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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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To commemorate the birth anniversaries of Mohanlal Karamchand Gandhi, Annie Besant, and Lal Bahadur Shastri, the IBMS team initiated #Gender#EQUALITY campaign as a part of I Break My Silence Project at Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh. We had a chance to interact with the youth of the city and take their opinion about Gender Equality in the society.
There were variety of opinions. We interacted with 50 plus young people about their experiences and heard some heartbreaking stories. During an informal conversation, a guy shared he faced sexual harassment when he was four years old.
People were asked about Gender Equality as they have faced at their workplaces et al. The lady who looked in her fifties shared her stories of how she and her brother were differentiated as they were brought up. It was pretty shocking to see the youth also thinks women serving them an ancestral gift to the society.
While there were voices from oppressed men society as well. As how they need to pay bills to show chivalry, how the helmets are compulsory only for them etc.
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One of my relatives, age mjse 4 yr old. Mera Acha dost bn gya tha, like best friends. Sharing every matter, very frank. Used to talk so much on phones and sitting together. His mother once felt that we were wrong somewhere. Uski mother ne hmare ghr meri shikayat ki k mai glt hu. Bt us tym mai ghr mai sbke against khdi Ho gyi k aisa kuch nhi h. I m not wrong, even wo b glt ni h, ye log itni glt soch kaise rkh skte h we are brother sister.
Lekin kuch dino bad us ldke ne mere sath kafi jbrdsti ki, winter early morning mai uske sath bike p ja rhi thi. usne bike glt raste pr mod li, I couldn’t do anything. Maine bola use kai br bt wo ni mana. Mje smjh ni aya mai kya kru. Bhagu kaha koi dekhlega to kya kahega andhere mai akeli, chillane se koi help krne aa b gya to family reputation Ka kya hoga… and bs mai chup chap reh gyi. Agr ghr btaugi to b sb ab mje hi bolege kyuki phle Maine oppose kia tha is chiz Ka. Uske bad fir se usne emotional blackmail kia kafi, and usko ab ye kmzori pta lg chuki thi k mai kisi ko nhi bta paugi. Or ye sb kai bar hua. Usko jb mai ghr btane ki dhmki deti to wo kehta tha k mai ghr chhod k chla jauga ya suicide kr luga. Or mai fir sochti k uski maa p kya bitegi, uske ghr walo Ka kya hoga agr usne aisa kuch kia to. fir Maine ye sb apni ek frnd se share kia. Usne mje mummy ko btane k liye kafi force kia. Ab Maine ye sb mummy ko bta dia tha pr ab hr jgh mere upr boundations lga di gyi h kuch. Kai bar taane sunne ko milte h. jb tk btaya nhi tha tb wo sehna pd rha tha, Wo baat ander hi ander khati thi. Ab btane k bad kuch din relax feel hua bt ab kbhi b wo freedom nhi feel hoti ghr se wo respect nhi milti. Haan glti meri b rhi Maine moka dia koi action nhi lia… Pr Le hi ni pai… Ptani kaise ab itni himmt ai k Maine us ldke ko b warn kia hua h or mummy k sath share b kr dia, Shyd.apne frnds k sath share krne se… Ab mai sexual harassment se to safe Ho gyi hu bt boundaries lga di gyi h
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I was in class 3rd, In summer vacations Me,with my cousins(me being the only girl, I should rather say my cousin brothers) went for swimming classes. I had just started to learn and was enjoying it, until one day,when my swimming trainer took advantage of me.
There were few trainers assigned to us,an aged trainer(somewhere in late 40,may be) took the responsibility to teach me.And then one day,around 3 days later He took me to the corner of the swimming pool to the deeper side, where I had to take his support.(I was too young and new to swim in the deeper section all by myself)
He touched me down there,and continued doing that for few minutes. I was shaken, Nobody in my life had ever done that to me. But I didn’t know how to react. What to say , what to do ( I have not yet figured, what I could possibly do then).

He told me not to tell anybody,he made a point that I don’t dare think of it,he would warn me to take me to that corner and leave me to drown and nobody would ever suspect what has happened.

I always knew something is wrong, but could never share this with my cousins, they were kids too with little or no knowledge of things like this(May be). Or family, My mother had never discussed things like this with me ever before . I was a little kid, vulnerable,new to this world.

