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I feel ashamed to have been that individual who used to stare at women until getting caught in the act. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. I didn’t realize the crime I was committing until a while ago. I don’t know how many people I’ve made feel uncomfortable just by staring at them. It took me a while to become cautious about this and change my actions accordingly.

Currently heading the IBMS project which aims to fight against gender based violence by encouraging survivors to break their silence, I realized it is important that I break my silence too. Not as a survivor, but as a bystander.

As a straight male, it is quite natural that I get attracted to the opposite sex and I do tend to admire them. It is also natural for humans to have their eyesight reach for reproductive organs or selective body parts. But there is a thin line of difference between looking and staring, between acknowledging the charm and committing a crime.

A lot of people still connect this with the kind of clothes an individual tends to wear. Some might wear clothes in which they are comfortable, some might want to reveal their skin to seek attention but that should never provoke you to either stare, touch or objectify someone else just as much as you wouldn’t walk into any random house just because all houses have welcome door mats.

This is not always about men staring at women. I’ve heard, witnessed and experienced even otherwise. Women staring at men, men staring at men, locals staring at foreigners, bystanders staring at transgenders and the list goes on. I have tried speaking about this to a couple of friends who have refused to accept that staring is a crime. And that’s when I realized how deeply rooted this heinous crime is, in our culture. We need to change our mindsets and we need to understand the mistake that we are committing.

We need to realize that staring is a form of violence wherein by staring we tend to make an individual uncomfortable and we tend to hurt their privacy. Some perpetrators do stare with the eyes of a predator and it is disgusting to see that even as a third person. Extended, blank-faced staring at another human is a hard-wired to be perceived as a threat by the person being stared at.  It’s instinctive & it provokes a feeling akin to a fight or flight response.

I will continue to look at women who I find attractive but I will dare not objectify them or stare at them. If you find your eyes being drawn at someone for some reason, do look at them and smile genuinely but if you don’t find it being reciprocated, turn away.

And it is not too late to acknowledge this and change our behaviour accordingly. If we aim at making this world a comfortable place and if we aim at gender equality, then it is time we start speaking about such things. It is time, we become the change.

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“I didn’t think women could rape until it happened to me.”
On the way back from my friends party. It was 1 in night. My friends were getting late. So we decided that I will get down at Dwarka Bus stand and these guys would rush back to respective places.
To our surprise bus stand had a few guys standing thereby. So they dropped me there and drove ahead. As I approached the bus stand, I was welcomed with uncomfortable and eerie stares. The group of guys approached me and started questioning and beating . ” Tu kaun hai? Ye humara ilaka hai” .(Who are you? This is our area.)
I was flabbergasted. I could not understand anything till a car came.  The black Mercedes with lady in her forties came to my rescue. She saved me from them and took me to a posh hotel.
I could smell something fishy. I got straight to her. “Main wo nai hun jo aap soch rahi hain.”  (I am not like what you are thinking.)
She was probably high. She forced me. I declined vehemently. She forced……
 I was shattered. But I could not express for I am a “man” in this male chauvinist society. And the male thing I was forced to do should be something to be proud of for “Men can never get raped”
*Name has been changed on request.
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When we talk about rape, the discussion almost always revolves around the victim. What was she wearing? Was she alone? What was she doing out late at night? Was she under the influence of alcohol?

We barely talk about the rapist here. Why did he do what he did? What was going on in his mind? Is it possible that he was also abused?

Nisha Lilia Diu from The Telegraph spoke to a sex offender and her spine chilling conversation takes one to the dustiest corners of a rapist’s mind.

46-year-old Ravi (name changed on request) got a rape conviction and 2 indecent exposure convictions when he was young. He claims that he started offending when he was all of 15. Here are excerpts from Nisha’s conversation with him:

“I didn’t have much of a conscience about it when I was younger. I was just out to get what I wanted, damn everybody else.”

 

Ravi talks about how all he wanted was sex – so he just grabbed random women and got it. He shares how being part of a rebellious crowd doing drugs and not giving a damn about school led him into this life. “I had lots of relationships, but I wouldn’t describe any of them as romantic. I was looking for one thing: sex. That’s what my life was about when I was that age, chasing girls,” he says.

Other factors that led to this behaviour were being obsessed with pornography and sex. He says that he offended because it was exciting and he felt powerful.

“It gave me a certain feeling of power over that person. I wouldn’t have said it then, but it’s obvious to me looking back that I was lost and out of control.”

Ravi also shares about his bad experiences of sexual abuse when he was a kid. This was another reason for him to go a step ahead and offend. A feeling of power or control was what he craved for.

