Why do we allow assaults on us?

Van set on fire by angry Muslim protesters in Mumbai

In the last two days, two incidents of women being violated went viral in social media. In one case, Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Shashi Tharoor slapped a young Congress worker who ‘misbehaved’ with her (read groped). She slapped him publicly, which is admirable reflexes in a crowd. Later, the youth was found, and he apologized and the previously outraged Tharoors did not file a case against him.

In other news, a few days before that, a boyfriend brutally beat up his girl friend who made a stunned blog post that in turn stunned thousands who read it. Roommate and neighbours saw the man attacking her and choking her. She has photographs of injuries and when I spoke with her, she said her ear is still not recovered. I assured her of any assistance that would help her including company while meeting police so that she does not have to face potentially misogynist attitudes alone.

However she seems to be decided against filing a police complaint. She thinks the bad publicity the boy got is enough. She has asked him to give her a written apology for the incident covering all the details, rejecting an earlier apology that glossed over the facts and attempted to show her as partially responsible for the incident.

What strikes me in both these incidents is that neither woman can be considered particularly helpless. Neither woman can most certainly be considered devoid of support if she needs it. Yet, apologies served to prevent police complaints that would lead to punishment.

Well, here is a no-brainer. What does a man do when caught squarely abusing a woman? Apologize of course!!! Anything else risks massive backlash!

Here is a second no-brainer. What does the guy who got publicly slapped for groping tell his friends within a month? “Are yaar, I didn’t do any such thing, I must have touched her by mistake, or someone else must have, but she started hitting me. What do you say to a woman at a time like this, so I said sorry!”

Here is a third no-brainer. What does the guy who wrote a full confession of guilt in assault say about it later? “You know our laws and how biased they are against men. She threatened to drag me to court and ruin my life. I had to write the letter to save my future! Here is my original letter. Read for yourself, it was a mutual fight, only I didn’t go crying to the public over the bruises she gave me!”

Here’s the last no-brainer. Will a guy call himself guilty of something publicly viewed as shameful voluntarily beyond the absolutely necessary period?

End result? A little inconvenience because caught. Be careful next time, grope or beat if the girl asks for it. It isn’t as big a deal as they make it, or they’d have gone to the police themselves! Wouldn’t you file a case if someone beat you black and blue?

The real question here is what makes women value themselves as so less that a highly predictable apology if caught, when caught results in the guy escaping legal action? Seriously, is that all the value women see in themselves? That if they are harmed, it shouldn’t be without apology?

One may argue that the men learned their lessons. In my experience, these are lessons in going scot free by using the right words, not in respecting women. Act as you wish, if confronted, apologize, act sincere and nothing will happen.

Would someone who stole your car be forgiven if he apologized for doing it? No! He would be caught by police and punished as per law. Appeals for forgiveness would meet harsh replies like “It isn’t like you didn’t know you aren’t supposed to steal, now bear the consequences”. Do women really consider their worth as less than that?

(Visited 152 times, 1 visits today)

10 thoughts on “Why do we allow assaults on us?”

  1. Totally agree. It was couragious of Sumeetha – just disappointing that nobody wanted to interfere or support her. That will happen too. Getting the word out there by any means is important. Every little contribution – be it yelling, taking the time and making the effort to report the crime, blogging your or others’ stories, using other social media, uniting with others or joining an NGO like “Violence Against Women” – will help expose this disgusting behaviour and make it unacceptable to the ordinary public.

  2. I admire what Zulfiya and her friend did – bringing a case against the groper. It needed courage, determination and the willingness to create the time to make the case, go for the hearing etc. I feel sorry for Sumeetha. The fact that she was alone made her more vulnerable. The point I’m trying to make is – we should somehow think of uniting and give each other support. If our decent male friends join us in our fight against the indecent low lives, nobody can defeat our determination to end this – not politicians, not the police nor the kh(r)aps – all of whom blame the victims.

  3. I admire what Zulfiya and her friend did – bringing a case against the groper. It needed courage, determination and the willingness to create the time to make the case, go for the hearing etc. I feel sorry for Sumeetha. The fact that she was alone made her more vulnerable. The point I’m trying to make is – we should somehow think of uniting and give each other support. If our decent male friends join us in our fight against the indecent low lives, nobody can defeat our determination to end this – not politicians, not the police nor the kh(r)aps – all of whom blame the victims.

    1. I think what Sumeetha did was very brave. And I know that getting support from people around you is really hard. Especially when you have people who think that by protesting against someone groping you, you are doing something wrong. As if it’s normal to accept it, let it be because ‘these things happen’ and ‘you just got to live with it’. If this is the mindset of people around you, then why wouldn’t the groper feel secured in doing what he does? He knows that no one will raise a voice or support the victim, hence increasing his confidence in perpetuating violence. The least that a woman can do is to raise an alarm and do what she can in her capacity. Sometimes, she may get lucky and garner support. But if she does not raise her voice thinking she won’t get support, then she would never know.

