If a girl is being sexually harassed …

One morning, you see a teenage girl dressed in a school uniform walk out of your apartment complex. She crosses the road and stands there. Three young men, looking like college students, are standing a few feet away from her, having a conversation punctuated by loud laughter. A few minutes later, a school bus appears. As soon as the girl boards the bus, the young men walk away.

During the next few days, you observe the same scene. The young men, who are strangers to you, reach the spot a few minutes before the girl and leave as soon as she boards the bus. You can make out that the young girl is quite uncomfortable while she stands waiting for her bus. You realise that this is a sexual harassment routine.

Which of the following are you most likely to do?
a. Speak to the girl and her parents, tell them that they should do something about this, and genuinely offer to help in whatever way you can.
b. Speak to the girl and her parents, tell them that they should do something about this, but diplomatically avoid get involved yourself.
c. Report the matter to the girl’s parents by writing an anonymous letter to them.
d. Do nothing.

Please answer the above question for the following scenarios:
1. You are the girl’s sibling/parent.
2. You are the girl’s cousin/uncle/aunt.
3. Your family and the girl’s family are good friends.
4. Your family and the girl’s family are acquainted, but not particularly close. Your son/daughter is the girl’s friend. (Or you are a college student and the girl is your friend.)
5. Your family and the girl’s family are acquainted, but not particularly close. The girl is your son’s/daughter’s acquaintance, but not really a friend. (Or you are a college student; the girl is an acquaintance, but not really a friend.)
6. The family shifted to your apartment complex recently. You have not yet had an opportunity to get to know them.
7. The family shifted to your apartment complex recently. You tried to get to know them, but they appeared stand-offish.

Ideally, your answer should be ‘a’ for all 7 scenarios.

What is your actual answer for each of the 7 scenarios? Are all 7 answers the same? If not, why not?

Please send me your answers for all 7 scenarios. If you do not want your answers to be known to others, please use a pseudonym.

Do you believe that this exercise is a waste of time, that crimes against women are because of the government, politicians, policemen, poverty, illiteracy, misogynists, patriarchal mindset, etc. and that we all can do nothing about it other than raving and ranting?

Or do you believe that we can, individually and collectively, work towards eradicating or reducing this social menace?

Other posts on Humanism and Sexual Harassment:
Thwarting sexual harassers, Reducing sexual harassment
If a woman tells you she has been raped …

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30 thoughts on “If a girl is being sexually harassed …

  1. Absolutely all the 7 positive.
    You certainly don’t want the Rape capital shifting from Delhi to Mumbai to Chennai.
    Whether one likes it or not each of us owes a duty to our society at large.
    Every citizen is a policeman without uniform!

  2. My answer would surely be “a” in all scenarios irrespective of whether I knew the girl or not.

    Interesting social experiment that you are conducting and I would really love to know the results of the same..

  3. Ideally girl’s parents should be informed and if those three guys are known to the apartment complex then even their parents especially their MOMS should be informed about the situation. Then collectively as a society there should be a protective ring around the girl in such a way that those guys get the message and the girl feels safe.

    Sometimes it has been advised that offenders are scared of girls/women who dare to look them into the eye and talk to them. So if those guys belong to the same apartment complex maybe she should go to these guys with a confidence and ask them would they like to share a joke, as she also loves to laugh the first thing in the morning. But then this is a hypothetical situation and we don’t know how those guys will react but of course informing parents is a must and then collectively finding a solution is another important thing.

    • You have correctly stated what should ideally happen. What actually happens, especially when the guys are unknown, maybe don’t look like ‘decent’ guys?

      My question: what would you actually do in each of the 7 scenarios? Each one of us should introspect with brutal honesty.

  4. This being a common scenario, my realistically common (and actual) reaction would be to do nothing. It is something we tend to ignore or give people the benefit of the doubt to. Up until it is too late and the damage’s already done. But now, reading this, we can pledge to not leave these things to chance and doubt and proactively offer help. Option A hereon! Thanks for the post! 🙂

    • A typical case of Indian “Chalta hai aur chalta is rahega” needs to change along with the lousy government that we’ve been similarly tolerating, bringing us to this sorry pass.
      Had all of us woken up much earlier and acted on the bad economy and stringent rape punishment by including immediate pre-trial chemical castration much damage could have been mitigated! Over to you!.

