Ayshwarya – Gender woman Was: a victim City: BITS Pilani college campus

 
 

Gender woman

Was: a victim
City: BITS Pilani college campus
Was wearing Jeans and Shirt
Reaction: Reacted (yelling, complaining, slapping, fighting back)

Incident was : One time

Perpetrator was a Stranger and aged Less than 20

Experience:
It was a cool and pleasant evening. My friend and I were walking from a university building to a restaurant on campus to meet friends. We were passing the sports center engrossed in conversation when we were suddenly accosted by a group of young men. They were not students. They appeared to come from the small town outside the college campus. They cornered in on us, cussing, asking for the time and shoving.There was playfulness and enjoyment in their eyes. I was quite terrified by the unexpected contact and my initial reaction was to pull back. My friend was bolder. She yelled and we made our way through them. We started looking around for security guards we might alert. My initial reaction kept ringing back in my mind – terror. Just a few minutes ago, I had frozen, unable to take in the situation quickly enough to logically think and act. I thanked my friend and wondered what I would have done if alone.

We found a few hostel security guards and alerted them. We gave them descriptions of the men, the color of the clothes they wore and that one of the men was wearing a red cap. We then headed to the restaurant. In 20-30min, one of the security guards came looking for us.  They had caught some men and wanted us to identify. When we went to one of the institute buildings where all the men were held, we saw that we were not the only girls harassed. Another girl, who was on a bike, had been confronted from the front and behind; she somehow pulled the courage to ride through them. This was not a single man, rather a bunch of tall men who I doubt we could ever physically overpower. Once we identified them, the security guards beat them black and blue and some of the men started bleeding. At that time one of the men yelled out “sorry didi – maaf kar deejiye”(Hindi, translates to: sorry, older sister – please forgive us). That’s when I looked at the record of their identities and realized that these were high school kids from a nearby village who came in when the college campus gates had opened in anticipation of guests from outside. What were these high school boys thinking and experiencing? Why was this so much fun? We were however happy at the genuine concern that the security guards had for our safety and their quick management of the situation.

Quite disturbed and concerned about the general campus safety for girls, I made an appointment to complain to the relevant Dean the next day. Appreciating the quick response the previous night, I appealed that we need some sort of mechanism to increase the safety on campus for girls. He said there was n’t much to be done since they have security guards on most locations. He recommended that we learn martial arts. I was a bit offended by the suggestion. So now, I had to prepare myself for this emergency – that it was taken for granted that as a girl I must be warrior-trained for harassment on my college campus. I remember calling my parents and narrating with great exasperation the insensitivity to the issue – some sort of helplessness which seemed avoidable. Since my initial reaction to such a situation seemed to be fear and terror, I don’t know how any physical training could have overcome my emotional numbness in that moment…..

Looking back, it would have been worthwhile for a group of us including our male classmates to have gone into high schools around campus to speak to students on gender issues, about safety and sexual harassment. We could have helped hold workshops and group activities, involving both girls and boys on making our societies safer. But we were also kids then…away from home, not many years beyond high school and coming to terms with our own fears and insecurities. Maybe something for us to think of now as alumni.

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