 

The 46-year-old also opens up about raping his girlfriend in 2001. “We’d been arguing and she’d left the house for a while and when she came back… I was very drunk. I forced her into the bedroom. I didn’t plan it. I still don’t completely understand why I did it. But I have a better sense of what triggers this behaviour in me now. I was under a lot of financial stress at the time. I wasn’t feeling good about myself. And I was drinking too much, which didn’t help. Now, I try not to drink at all,” he says.

On life in prison and the kind of people he met there:

From doctors to pilots, there are all types of men in there. Ravi goes on to talk about the sex offenders wing in prison and the kind of people he met there and also opens up about the abuse that he faced as a kid.

“While I was in therapy in prison, I talked for the first time about what happened to me in my childhood. I was sexually abused for about 2 years, from when I was 7. I was abused by people who were friends of my family, a man and a woman, and I suspect that my family might have been aware of that.”

 

Ravi thinks it played a major role in his behaviour later. He claims that he felt powerless because of the abuse and could do anything to take charge once again.

However, not everyone in the prison was like Ravi. Some still thought that it was the victim’s fault – that they had lead them on.

So, what changed?

It took three separate stints in prison and 6 years of treatment and counselling to feel better. A treatment programme for sex offenders who return to the community called Circles helped too, he tells Nisha.

He says he still talks to volunteers at Circles for he knows that whenever he feels weak, he has someone to talk to instead of going crazy.

Ravi leads an almost normal life now. He even decided to be honest with his present girlfriend about his offences and he is glad that she took it well. It’s been a hard time for him, but he is finally out of the vicious cycle that offending had become for him.

Source – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11720655/Sex-offender-Why-I-became-one-and-started-raping-women.html

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Gender – Male

Was a victim. Incident was recurring.

Experience –

I was 4 years old when I went through a horrible sexual abuse at the hands of my servant. My father passed away when I was merely an year old. My mother moved to her parent’s house and started working as a teacher whilst my elder brother went to school. I lived with my grandparents at home. I used to have fits at the time so I joined school very late. My grandparents were very loving but too old to look after me like a parent does. Hence the servant capitalized upon the situation and molested me on almost a daily basis. I don’t even remember how many times it occurred. One day he was caught red handed and thrown out of the house. Then, I stopped interacting with people. I developed serious eating disorders that turned me into an enormous 92kg being at a tender age of 14. I studied in an all boys school and my childhood experience shuttered my social interaction with same sex people. I viewed them with suspicion and felt insecure. I grew up with no friends, mocked by family and peer groups for being fat and too ‘girly’. All this insult plunged me back into my dark past. I saw the reason behind my failures in my sexual abuse. I felt like a toy, who was treated for the sake of extracting pleasure and then broken into pieces. I loathed my every bit of body and every minute of existence was a nightmare. Never had I hated myself this much. In fact at times, I blamed myself for it. I thought I had invited them to assault me. It was a mental torture that I silently endured.

And as they say it, you are never alone. I found solace in a cousin of mine who ensured that I don’t give up. She gave me life. If she’s reading this, I want to tell her how much love and respect I have for her. She listened to my stories, my depression and hours of complaining. Finally I decided that if there’s anything that can change my life, it’s me. Therefore, I found my courage. I lost weight from 92 to 65 kgs. With that, I began to concentrate on the good things in my life. I also stopped treating myself as a victim and began to see myself as a survivor because I knew that I could have been in an even worse condition.

Lastly my message to all the survivors of sexual abuse out there is that you are not alone. Don’t blame yourself. The mindset and mentality of the disgusting person who did this to you is to blame. If you find someone who is going through the same, then please stand up for them and give them support. Take a step to break the chain of this heinous crime. Be proud of who you are! Remember, you can always make the best out of your worst experiences. Be strong!

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Gender – Male

City – Chandigarh

Saw the incident happening and acted as a bystander.

Experience :

This incident occurred while i was cycling near the IT Park area. I saw a group of guys in a white maruti chasing after a girl on an Activa and passing lewd comments. The girl came to a halt at a traffic light and so did the car.
I reached the light and as much as i wanted to help the girl, there was no way i could confront the guys in the car. They would have beaten me up. However it struck my mind that there is another way i can intervene in this situation.
I went up to the drivers side and there were 4 guys in the car. I started asking the driver, directions to a random address in the nearby area. I engaged him in the conversation long enough till the time the light went green for a long time ad the girl had disappeared in the distance. I finally thanked the driver and let him go, not before noting down his vehicle number. A few blocks down the road, i came across a Police Van and gave them the number.