      For instance, in the same incident that I shared earlier, the initial reaction of the people sitting around us was disinterest. One person continued to sleep, and once even asked us to forget it and got irritated with what was happening. But because of our persistent protest, a few of them actually started to pay attention and started to support us. They even helped us later in confronting the person. So I think we were lucky to have a few souls who cared. But what also may have helped could be that we raised and maintained a consistent alarm till people took notice and realized that we were serious and would not let it go.

      The Indian Justice system may be criticized for not delivering the way it should, but sometimes, at rare times, it does lend out a supportive hand. The response we got from the court was very positive because there aren’t many cases of harassment that reaches court. So if we just take that one extra step to file a case, then it is seriously taken. The important thing is to take that step.

  4. I’m glad you’ve raised this point here. It’s something I’m trying to understand as well, and have an incident to share with you to highlight the importance of actually filing a case against a man who has assaulted/groped/harassed you. I was with a friend on a train last year, on a Rajdhani, bound from Mumbai to Delhi. Both of us, girls, travelling unaccompaned by male friends, boarded the train late at night (it was delayed a couple of hours). We were served our dinner by one of the staff, who seemed to have noticed that it was just the two of us. After dinner, we decided to call it a night. I slept on the upper berth and my friend on the middle. The next morning at 6 am, I was woken by a scream and immediately got up to see my friend sitting up, wildly shouting at the same man who served us dinner, who was standing next to her berth. He had groped her in her sleep, quite expertly, only to wake her in shock. I could see that she had blocked him from moving out and escaping by placing her leg across the berth. He also started expertly lying, saying things like he was only trying to ‘wake’ people up, trying to put the lights on etc. I got down to sit beside her and right then we knew that we won’t let this just slip by, and ‘forgive’ him despite his profuse apologies. My friend was extremely shaken and visibly enraged. We filed a case against him at the Nizamuddin police station, had the hearing in a couple of months, and won the case. He served in prison, though he was later let off with monetary compensation (a disappointment!). But we only wanted a mark against his clean record, so that it doesn’t just go away in words and in a spate of emotional anguish, let him off thinking his apology was good enough. We had to progess in a logical sense and see through the legal process till we found real justice. In fact, the catering head even begged us not to file a case and that they could fire him from his job if that would make us happy. But that’s not the point right?

    Why do we have have a law? Why do we not use it when it’s meant for us? It is a very powerful tool that women must learn to use and bring justice to the humiliation they face in a public or private space. This man could have been anyone, harassing women everyday, so easily, knowing fully well that he won’t get into real trouble. But the only way we can make a difference in men’s attitudes is really by showing them the dagger of punishment, without which we are only pointing back to allowing ourselves to accept, to be subjected to more violence, in the process devaluing ourselves and our bodies.

    1. When a woman accuses of a man for misbehaving with her gets very little support from other people. I have numerous examples from my own experience. When I was working right after college, I didn’t have a bike so had to take a bus from my home. I live in chennai (btw). Our buses were (are) notorious for eve teasing and people frequently misbehaved in the bus as they are always crowded. Once a guy standing behind kept on groping me and i tried to move away but couldn’t. I shouted at him but it had very little effect. Instead the people around me started looking at me as if I was misbehaving with somebody. Something snapped in me finally I had my umbrella in my hand and I just turned and hit the guy indiscriminately until i almost drew blood. That was the last time i got into a bus.

      when you tell someone to stop misbehaving with you most of the time you will not get any support from others. If this is the case for misbehaving what do you think would be the plight of rape victims. Most of the time that’s why no one compains.

  5. I think, most Indians – men or women – instinctively feel they don’t want to create waves, get into the limelight for all the wrong reasons and appear to be bad sports. They also have no faith in the justice system and believe they’ll have to spend heaps with no guarantees of justice being done. After your post and with tons of support from others, hopefully, things might change.

  6. I don’t understand how Indian media especially the mainstream Indian English language media can just ignore this horrific act of riot were unarmed media persons are manhandled and women police constables are molested. And the most gastardly act was the desecration of the martyr soldiers memorial. If we as a nation backpedal on this incident and try to sweep it under the carpet it will only increase the morals of such scumbags to repeat such anti-national acts. One reason for media’s silence on this could be the religious angle involved but let me tell I come from a minority community and I think the media should not preassume that members of minority communities will feel slighted on them reporting on this riots…No, a big no. Actually I m 100% sure that all patriot Indians will agree that rioters need to be taken to task by the law no matter what religion they belong to and media should play its rightful role towards that goal.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *