the most inappropriate manner. Now before anyone comes in defense saying it could be unintentional, let me tell you that we women know the difference. We do! So lets cut it out.

Much worse than any of the above incidents is one that stands out in my memory much as I have tried to erase it..

I had my first brush with abuse when I was 5. I have never shared it here. I think now is an apt time to do so. An uncle of mine, who used to stay with us, used to sexually abuse me in the most unassuming manner. Now I say unassuming because I never realized that I was being abused. I don’t even remember resisting or fighting. I was under some kind of spell where I didn’t know what was happening. Hell, I was 5, how was I to know!

Back then sadly, small kids weren’t ever educated about good touch & bad touch, so it never really struck my parents to tell me about it either. Moreover they obviously didn’t know that their trust was being crushed by this man they considered family. And it wasn’t such a common topic to talk at home either. Let’s face it..it was still taboo to talk about your private parts and stuff out in the open.

Anyway over the years I built a wall to put a cover to the gory episode. Fortunately or unfortunately I learned to push it to the back of my mind. Never completely erase it but. It took me years to break that wall and confide in my husband and parents.

When I became a parent and sensed that this man and so many like him could potentially sneak his dirty hands into my daughter’s space as well, I vowed never to let her make this mindset a part of her life.

Now all these incidents and more make me reiterate to myself and realize how rampant it is.

Yet we have come to treat it all as part of our lives because we are told or made to believe that ‘not all men’ are like this, so we better not make a big deal out of it, right? We are muzzled again. And again.

Fact is that there are scores n scores of men out there with their lascivious intentions in every nook and corner, in every walk of a girl’s life to make her cringe, disgust her, scar her, affect her far more than we’d like to believe. So let’s not fool ourselves and brush this fact under a convenient rug and say #notallmen are like that.

Maybe not all men. But all women go/have gone through abuse, molesting, groping in some form or the other. It’s high time we stopped treating this as “part of our lives”

The sooner we realize this the better for us and our children.

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One month on…

..since the gruesome incident in Delhi that shook us all from within, has anything changed?

Well, going by the stats, nothing much..

Every day there are more and more such incidents of brutality being reported causing us all grave concerns and making us wonder if ever there will be a time when our women would feel safer and freer in this world.

We are still as angry, as seething, as outraged as ever.

There still are morons amongst us who shamelessly showcase their narrow mindsets by uttering innuendos like, ‘she asked for it’, or ‘she should not have ventured out so late in the night’, or ‘rapes are on the rise because men and women are interacting with each other more frequently’ or ‘girls should stop wearing jeans, skirts or anything that is remotely western’, ‘girls must wear over-coats in order to avoid getting raped’!!!

What blows me off further and makes me cringe with disgust is when I hear people say that the 23 year old girl should have given up fighting while the rapists were ripping her apart since they were far stronger than her. “She should have just laid there and enjoyed the ride” was what an acquaintance had to say while we had a discussion on the incident. How pathetically sickening is that mindset!

Its a shame that even in today’s day and age we get to hear of our ministers blaming the ‘adverse positions of the stars’ for the crimes against women! Or those spiritual-gurus who believe that women could ‘save’ themselves if they addressed the rapists as ‘bhaiyya’ and plead for mercy..or those illusional sadhus who impart the message that chanting a few mantras would keep the rapists and the probable danger of getting raped at bay!

Here when the need of the hour is to impart the right kind of education to our children and creating more awareness in them about safety and self-defense, we are being urged to let our beliefs be governed by such regressive ideas like chanting mantras and getting our stars re-positioned et al? Are we in the 21st century still?

We still seem to be as helpless as ever.

The protests to bring about more stringent laws, the cries to treat our women with more respect and be more sensitive..havent any of this moved us in any which way to enable us to change the way we think or behave?

Well, I do see a small gleam of hope..

For one, the very fact that we are still talking about it, writing about it is a sign of change. It still is a major major talking point in my house, among our friends and family. So much so that I was surprised to see one of my friends’ 12 year old taking part in the conversation and putting her thoughts across. To my eyes, it was a good sign that our youngsters were as affected, aware and concerned too.

More and more of us are awakening to the fact that we cannot let the pressing issues of safety of women be swept under the carpet anymore. We are taking our right to question the authorities and demand answers from them more seriously which is evident in the way committees are being set up by the government to expedite the case, more policemen are being put on the roads.

