It was a date. Dinner was great, and I am a sucker for long drives. We had some time to kill before the stand-up comedy show that night. So we drove around, and I chatted away. I was still in the middle of a sentence when it all happened, all too quickly. He had stopped on an empty street, and I felt him grab my waist. Terrified, I froze. I could feel myself go weak as fear grew.
Somehow, I managed to mouth a ‘no’.
He insisted that we at least try kissing, for he had been “thinking about it all night”. I felt vulnerable and afraid but stayed firm with my decision. We left the dark, empty street, and I breathed. The stand-up comedian was quite funny; he made me laugh even while I was cringing, because the man I was with, held my knee throughout the show and even planted a kiss on my shoulder at one point. Later, he gave me a few sleazy compliments about my appearance.
I don’t know why I did not leave before the show. I should have, but I did not. I took whatever happened that night, casually. Like every other woman in our patriarchy, I blamed myself. For going out with him, for wearing what I wore, for not shouting, for not leaving.
I never met him again. I told him I was traumatised and sent him the video ‘Tea Consent’.
I wanted to speak about my experience, although this man is nobody famous that I want to call out. I asked around, and many women felt the same. The harassers from their stories were not famous; some were dead. But the stories must be told nevertheless, for if there is any justice to be done to the #MeToo movement, it is this. Victims’ voices are being heard, and from now on, predators will feel afraid, before feeling entitled to the female body.
Sexual harassment incidents cannot be seen in isolation. Here are a few stories that were shared with me in the wake of the #MeToo movement, by women who now feel empowered to speak up against the violence they have been facing for years.
A journalist shares her story: I was friends with this one guy back at university, and I still am. We would make out. When it started out, it was consensual. It wasn't an exclusive relationship. One day we went for a walk. We were discussing that we cannot do this. I didn't want to. But he thought walking on an empty road at night implied sex.
After a while I think he stopped listening to me, he was just looking for a safe place. He started making out and forced me to go down on him, despite me not wanting to. So I got up and said I don't want to do it. He pushed me. I was shocked. He did not look like the person that he was to me. His eyes had this rage, like, how can you defy me? My back slammed on another tree and I fell down from the force of the push. I felt guilty. I thought it was my fault. After I got up and walked off, he didn't follow me. I was scared. From that day, we haven't spoken about this.
He apologized to me the following week. Told me that sex had gotten into his head. I know how toxic college campuses are. But he didn't boast about the incident to anyone. I assumed that he was embarrassed by his own actions. I was 18 and it was my first kiss. I remember feeling really ashamed of myself.
A journalist with The Hindu shares: I almost grew up with this guy from school and towards the end of it, we were pretty close. I knew he had a crush on me and one night, at a party, I fooled around with him after many drinks and a lot of bonding. But he went off to America, which was a relief because I didn't want to hurt him. When he returned on a holiday, he asked to meet. I was dating and dizzy about another guy at the time.
I might have been a little worried so I took a mutual female friend along. We had drinks, personal conversation and fell into that same familiar pattern. We laughed and smoked. I sat outside on the ledge of his window. We whispered to keep it down so his mother wouldn't be disturbed.
I was just having fun. I remember I went to sleep next to my female friend, who was already asleep on his bed. I assumed that my school friend would go to the next room. But when I woke up in the morning he was sleeping next to me, which I thought, was odd. And worse, his hands were in my pants.
A student of Jadavpur University shares her story: I was probably in Class 5 or 6 when I was groped. An uncle who was around 50 used to come to our house in Jharkhand when he had some work there. He used to stay at our house for a day until his work was done. In the afternoons, when everyone else slept in the bedroom, I had a habit of staying up and drawing or reading story books.
So this one time I was lying with my belly downwards and drawing when he came and brushed his hands along my legs and touched my bum too. Another time I was sitting on the sofa and studying when he came and groped my breasts. I freaked out. I just shrunk into myself, not knowing how to react. And I knew it was wrong but didn't talk to my parents about it.
From then, I hated the very sight of him. As I grew up, he stopped visiting frequently and eventually died. I later told my mother when I got angry with her for leaving a male tutor alone at home with my small sister, as the same thing could have happened to her. My mom surprisingly didn't seem too bothered about it and said even she faced such things as a kid.
A student of Azim Premji University shares her experience: This one time my ex-boyfriend forced me into having sex with him. I said no many times, but he started questioning my feelings for him. So I gave in, eventually. I was not at all into it, so he stopped midway. He screamed at me, asked what is wrong with me. There was no consent. I was completely unprepared. He wouldn’t get it.
We eventually broke up, but I was deeply traumatized. For a long time, I was revolted by any form of physical relationship with men.
A journalist and former student of Asian College of Journalism shares: I had gone to a friend's place to hang out. I considered the idea of hooking up with him but wasn't sure if I wanted to. At his place, we had not decided whether we wanted to drink or just get something to eat, but it was getting late, so we decided to call it a night.
We were in bed, talking and cuddling and I was comfortable with that. But then he started kissing my neck. I didn't respond to this as I was still unsure. I made up my mind that I didn't want things to escalate, so I asked him to stop. He tried to convince me for a while, but I didn't budge.
I tried to fall asleep but he traced his fingers over my lips (he thought I was asleep) and whispered my name multiple times to try to wake me up. I opened my eyes and said ‘what’ and turned the other way. We cuddled again and he tightened his arms around me and thrust against me (my back was facing him). I could feel his penis sticking out of his shorts or boxers and I immediately pushed his hand away.
He apologised later but that doesn’t change what he did. It doesn’t change that he didn’t wait for my consent to force himself onto me.
A musician shares her story: I was in fifth grade. I was with my mum at the Mylapore festival. It was insanely crowded -- people everywhere. And I remember this vividly, I was wearing a pink frock and just cluelessly trying to make my way through the crowd. I was holding my mum's hand. A few seconds later, I felt something piercing into my vagina.
Someone in the crowd had reached under my frock, into my underwear, and fingered me. I pretty much froze and didn't have any idea what was happening. When the pain got too intense I looked around and for a few moments, I couldn't find my mum. I found her moments later and started crying. I demanded that we leave immediately.
I had blocked this out for a long time and one day, when I was in 9th or 10th grade, it came rushing back to me. Ever since I have had a kind of hatred for Mylapore.
A student of University of Hyderabad shares: My first experience of a sexual abuse was at the age of 8 or 9. My family had just moved to Kerala and I had to learn Malayalam. My neighbour, a retired teacher, decided to take tuitions for me. So, every day, I used to spend about three hours after school hours at their home. Her husband, a retired defence personnel, used to help her out. He came out as a very caring and learned man.
Initially, he used to hug me and place me in his lap but later I noticed that he used to do it only in the absence of his wife. He slowly started to touch me in my private parts and I did not know how to react. I was in shock and used to wriggle away. Later, I made sure I was never left alone with him. But whenever he had a chance, he used to pounce on me like a hungry predator. I tried to stop going for tuitions but I could not find any reason to tell my parents.
I did not know how to articulate something like that and found it extremely shameful to speak out. All I could do was find ways to evade him. I was traumatized. The child in me had felt threatened and had to go through the same experience over and over again. As I grew up, I've had to go through multiple other abusive experiences but this one still haunts me since I haven't confronted the person after it.