  5. Most definitely ‘a’ for all. What I’d also do is make it known to the boys that I see them either by going & standing at the stop or covertly getting their attention from my place.

  6. This scenario has happenned in the past. I called the police and, together with the help of the police, personally thrashed the boys, took them to the police station, called their parents, and made all of them sign a good behavior bond before Asst. Comm. Police with parents as witness. Short and sweet justice not delayed.

    • WOW! That was exactly the response that I was longing for!
      Thank you for thrashing first and then handing them to the cops.
      The right vigilantism!
      In Delhi is is rightly said – “Laathon ke bhooth baathon sey nahi maante” translated crudely what has to be done by bashing blue and black can’t be achieved by mere platitudes!

  7. Pingback: WoW! 55 Fiction | Proactive Indian

  8. Pingback: If a woman tells you she has been raped … | Proactive Indian

  9. Pingback: Thwarting sexual harassers, Reducing sexual harassment | Proactive Indian

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  12. Reblogged this on Proactive Indian and commented:

    After reading reports about the statements of witnesses in connection with Preity Zinta’s molestation complaint against Ness Wadia, I decided to reblog this post, which had first been published on August 27, 2013.

  13. ‘A’ would certainly be the first choice.. It is really sad to realize that so many things keep happening and sadder to realize that there have been umpteen moments where I have heard people turn a deaf ear to those.

    It is in these moments I guess a change can be affected, standing up and making the next move so that we can show these buggers where they belong.. And it has to be the jail or a correctional facility! :X

  14. Of course the answer would be ‘a’ in all cases.
    But you know what the sad thing is, the kind of incident you describe (or something similar) used to be the experience of many girls I knew (including myself) 35 years ago or so, and such horrible things happen to this day. Nothing much has changed really. Perhaps things have gotten worse now. It makes me sick.

    • Post- -Nirbhaya and change in government nothing at all seems to been changed be in Didi-run Kolkatta, Yadav’s UP, Chennai, Bengaluru or Mumbai Shakti Mills.
      The offenders continue to go on with impunity.
      The punishment process needs to be stepped up and the Juvenile Justice Act scrapped in toto – most of the offenders are minors who know for certain they can get out. They need to be chemically castrated to prevent them from being repeat offenders on release

  15. The ideal answer must be ‘a’ but in real scenarios it is mostly ‘d’. In some cases if parents are informed they start abusing the informer instead. Also from personal experience I can say that even if the girl herself informs her parents, she’s asked to ignore and go about her business. This happens especially if the culprits are known to the family. In my case, it was a relative and our mother refused to believe our complaint about his misbehaviour. The main problem is that people still look down upon the victim of sexual harassment rather than the abusers. A collective effort alone can help eradicate this problem.

    • I agree with Rekhaji. The collective effort should be instant justice – bash the culprits black and blue on site and only then hand them to the cops.

      • Well that is there to beat up. .but I would not say that is a good step as in our nation .. the guy will report to police and you will be in much more trouble for that ..

    • I so agree. It’s shameful a state of the society but the true face of it, right now. A change is what we MUST work for, before it goes further bad.

  16. It’s a very tough choice to make, and a very brave one, in current circumstances, if you’re able to step up for an ‘a’. Being a girl and that too a delhi-girl, we’ve been grown to avoid such situations than confront them. Having lived in Bangalore briefly, I can say that if I were there, I would definitely be ‘a’, but now back in NCR, am not so sure. Reason: Boys here are not just bad, they are protected and backed, if they end up in jail/situation. The comment by Mulayam Singh Yadav that it’s just a mistake by the boy, is the common thought-process in UP areas. The girls are looked down upon if they end up in such a situation, and if they confront, they’re termed bad-mouthed/too-modern, than the boy. And, it is a dangerous place to be living in.

  17. I am very frank and I would say that if this was when i was studying or in india the answer would have been “D” because that is what we do in our great nation, exceptions are always there.. but if it was today then my answer would be “a” for sure .. I have learnt that being quiet never works and what if it was a girl from my own family.
    I would want someone to do what i would ..

    and also I would not believe parents would do anything because of the social problems in our society so I will myself lodge a complaint in the police station.. though I know nothing will be done but in case something bad happens then there is always a report to fall back on ..

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