More and more incidents are being reported which again a good sign because, while its extremely distressing that these incidents are still rampant, what is also noteworthy is that THESE ARE BEING REPORTED.

Yes, we need to move on, as I keep hearing from people. Life is about moving on, yes..but it does not have to be about forgetting, does it? Let us not forget what the 23 year old brave girl went through on that fateful night. Let us not forget how brutal those 6 rapists were. Let us not, for a second, forget how terribly weak we as her fellow beings, were when we just stood there as meek spectators while she and her friend lay on the road naked, mercilessly battered and bruised. Let us not forget that the one desire she had all the while fighting to stay alive was to see her perpetrators being punished.

Let us not forget that we are now beyond that stage where we could be complacent enough to think ‘such things would never happen to us’.

So yes, let us move on.. but with a purpose. The purpose to keep talking about these issues. To stop being weak. To keep demanding accountability from (ir)responsible politicians and authorities. To keep talking to our kids. To keep listening to them, to keep hearing their concerns for we never what they may have to tell us. To start teaching our boys to respect our girls, to keep telling our girls to command that respect. To keep teaching them to say NO to bullying, eve-teasing or any form of abuse. To keep encouraging our girls to defend themselves, get them to learn some form of self-defense. To keep demanding for more stringent law-enforcements, to start promising ourselves that we will speak up, raise our voices and reach out to help, even if the person in trouble is someone we may/not know.

I realize that I am parroting what has already been said, what is already being said. But I still do, because the way I see it, the more you talk about it, the more it will stay in your memory, the more you feel agitated, driven to change your own mindset, compel other around you to change their own.

Another voice against Domestic Violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Solilo,Smitha,IHM,Lakshmi,Hypermom,Swaram have each written a post on domestic violence and done their bit to spread the awareness. Passionate Goof,even touched upon a relevant issue of child abuse to tell us all about how grave and sensitive the situation is.

After reading each of their take, I didnt think there was anything left for me to contribute.They had voiced their concerns in a much better way than I could have mine.

But a simple gesture by my daughter,yesterday,made me sit up and think of not only those children who were being abused but also those who were being affected by simply witnessing their loved ones being abused.

R and I got into an argument about something as trivial as buying a furniture.The argument went on for a bit longer than usual. Eventually we reached a consensus and the matter was pushed aside. Namnam, was doing her own thing in her room, so we were pretty much sure that she didnt care much about what had transpired between us.

The day was being spent just as usual. Nothing noticeable. But what I didn’t fail to notice was how Namnam was being extra careful in making sure R & I joined her in whatever she did,together. Whether it be painting, or playing badminton, or watching television, or simply running around the house. She even insisted,at one point that R & I played badminton with each other and she watched us play. Even while I was busy doing my chores, she dragged me midway to join her while R read us stories !

And then the most beautiful thing happened. Namnam simply got up and asked me & R to say ‘I love you’ to each other. The minute we said that and turned to look at her, she threw herself on us to hug tightly and said ,’I love you too’! The look of sheer happiness on her face is inexplicable. It was as though all her efforts had been paid off.

This is when it was clear that she did care about the argument that ensued between R & me earlier in the day. I realized how important it was for her that her parents loved each other just as she loved them .
If one slight argument between her parents could affect a 3year old , imagine the plight of those children who must be witnessing their mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent or even a friend being abused mercilessly day in and day out in front of their eyes .

Almost all of us have come across cases where women are beaten black and blue, raped , paraded naked in public. Where men are tortured no less. Where young girls are caged and raped for years by their own fathers. Where young boys are sodomized or forced into male prostitution. Where aged are thrown out of homes by their own children like dirt. Where small children are physically and mentally tortured by their monster-high-expectations-ridden-parents! Not just one,but every section of our society is susceptible to the dangers of Domestic Violence.

It also includes those who silently witness abuse being meted out to their loved ones.They are as much the victims.

One way to combat and condemn this menace is by spreading awareness about the same and letting the victims know its not their destiny. They have every right to change it.The Bell Bajao campaign is a movement in the right direction to bring domestic violence to an end. So are the efforts of so many of us bloggers who are spreading word by writing about it.

I do not know how far and wide this drive to spread awareness will reach.But if even one person realizes that there is an option to call out for help,then,in my opinion the intention is well served.

Today is the last day of the month, however let this not be the end of our drive towards living in a world sans domestic violence. Keep spreading awareness.