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City: Parking lot/San Diego
Was wearing Jeans and Shirt
Reaction: Moved away silently

Incident was : One time

Perpetrator was a Stranger and aged 20-30

This happened a couple of years ago, and honestly, at the time I didn’t think much of it at all. In fact, travelling in public buses in Cochin as a kid, in a school uniform that wasn’t a salwar kameez, was easily a more harrowing experience.

I was walking back alone from the beach towards the parking lot one evening, when I passed by a surfer standing near his car, and he looked like he was changing out of his wetsuit. I had my headphones on, so I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but he was gesturing at me and saying something. So I took my headphones off, and walked towards him.That was when I saw he was naked and masturbating, and saying something along the lines of “Like what you see?”eg

Years of social conditioning kicked in, and I stared straight ahead, pretended not to see him, and walked away as quickly as I could. He kept saying something and laughing, but I shut him out. I didn’t tell anyone about the incident, because, well, nothing really happened and I was safe, so why make a fuss? A couple of days later, I read on the campus police blurb that a man was detained on the same parking lot for public indecency. Someone else had obviously complained.

Now I know I should have done something, called campus police, yelled, anything. I wasn’t a child anymore, I had the means to stand up for myself, and yet I didn’t. He had made me uncomfortable, and all I could do was pretend nothing happened. And I can imagine most Indian girls faced with a situation like this would have reacted exactly as I did, and just walked away.

Horrible things can happen anywhere, but treating them as our lot in life is where we have gone wrong as a culture. Hopefully, the current mood in India will help in a small way in changing that mindset. We need to break through the barriers of years of misogyny and repression, and speak out at injustice.

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