He did this to me everyday.It went for few good days in a row, I was traumatized for long.I could not sleep for days, and every thought of going back again to swim class the next day would kill me.But there was nothing I could do to it, I was helpless.
This continued for one good month, and then it could stop only when I finally decided to quit swimming. I could never tell my mother the reason.
I still have not. after so many years.

But, still any time I look back this one incident still breaks me deep inside, I could not do anything. I could never make him realize what has he done. I could not stop him from doing this to other girls, in fact not to me.

Molestation of any kind, can affect a person for lifetime. There is no way to get out of that bad feeling you carry with you for rest of your life.

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Gender – Female. Was a survivor. Was wearing jeans and shirt. Reaction was helpless and passively endured. Incident was recurring.

Experience :

Perhaps memories fade with time, but the emotions we go through don’t. They leave an impression on our minds, vague for some, but there. Perhaps ignorance is bliss. Then again perhaps not. Ignorance or denial for the matter is not a magic wand. For a long time I chose to hide away behind them and this I say with absolute certainty, it doesn’t help. I am a victim of sexual abuse, one among the many out there. It started at an age where I didn’t even know what it was. A man, old enough to be my father, touched me in the guise of helping me dress up for a function. I felt odd and to a large extent disgusted. What should I do when he touches me, it doesn’t feel right? What should I do when he tells me not to talk about it with anyone? Should I go to my parents, siblings, friends? I was too young to know the answers.

I did what a scared, confused child would do when confronted with a fear . . . I ran away. And I thought i was safe. But I wasn’t. And the worse part? This time I was unsafe at home, among my family. A man I should have been able to bank on—a family member, betrayed my trust by violating my personal space. I resented him. I was horrified, alone, frightened, revolted . . . perhaps just slightly in shock. Why wouldn’t I be? If family isn’t my safe space, whom do I fall back upon? What is my safety net? This tie I knew it was wrong. I understood the why but not the questions which haunted me years ago, came back to haunt me. Again, I had no answer.

I never spoke about it. And perhaps it did not hold me back in life, perhaps it did not stop me from living the way I liked, but it was always there . . . like a skeleton in the closet I refused to acknowledge.

Message :

Time and time again, I’ve gone through violations. Violations of my space, my body and my mind. When I finally found the courage to talk about it and break my long kept silence, I felt light. Like a burden had lifted off my shoulders. Like the world knew and there was nothing to hide. I realised the power of speaking up when we are violated and the strength and confidence it gave me to never let that happen to me again. Thanks to I Break My Silence for giving me a platform to vent, to simply speak up and come to terms with it….To make sure that the other thousands of  who are keeping silent are given the courage to live free, I say let’s come together and break our silence.

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DSC01178Gender woman

Was: a victim
City: On college campus/Pilani
Was wearing Chudithar/Salwar Kameez with dupatta
Reaction: Reacted (yelling, complaining, slapping, fighting back)

Incident was : One time

Perpetrator was a Stranger and aged 20-30

Experience:
Growing up in India, there have been innumerable times when I have felt unsafe on the streets including times avoiding unwanted, wandering hands on crowded buses (and even a crowded temple once), having eye fights with strange men who thought it was perfectly fine to stare at girls, cycling away really fast from creepy young guys on bikes in alleys. But, I choose an incident that shook my belief in the wisdom and intentions of the administrators of an institute I admire and love.

After school, I attended one of India’s better known engineering colleges. Located far from cities, we were residential and all students were housed on

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campus. One night, about 8 pm, I was cycling with a friend inside campus, when out of nowhere a man with a shawl wrapped around his head and chest came close to us on his cycle and lunged at my chest squeezing it. The absurdity of the whole thing shocked me into screaming out loud. I think I also got off my cycle and picked up nearby pebbles to throw after him. What perverse pleasure did he derive from half a second of touching someone? I remember being numb and extremely angry for the next few minutes while I cycled back with my friend to our hostel. I was also revolted with myself for not having chased him down to hurt him real bad. What I noticed that night was there was no watchman around to come helping when I screamed. The next day my friend and I reported this to one of the higher-ups of the university and he acknowledged it was a very serious concern. Unfortunately, I suspect this incident only gave good reason to continue to shut the girls up in their hostels post 11 pm while the boys still roamed around on campus unrestricted. It annoys me to this day that the administration, instead of ensuring that girls and boys were treated equally and ensuring they created an environment safe enough for that, felt justified in taking the easier route effectively making us girls feel helpless and that we needed to be protected by others. And here we are thinking education is supposed to empower!

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