I realized i could have just walked away from the situation and done nothing about it. The whole idea is that if we make such guys aware that they are being watched, and 70-80% of the time, they don’t have the guts to continue going on with the eve teasing. Its not always about confronting, there are smarter ways in which the situation can be dealt with.

I would urge everyone reading this to act when they can and not be bystanders to a situation.

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Gender Male

Was: a victim
City: Train
Was wearing shorts and shirt
Reaction: Moved away silently
Incident was: One time

Perpetrator was a Stranger and aged 30-40

Experience:
Just a brief about myself first…as a kid..I have always been shy type..I have been totally unaware of things or topics related to sex till quite a long time..and anything related to sex (scenes in english movies..or even rape scenes in hindi movies..which at that time were quite prominent)were considered quite inappropriate and made my parents change the channel ASAP!

Anyways…about the incident..Its been a long time…I was most probably going to Delhi with my dad (he had some medical check up)…and I must be around 10 or 11 years old..It was day time and I was sleeping on lower berth. There was this another uncle who most probably boarded the train from same station (as he has been sitting with us for a long time and had seat in same compartment), he also lied down on the seat as there was plenty of space there. Before that he had asked my dad to go and rest on top berth as he was not well that time. After some time I felt a hand on my thighs and slowly he was groping me. I was not aware of whats going on…as mentioned…I had no idea of all these things! So I kept my eyes closed as if I was sleeping (dont know why I did that!) and maybe that encouraged him and he tried sliding his hand up in my shorts. Luckily, the shorts were a bit tight maybe and he could not succeed in what he was trying.

All this time even when I had no idea of whats going on..I was a bit uncomfortable and after some time I acted as if I was waking up and he instantly removed his hand!

This incident was long lost in my memory and I somehow recalled it while reading the posts here. Luckily for me, this incident didnt traumatize me much and I later almosst forgot about it. Maybe the reason it didnt have much impact on me was my ignorance. Had I known that I was being abused at that time…or had I known what abuse is..then maybe this incident would have scarred me for life! I would say ignorance did protect me! But, having said that..somehow I still remember this incident and some parts are still crisp clear in my memory! Maybe, if I was not that ignorant kid, I would have shouted or screamed..or maybe would have just woken up..and that would have avoided this incident!

In our society, sex education to their children is something  which makes lot of parents feel awkward…but even if some parents do have “the talk” it is when the kid is grown up (and mostly knows a lot thanks to friends, etc.). I feel if the foundation of this topic is laid at a very early age and open communication is maintained..maybe a lot of such incidents could be avoided!Metro-North_train_1567_enters_Stamford

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Gender Male

Was: a witness

City: Chennai

Was wearing I don’t remember
Reaction: Helpless, Passively Endured

Incident was: One time

Perpetrator was a Friend or acquaintance and aged Less than 20

Experience:
I was in my 10th Standard and was returning from some classes in Ashok Nagar with a few of my classmates. We were three in the cycle in which we were riding. I was in the front, another classmate was riding the bike and a third one was in the back.
A few college girls were passing by and the guy sitting in the back started passing some comments on the girls. I was annoyed by his behaviour and got down from the cycle and started walking my way back when suddenly the other 2 guys turned around the cycle to

the direction in which the girls were going and started riding fast. When they got closer the bastards slapped the back of one of the girls and fled.
It was such a disgusting feeling as I had a sister back home who would have been as uncomfortable with such an incident.
I met those guys again the next day and gave them a lot of gyan on why they should not have done it …blah blah… but it never really sunk into their head…
For some weird reason I never severed relationship with these perverts until the early stages of my career and today looking at what they have done to their co-workers, family or others around I wish I realised that perverts should be made outcast as early as possible and not be allowed to mingle with the society.

My lesson from this is that if any of us find people around us who do not fit our moral values better stay away from them as they hardly change… I may be wrong and some may really change but I’ve not known anyone who has been a pervert in School days but changed later to be a

responsible and moral citizen.FINE ART PRINTS, CHILDREN

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Gender Male

Was: a victim
City: Chennai
Was wearing I don’t remember
Reaction: Helpless, Passively Endured
Incident was: Recurring

Perpetrator was a Neighbour and aged Less than 20

Experience:
Today, I’m a changemaker and try to bring about a positive change in the lives of children and young adults through education but I wasn’t always like this.
I was a below average student (medical reasons) and was always told how good people around are in their academic pursuits.
I was about 12 years old when I started facing sexual harassment at the hands of my neighbour who was in his late teens. He was supposed to be like a brother helping me with my academic shortcomings but in the absence of my anybody at our homes he would make be perform oral favours to him that I

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would not well comprehend in the initial days but soon I could sense it was not something that was meant to be. His next advancement was towards my sister who was about 3 years younger to me which I realised could be bad and started spending more time with this man so that his advances towards my sister could be checked. It worked but at the cost of severe mental trauma to me which has not allowed me to engage in any form of sexual encouters even after 18 years. He had to relocate to a different town for his post graduation and the abuse stopped in about a year but I cant imagine what could have happened to me if this man had continued living in my neighbourhood as a extended member of my family.
I put through this inspite of knowing that my parents are brave to confront anything head on if it affects us (I & my sister) as I was not sure how to communicate this awkward situation to my angle gaurdians who could not see through the evil thoughts and actions of their otherwise pious neighbour.child-abuse-1
This is not an isolated incident and over the years I’ve come across many such

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people living in our society who do this to kids irrespective of the gender. Had it not been for the moral education of my parents I would have turned to be one of those culprits myself!!! My study of psychology helps me understand the rationale that suppressed

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emotions become part of your character, especially if it is not addressed in a timely manner.

Unlike the US or many other countries we do not have a knowledge base of how to handle these issues. What HumanFirst should work towards is building a knowledgebase of possible problems and how to tackle them physically, emotionally and legally.

 

* Name changed on request

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Gender Male

Was: a victim
City: Main road in Chennai
Was wearing school uniform
Reaction: Helpless, Passively Endured
Incident was: One time

Perpetrator was a Stranger and aged 40-50

Experience:
What could possibly go wrong by just accepting a ride back home from school?

The incident happened when I was in high school (standard XI).  I was walking home from school when an old(ish) man with grey hair and riding a motorcycle, stopped and offered me a ride till the bus stop at the end of the road. I figured I was lucky that day since I had never got an offer from any stranger before, and I was in a hurry back home anyway; I accepted the ride. Halfway towards the bus stop, he asked me where my house was; I told him, and he replied that he is anyway going somewhere close by and he can drop me in a bus stop near my house. I agreed a second time, thinking that I was lucky after all.

However, soon after, in the middle of the road, he stuck his hand behind him, and started rubbing my genital organ. I resisted his advances, but I did not have the nerve to react or fight back. This went on for a little distance, and then he took my hand in front of him & forced me to rub his organ. I resisted a bit more, at which point he threatened me saying, “Don’t act like a good boy. I know what you do when you boys are alone.” (By the way, he spoke fluent English.) I was initially too stunned at that comment to react; slowly I mustered my courage and forced him to stop by threatening him that I will try to get the attention of a traffic cop standing nearby.

I got down immediately after he stopped the vehicle, but he didn’t let me go completely. He caught my hand, forced it up on his genitalia and asked me to squeeze it for him. “One hard squeeze, and I will let you go.” I was just thinking of getting out of there asap, so I first obeyed him instinctively. But he was not satisfied with my squeeze, asking me to tighten my grip more & more. When I couldn’t take it anymore after a stage, I just loosened my grip and repeated my warning that I will call for attention unless he lets me go. He relented finally, and I walked away.

Aftermath: I was quite shocked for a few days after the incident. Fortunately, however, the incident was rather brief, and it did not leave any long-term or disastrous impact on me. I do think about it from time to time, feeling embarrassed by my helplessness in that situation. Finally, this incident remained a complete secret for about seven years, until I told my friend last year. I did not know how to bring it up with my parents, friends, or teachers.Photo-on-2-22-13-at-6.26-PM

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Gender man

Was: a witnessabt_raghu
City: Mumbai train
Was wearing Chudithar/Salwar Kameez with dupatta
Reaction: Reacted (yelling, complaining, slapping, fighting back)

Incident was : One time

Perpetrator was a Stranger and aged 30-40

Experience:
I was in a train with a female friend of mine. In the moving train she suddenly started crying and I asked her what happened. She said the guy behind her groped her. I was wild and at the next station pulled the guy out and gave him a thrashing. He was sounding so aplologetic. I was gonna then let it go. Suddenly three of his mates came by and asked what happened. There was a transformation on his face which was remarkable. He stands up to me and said, “I will do it again and lets see what you do about it”. Till this time NO ONE on a busy Mumbai platform intervened. When my friend screamed and some people started moving towards them the hooligans ran away. I wonder how out of 1000+ people not even 10 muster courage

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to stop something like this.

Didnt even bother going to the police since would have got no response from them either. Just walked away. However if this incident or something like this happens in my presence I promise I will intervene and do something even then.

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